I want my neighbours’ 32ft hedge cut down…they don’t even live there now

A COUPLE has told how they want their neighbours’ 32ft hedge cut down as it’s a fire risk.

Chris and Heather Purvis say the towering plants have made their lives a misery – but their neighbours refuse to take them down despite the fact they don’t live there anymore.

Heather Purvis is in a dispute with neighbours over their trees

Heather Purvis is in a dispute with neighbours over their treesCredit: Alan Simpson
She believes her neighbours' trees are a fire hazard

She believes her neighbours’ trees are a fire hazardCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk
They turned to Fife Council under high hedge legislation in a bid to have the trees chopped.

They turned to Fife Council under high hedge legislation in a bid to have the trees chopped.Credit: Alan Simpson

They insisted the trees, some of which are 32ft high, are impacting their mental health and have left them terrified of a fire at their house in Dunfermline.

Heather, 65, an Accountants Technician, told The Sun: “It’s been a problem since we moved in here in 2015. 

“We started to send letters to each other, then the letters started getting daft. They weren’t going to do anything about it. 

“The first couple of years they cut the tops off the trees, but then it became even more of an issue.

“I can understand them wanting privacy, but there’s nobody living there at the moment. “

A previous blaze in 2019 saw concerns raised about future fires being spread by the trees and the couple fear recent high temperatures could lead to disaster.

Heather explained: “It’s scary with everything going on right now with the fires.

“The fire brigade told them in 2019 that they needed to maintain the stuff that falls off the trees, because that’s what started the fire back then.

“When you live next to that and you’ve got hot weather like this, it really is quite concerning. It’s the fire issue that’s concerning now and the fact there’s nobody living there.”

Heather and her husband turned to Fife Council under high hedge legislation in a bid to have the trees chopped.

But they were left devastated when the council rejected their application and have now appealed to the Scottish Government.

However, their neighbours believe they have done nothing wrong, and say the hedges will stay put.

‘THEY’RE LARGE FOR PRIVACY’

The couple, who which not to be named, say that when then their neighbours moved in the trees between the gardens were actually taller.

They told The Sun: “We like our trees to be large for privacy and we enjoy the birds nesting in them but have always maintained them to our desired height when the bird are not nesting. 

“They have always been within the height limits within the High Hedges Act and related documents and we even cut them lower than we typically would back in 2018 in an attempt to be reasonable.

“‘The trees caught fire’ is somewhat misleading. The Fire department advised that the most likely cause was a cigarette end, as there were around 60 cigarette ends in the area. Neither of us smoke and neither do any of our guests.”

It’s soul destroying every day to look at that.

Heather Purvis

However, Mr and Mrs Purvis have said they will keep fighting for the trees to be chopped down.

Heather, whose husband is a fire safety engineer, said: “I can’t understand why the council threw it out. I really can’t, and we weren’t happy with how it was handled. 

“We’ve put our fence up, they’ve renewed their fence – it’s all wood. It’s like a tinderbox just waiting to up. 

“The whole debacle has been a bloody nightmare. This has been absolutely awful. Why should we have to live like that? 

“You get up in the morning and think ‘oh god, what’s happening with that.’ When I heard we were getting the heatwave this week, I thought that we just can’t go on like this. 

What are my rights?

If you’re in a disagreement with your neighbours over their hedge, there are some steps you can take to try to get the situation sorted.

A useful first port of call is the government guidance on hedge heights, which lays out the rules on when a garden growth has gotten out of control.

The term “high hedge” was defined in the the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 as a hedge being more than 2 metres high.

The legislation also defines a hedge as “formed wholly or predominantly by a line of two or more evergreens.”

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) suggests that homeowners should use this guidance first before involving lawyers.

It said: “Where you feel that a hedge is too tall and affects the ‘reasonable’ enjoyment of your house or garden, the first step is to negotiate with your neighbours. 

“Keep a copy of any letters to demonstrate you have tried.”

If this fails, you can contact your local council to enquire about using the high hedges legislation. 

You can find your local council using the Gov.uk website.

There is no guarantee your council will intervene, and there is a fee for making a complaint, typically £400, to deter frivolous applications.

Your local authority will consider both sides’ cases and make a decision.

If the council accepts your complaint, it will issue a notice for the hedge to be cut to a requested height by a set deadline.

Councils have the power to fine homeowners up to £1,000 if they refuse to comply with orders to cut hedges back.

“This is something that we shouldn’t have to worry about. We are not people who sit and moan, we get on with what we want to do. We’ve turned this house around. But we just can’t cooperate with that pair. 

“It’s a situation that could have been rectified. It’s soul destroying every day to look at that. You don’t know if anyone’s going to toss anything into it.”

Fife Council said the trees were not high enough to be chopped down but warned they should be maintained.

They added: “Using the actionable hedge height to the front and rear of the dwelling it is recommended that it is not necessary to serve a High Hedge Notice in this instance as the existing hedges, at height of up to 6m, do not significantly impact on the enjoyment of the applicant’s property.

“The hedge owner should be advised that the hedge will become an impediment to light at 9.4m to the front and 7.5m to the rear however.”

A government reporter will issue a decision in due course.

Alastair Hamilton, Service Manager with Fife Council’s Planning team, said: “We’ve assessed the height of the hedge and at this time, it’s considered the hedge is not impacting on the ability of the complainants to enjoy their garden.”

The Purvis’ have been nightmare neighbours since moving in.