SOUTH DOWN Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane has said if properly implemented the High Hedges Act will see an improvement in how contentious issues are addressed.
It is proposed that local councils will be responsible for dealing with nuisance hedges and trees.
“People throughout the county regularly contact me regarding complaints about high hedges and trees. The Act will give district councils powers to deal with complaints which are having an adverse effect on a neighbour’s property, such as acting as a barrier to light. For the purpose of the legislation, a hedge must be formed wholly or predominately by a line of two or more evergreen, or semi evergreen trees or shrubs and measure more than 2 metres from ground level, act as a barrier to light affecting a residential property and be growing on land owned by someone other than the person making the complaint. It excludes single trees and deciduous hedges.
“Complaining to the local Council should be a last resort. The complainant will have to show that sincere mediation has been tried to resolve the matter. The person complaining will have to pay an initial fee to the council – which local councils will themselves decide – and if the complaint is upheld, this will be returned to them and passed onto the hedge or tree owner.
‘The timescale for remedial action will vary from case to case, depending on the height of the hedge, (staged reduction may be necessary to avoid killing the tree or hedge), and also to avoid the bird nesting season if it is being used by birds for such reason.
“All in all, I believe this legislation can help to resolve sometimes difficult and contentious issues and also believe local councillors and councils will see the benefit when it is implemented,” added Ms Ruane.