Applying to your council for a high hedge notice
Once the council is satisfied that you have taken all reasonable steps to resolve the matter yourself, and confirmed the subject of your application is a high hedge, they will begin to process your application. Your application should be accompanied by a completed form and an accompanying fee.
Fees payable for making an application
The Act gives local authorities discretion to charge a fee to cover the administrative costs for processing a high hedge application. The Act itself does not set a national flat fee since each local authority has to take their own individual circumstances into account. The fee is expected to be cost neutral and is intended to cover the reasonable costs incurred by a local authority in processing the application - this includes the administrative cost of processing the application, including costs incurred for travelling to site visits. Information on fee levels will be published on each council's website.
The Act also allows council to vary or refund fees under certain circumstances. The circumstances under which fees are varied or refunded, whether fully or in part, should be published on each council's own website. Examples under which fees could be refunded may include instances where the investigating officer dismisses the application on the grounds it is not a hedge. Examples of circumstances under which fees could be varied may include cases where the applicant is in receipt of a low income, or if the application relates to multiple hedges.
Assessing the hedge
Once an application has been submitted the council will normally provide the applicant with a letter of acknowledgement, this letter will provide contact details for the official dealing with the case. The council will then write to everybody who owns and occupies the land upon which the hedge is situated to notify them they are formally considering an application for a high hedge notice against their hedge.
An investigating officer will then visit the property where the hedge is located and assess the hedge, considering factors such as the amount of light loss to neighbours, representations from the hedge owner about their right to privacy, and the effect of the hedge on the general amenity of the area. Once the case has been assessed, the council will notify both the applicant and the hedge owner of their decision on whether they are going to serve a high hedge notice or not. Both the applicant and hedge owner have the right to appeal the council's decision to Scottish Ministers, appeals are decided by reporters at the Scottish Government's Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals. No further fee is payable for making an appeal, more information on appeals is available on the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeal pages.
When making a decision, the local authority has to balance the impacts of the hedge on the applicant's property against its amenity for the hedge owner. The adjudicating officer will not focus solely upon the concerns of either the applicant or the hedge owner to the exclusion of the other party.
Factors taken into account will include what the adjudicating official determines to be a reasonable amount of light for the time of year; the impact the hedge has on the view from the property; whether the hedge has an overbearing impact on the neighbouring property; and whether the hedge provides the owner's home with privacy and/or security.