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High hedge notices

High hedges may cause issues between neighbours. The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 (the Act) can provide a solution if neighbours are unable to resolve disputes amicably. 

The Act is not designed to impact on woodlands and forests. Generally these are not planted as hedges.

The following outlines what the Act covers, and how it works. 

What is a high hedge?

The Act defines a high hedge as one which:

  1. Is formed wholly or mainly by a row of 2 or more trees or shrubs.
  2. Rises to a height of more than 2m above ground level.
  3. Forms a barrier to light.

A hedge is not to be regarded as forming a barrier to light if it has gaps which significantly reduce its effect as a barrier at heights of more than 2 metres. The roots of a high hedge will not be taken into account.

A hedge is not considered as a high hedge until it is over over 2 metres tall. A hedge over 2 metres is not automatically termed as a high hedge. A hedge is termed as a high hedge when a complaint has been made and then upheld by the council.

What is a barrier to light?

The Act does not specify parameters for light levels. This is a judgment to be made by the local authority on a case-by-case basis.

North Ayrshire Council considers that the Hedge Height & Light Loss guidelines, developed by the Building Research Establishment, produce an accurate worst-case scenario in light loss calculations. The council uses this method in all cases of evergreen hedges (for example Leylandii) and where applicable in other cases.

What trees are covered by the Act?

All types and species of hedge are covered by the Act.  

The investigating officer will decide whether trees planted together form a hedge, or not.

It is not illegal to plant or grow a hedge. Prior consent, or permission, is not needed. 

Single trees are not covered.  

Woodland fringes, tree lined avenues, or other forms of structure planting will not generally be covered by the Act. 

The Act does not cover issues like pine needles blocking drains, falling leaves and branches, or root damage.

Resolving a dispute about a high hedge

Before making a complaint to the council, you must be able to prove that you have tried to reach a solution with the hedge owner by alternative means – such as by mediation.

The role of the council is as an impartial last resort where the parties concerned have been unable to resolve the matter amicably.   

The council may refuse to consider applications which:

  • do not show sufficient reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute
  • are considered impractical or vexatious.

It is expected that evidence will include recent attempts at resolution and that the hedge owner has been made aware of a potential application for a High Hedge Notice.

If you and your neighbour can't reach and agreement you may apply for a High Hedge Notice.

Apply for a High Hedge Notice

A fee of £382 is payable, at this point, by the person making the complaint. The fee covers reasonable costs incurred in investigating the complaint.

Please download a High Hedges form from the ePlanning website. The completed form, with the fee, should be returned to us using the contact details below.

The applicant may withdraw their application at any time before the council makes a decision on whether to issue a Notice or not.

What happens next?

The council notifies the hedge owner and any other relevant parties that a complaint has been made. They are allowed 28 days to make comments.

Th investigating officer will visit the property to assess the hedge, and its impact on the light levels to the complainant’s property. 

Adverse impact on light to the applicant's residential property will be considered alongside the comments of the hedge owner and any other material considerations to determine what, if any, action is required. Considerations will normally be a question of balancing the severity of the impact on the applicant's property against the amenity value to the hedge owner and wider area. 

A copy of comments received from either party will be made available to the other. 

The investigating officer cannot act as a mediator. 

The council will make a decision as soon as is reasonably practicable after the 28 days notification period has expired. 

Once the decision is made, both parties will be notified.

Appeal a decision

As the applicant, if you disagree with the decision of the local authority that (a) there is no adverse effect, or (b) there is an adverse effect but no action is required, then you will have the right of appeal to Scottish Government ministers.

There is no right of appeal where the council does not register an application which does not come under the scope of the Act. Please refer to our complaints procedures if you are not satisfied with this.   

Both sides have the right of appeal to Scottish Government ministers where a Notice is to be served. The applicant may appeal that the required works don't go far enough. The hedge owner can appeal that (a) no Notice should have been issued, (b) the required works go too far, or (c) that the council has not given them enough time to complete the required works. 

Both parties may only appeal once. An appeal will have the effect of 'suspending' the Notice until it has been decided.

When a High Hedge Notice is issued

A High Hedge Notice is issued with details of:

  • any immediate action
  • any future preventative measures required
  • relevant timescales 

If the hedge owner fails to comply with the terms of the Notice, the council can arrange for the work to be carried out and has the power to recover costs from the hedge owner.

Withdrawal or variation of a High Hedge Notice

A local authority may vary or withdraw a notice if it deems it appropriate. 

A party may approach the authority at any time with details of a change in circumstances to request that the notice be varied. This may be because:

  • of a change in the effect of the hedge on either party
  • both parties have agreed a solution which renders the Notice unnecessary

The council will notify all parties with reasons for the decision. 

Both main parties have a right of appeal against the variation or withdrawal.   

All decisions made by the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, will be final.  

More information

The role of the council is as an impartial moderator. Advice can only be given on the application process.

Contact Planning



  • general enquiries about planning permission, phone 01294 324319 during office hours
  • Local Development Plan and planning policy enquiries, phone 01294 324763


Planning Services, North Ayrshire Council, Cunninghame House, Irvine, KA12 8EE

Please note: to meet with one of our team at Cunninghame House, please contact us to make an appointment. For your convenience, officers are available to meet with you at other locations within North Ayrshire.