High hedges leave people 'living in shadows', MSPs say
A Holyrood committee has said the law around overgrown hedges should be tightened.
Overgrown hedges are causing some residents in Scotland to "live in the shadows" and the Government should tighten legislation to prevent this, MSPs have said.
The High Hedges (Scotland) Act came into force in 2014 to resolve neighbourhood rows over hedges which grow more than two metres tall and block out light.
Taking evidence on the issue, Holyrood's Local Government and Communities Committee heard of cases where neighbours removed every alternate plant in order to avoid the row being classed as a high hedge.
Local government representatives also gave evidence on a perceived lack of clarity in the act and raised fears if the definition was expanded it could lead to the removal of trees.
'If someone's life is made a misery from blocked out light this must be addressed.'Bob Doris MSP
Committee convener Bob Doris said: "Our committee heard directly from homeowners across Scotland, and many of them spoke of the serious impact high hedges had on their quality of life.
"Some even said they felt they were forced to live in the shadows because of hedges blocking natural light to their homes.
"Quite clearly, if someone's life is made a misery from blocked out light this must be addressed."
He continued: "While there are examples of the High Hedges Act working well for communities, it's clear that it's not currently operating in the full spirit, as was intended.
"For example, we found that some local authorities dismissed applications as they deemed a row of trees or shrubs to be a 'non-hedge' despite the detrimental impact on homeowners."
In a report the committee has made several recommendations aimed at improving the legislation.
It suggests ministers should consider amending the legislation to "clarify what is and what is not a high hedge".
The committee further recommends the Scottish Government publish revised guidance outlining that applications should be dealt with on the basis of the impact of the vegetation rather than if the barrier was originally planted as a hedge, and that the cost of successful applications should be paid by the hedge owner.