The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 is not working in practice for many of the people it was intended to help, a Holyrood committee was told yesterday.
MSPs on the Local Government & Communities Committee were hearing evidence on the effectiveness of the legislation, which has now been in force for three years. It allows home owners and occupiers to apply to a local authority to take action against hedges over two metres tall on neighbouring land, and which block out light, if they have tried all reasonable means to resolve the issue themselves.
However some witnesses said they felt that certain aurthorities were looking for excuses not to take up cases. Complaints were made over trees being deemed not to meet the definition of a hedge, fees that reach £500 in some cases and the absence of an appeal system.
"I think the law has no teeth, and the reason, I don't think there's a sinister plot by councils, I think it's just that cutting down a high hedge is expensive", said John Bolbot of Alva, who even claimed his marriage had broken down over stress caused by a neighbour's hedge that was 44m long and up to 13m high. Despite a notice having been served last July, the hedge was still in place.
Campaign group Scothedge said there had been some successes under the Act, but tighter definitions were needed, including a right to light in the home and garden, to prevent "subjective" interpretations being applied. There were "serious loopholes" due to loose wording in the guidelines.