Hedges – what are the rules surrounding them?


The GPDO allows you to erect a wall or a fence to a certain height on your property, but what about a hedge? This wall or fence is limited to 1m against a highway or 2m elsewhere.

A hedge doesn’t have that limit. As long as it is not interfering with others via a loss of light or growing onto a footway beside the road, then there are very few rules. Although the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 does have a section on high hedges over 2m.


a hedge on the side of a road around a dwelling house


The ownership of a hedge will depend upon whose land it is growing. If it is between neighbours then the ownership and responsibility will be joint.

That hedge is far better for wildlife than a wall or fence ever will be. Therefore, they should be encouraged.  But what if you decide to remove the hedge?


Removal or trimming of a hedge

A hedge that forms part of a garden is not protected, unlike hedgerows. However you might wish to consider avoiding the nesting season which is between March and September as the hedge might be home to other wildlife.

Under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it’s an offence to intentionally damage or destroy a wild bird’s nest while it is being built or in use. That includes consciously using a hedge trimmer when there is a bird’s nest in your hedge, and in the process of doing so, causing the nest to be damaged or destroyed.

Make sure that the hedge is yours. If it is on the boundary between two properties it might be shared ownership. Your deeds may highlight who it belongs to. Land Registry maps are often inaccurate and should not be relied upon to prove ownership. If in doubt talk to your neighbour.

One can understand people getting fed up with trimming the hedge and wishing to replace it with a nice smart fence. But be careful. If your hedge is against a highway you will be restricted to a 1m high fence or wall. Therefore it can make a big difference. Just because you had a 2m hedge, does not mean you have the right to erect a 2m fence. You will need planning permission in this instance.


Complaints about hedges

Whilst we might prefer hedges for wildlife, if they are not maintained the hedge could easily become a nuisance to others. If the hedge grows into the footway or footpath you might have a liability issue.

If the height of the hedge is having an adverse effect on a neighbour’s enjoyment of their home and/or its garden or yard then the local authority can order the owner of the hedge to take action to correct the breach.  This is covered in the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003.

However before the council will act, they will expect you to try and work out the best solution with the neighbour.

Is the hedge (or the part of it that’s causing problems) a ‘high hedge’? Is the hedge:

  • growing on land owned or occupied by someone else?
  • made up of a line of 2 or more trees or shrubs?
  • mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen?
  • more than 2 metres tall?
  • a barrier to light or access (even if there are gaps)?
  • Does this hedge’s height harm the reasonable enjoyment of a home you own or occupy and/or its garden or yard?

If you can answer yes to all the above points, then maybe the council can help.

The government have produced a document called ‘Over the garden hedge‘ to assist with any disputes between neighbours over a hedge.



Updated: 12th May 2024