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A licence to grow problem hedges | How Hedgeline knows these hedges are too high
Diagram showing heights suggested in the 'BRE Guidelines' for northerly aspects in small gardens
Shade in winter table | Hedgeline's views on suitable heights

Pamphlet based on 'BRE Guidelines' worse than useless

Index pages

The BRE Guidelines and proposed pamphlet.
Hedgeline's acute concerns which it has communicated to the Government

The 'BRE Guidelines' have not taken into account the problems of our members.

The overwhelming majority of Hedgeline members and of hedge victims will derive no benefit from the measurements suggested in the BRE Guidelines, and the problem-hedges will have been legitimised by the Government. To take, for an example, the problem hedges submitted by our SW Area Organiser for testing of the BRE Draft Guidelines in March of last year, less than 30% benefited from the gardens measurements, and less 25% from the windows measurements. These proportions have not changed since the revision of the Guidelines and we feel that our comments regarding the BRE Guidelines in relation to our members' problems have not been listened to.

Why these guidelines, could do hedge-victims much harm and could legitimise problem hedges

Some people will certainly use this pamphlet as an excuse to burden their neighbour with a silly hedge that they would not otherwise have considered inflicting on them. There is a hidden message in the draft pamphlet, i.e. that disproportionately large hedges are all right in average and small gardens. The hidden message would put hedge victims, except for the sufferers from the exceptionally huge monsters, in a worse position than they are in now.
Depending on the aspect of the hedge, the BRE guidelines consider a hedge of 10.5 feet suitable 30 feet away from a downstairs window in one garden and an 18.25 feet hedge as suitable 30 feet away from a downstairs window in another garden. This is not a reasonable fair or balanced solution, since light is by no means the only problem. It would be a very unusual person who grew an 18 foot hedge in their own 30 foot garden and quite an unusual person who grew one to 10.5 feet in a garden of this size.

It was stated at the first meeting on hedge heights at the DTLR that the light criterion was intended to provide a proxy for all the other nuisances and that if it did not other factors would be considered. The 'Guidelines' clearly do not provide a proxy for any of the other nuisances which are the same at the end of a 30 foot garden whatever the aspect of the hedge. The BRE guidelines are based completely on an arbitarily decided amount of light.

Contents of this page | Index pages

How Hedgeline knows that some of the suggested measurements for smaller gardens are too large

  1. Our members' complaints in bulk
  2. The fact that most people do not choose to have hedges of this order of height in their small and average gardens but rather choose to have 2 metre high hedges which can be sensibly maintained and which do not box them in to a small area and cut off sight of the sky from their downstairs windows. The norm can be established by observation or survey and it should be the basis of Government hedge heights.
  3. The fact that no account is taken of winter sunlight and this is important to many. It is a recognised fact that sunlight is good for mental health and can alleviate depression and reduce the likelihood of suicides. The BRE criteria measurements cut out Winter sunshine to downstairs windows in total or part from mid - November to mid - February. The recommended hedge heights condemn more than half the area of the gardens to shade for at least six months of the year. This is the time of year when most people need to have sunlight and elderly people to look at it through their windows. The whole garden is shaded through December and January. Tables and diagrams showing extent of loss of winter sunlight are set out on separate sheets.
  4. The merciful provisions that planning law makes against high barriers at boundaries, both as regards fences and permitted developments has relevance to the maximum heights of hedges to be recommended by the Government. Most of these provisions have been in place over along period and found satisfactory.
    1. In planning legislation, 3 metres is considered as being too high for fences and walls at boundaries of gardens. Hedges are very like fences and walls as their purpose is the same. The kinds of heights which have been set for fences are surely appropriate also for hedges, especially when those hedges are fairly near someone else's house.
    2. Only very limited building can be done near a boundary without planning permission and the top height is 3 metres with a flat roof. Furthermore the last town planning Act allows provision for Councils to waive the permitted development rights for new high density housing suggests that even 3 metre extensions to the boundary is considered too big for small gardens. Extensions are less troublesome than hedges because they do not grow over into people's gardens and neither do they often go the whole way a long a boundary. (article 3 and article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development ) Order 1995 allow Local Planning Authority to remove permitted development rights. This has to be justifiable in planning and amenity terms. It is most frequently invoked for small dwellings where it is desired to have control over all extensions .to protect amenity of neighbours. Birmingham Planning Dept. is enforcing these articles for new high density building developments).
    3. Hedgeline does not see any justification for any claims that regulations on infill building have any relevance to the heights of hedges, especially since infill building differs by being subject to planning controls.
    4. The building of a house may be sufficient justification for erecting a high barrier on someone's N. or E, boundary but the growing of a hedge is not sufficient reason for taking away all that a high hedge takes away from its victim.
  5. Even if our way of life, our current expectations and our legal system are so different from those of the continental countries which have long-established laws on hedge-heights that we cannot have similar laws to theirs, at least some regard should be paid to the kinds of heights which have been considered suitable for so long in these countries.
  6. The BRE Guidelines give hedge heights which would be impossible to maintain safely. Most people feel that hedges must be carefully maintained when they are in small or average gardens or fairly near to the house. There is no procedure currently in place for effectively dealing with the continually recurring problem of the regular maintenance of someone else's high hedge.
  7. The trespassing roots and branches prevent the victim from growing the plants he wants to grow. Very little will even survive under an unclipped evergreen hedge. The photo in the notes that went with the revised 'BRE Guidelines' is of bedding plants next to a hedge clipped back to the boundary.

Contents of this page | Index pages

The following diagrams are of heights, in metres, suggested in the BRE Revised Guidelines for hedges directly opposite to windows. It illustrates the unrealistic heights of hedges, for small and average gardens, suggested by the BRE Guidelines. It also illustrates that BRE hedges become proportionately larger as the length of the garden decreases.

*These are the lowest heights obtainable for hedges at the ends of gardens opposite to the house on any of the BRE scales of measurement, if the orientation of the hedge relative to the house is NW. N. NE. or E.

The horizontal acess represents the length of the garden from the windows of the house to the opposite boundary, the vertical axis represents the height of the neighbour's hedge.


Contents of this page | Index pages

Deprivation of Winter sunlight.

The following table illustrates the degree of winter shade which the BRE revised Guidelines allow from a South orientated hedge and this does not even take into account the shadow from higher hedges to East and West.

5.25 m. hedge at South Boundary of 15 m. garden.
(Figure 7. BRE Guidelines October 2001)

By mid-February

65 % of garden still in full shade

By end March

50% of garden stll in full shade

At Summer Solstice

20% garden in shade ( permanent shade)

The BRE measurements cut out Winter sunshine to downstairs windows in total or part from mid - November to mid - February.

A Question of Safety and Hedge Height regarding the proposed heights

It was clearly stated that the single light criterion was to be a proxy for all forms of high-hedge nuisance. Hedgeline would ask whether the problem of maintenance of high hedges could be solved by the suggested heights in the 'BRE Guideines'.

Advice from a Countryside and Arboriculture Officer, which was sent on request. This is the advice he gives out in his professional capacity.

  1. 'If a screen hedge has been neglected and allowed to grow unchecked, I suggest that reducing such a structure by more than approx 30% can result in a the screen ending up with a disproportionately broad top, that is devoid of foliage in its center, which despite being unsightly, can latter result in the exposed lateral branches at the top twisting over and pointing downwards if future growth is not maintained by frequent pruning. This damage can be caused by wind, weight of snow or simply the weight of regrowth that can arise as a consequence of growth hormones in the trees system being diverted to the highest branches after the trees top is removed.
    If such drastic action is required to comply with the regulations I suggest that felling and replacement (with an alterative) is a preferable to taking on an ongoing commitment in order to keep a screen looking reasonable and to maintain a lower height.

  2. For people, who owing to their circumstances, are faced with maintaining a screen, such as a conifer screen, without the assistance of professional arborist, I suggest that a height of 18 ft is well beyond the capability of safe working for the majority of amateur gardeners. A screen half this height would require acquisition of a stable platform (access permitting) to work from. One is mindful of the potential risk of over reaching to cut the top, where the screen, due to its width, has become difficult to reach the top/center. The even greater risk of being tempted to use hedge cutters one handed (not possible with more recent models) should definitely be avoided to safeguard against personal injury and the risk of overbalancing.'

Clare Hinchliffe

Contents of this page | Return to 'Comments on Recently Published Guidelines', February 2002 | Index pages

Measurements suggested by some Members of Hedgeline as a more realistic alternative to the BRE scales

Maximum hedge heights in metres for hedges directly opposite windows (based on light and common sense)

The majority of people choose 2 metres as the height for the boundary screens in small and average gardens, and this leads to the assumption that 2 metres is all that should be imposed on owners of small and average gardens by their neighbours. 2 metres is quite a high boundary screen in an average garden.



Pamphlet Worse than Useless. It Backs Nuisance Hedges.

The Government are pushing ahead with their pamphlet based on the 'BRE Guidelines'

We are being given something which will help only one third of cases and materially reduce the nuisance for about a tenth.

The DTLR states that it wishes to give us something objective which can be used to negotiate with a grower. How can we use these height scales to negotiate when our hedges are already lower than the allegedly objective measurements given?

The DTLR scales are not objective because the DTLR has itself decided on the quantity of light it is going to allow the victim. It has decided what to give and what to take away. It allows little winter sunlight to gardens, and none to ground floor windows during December and January. The scales of measurement based on light could have been almost anything the DTLR decided to make them. The claim of objectivity is to impress and subdue, and people need to understand this.

The scales give a very little help and will licence the growers of problem hedges. Our plight has not been recognised. Our Government is not going to stand up to the bullies.

To investigate the norm is the only way to provide a fair scale of measurements. The norm is incontestable and verifiable fact. It cannot lie. It is there for all to see and investigate.

Hedge victims want to have the hedge heights that the majority of people choose for themselves in a given size of garden.

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