Anne McTaggart MSP has submitted a key amendment to the High Hedges Bill proposed by Mark McDonald MSP and supported by the Scottish Government.
Ms McTaggart submitted this amendment as a member of the local government and regeneration committee in the Scottish Parliament.
The High Hedges bill aims to address the source of what can often be a major source of anti-social behaviour in communities and intends to provide individuals with a course of action to address the problem of overhanging or intrusive hedges of a neighbouring property.
However, Ms McTaggart has stated that the Scottish Government must ensure that the provisions contained within the High Hedges Bill are fit for purpose, and can deliver the outcomes that organisations such as Scothedge have been campaigning for.
Scothedge have campaigned to raise awareness of the problems faced by those who are victims of the nuisance of high hedges and have already identified a number of potential problems with the bill as it currently exists. Principally, the exclusion of deciduous hedges means that the bill could fail to tackle instances of neighbour disputes that are prevalent across Scotland.
The current definition of “a row of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs” is clearly restrictive and requires amendment, as it is clear that too many instances of high hedge disputes are not covered by this narrow description. Ms McTaggart believes that further analysis of this provision is necessary in order to produce legislation which adequately responds to the problems caused by excessively large bushes, and can offer a resolution to the many families who identify high hedges as a root cause of anti-social behaviour.
Anne McTaggart MSP said: “I welcome the introduction of a high-hedges bill in Scotland and I am enthused by the opportunity to develop legislation which deals effectively with the problem of overhanging or intrusive hedges of a neighbouring property.
It is the unfortunate reality that a dispute over an overgrown hedge can quickly escalate into an issue which impacts on the quality of life of families and encourages breakdown of communities.
That is why it is necessary that this bill should truly reflect the range of problems faced by homeowners who are embroiled in disputes about excessively large hedges, and that the definition of trees and shrubs included in the bill should not be so narrow as to exclude innocent homeowners from the resolution they have been campaigning for.
My amendment seeks to include deciduous trees in the bill and allow local authorities to have the power to order the removal or trimming of hedges that restrict views, lower property values, obstruct boiler flues, block television cables and act as a barrier to light.
I call on the Scottish Government to support this sensible addition to the high hedges bill, and take a pragmatic approach towards addressing the range of issues faced by those suffering long and bitter disputes with their neighbours.”
Sarah Boyak MSP, Shadow Local Government Minister said: “The stage one debate demonstrated that there remain real concerns that this long-awaited legislation may not meet the aspirations of many who have campaigned for proposals to enable neighbour disputes about hedges to be resolved. The key issues are whether the Bill will actually cover all hedges or whether it will leave significant numbers out with the scope of the legislation because of the way the Bill is currently worded.
The stage two debate will be a chance for the committee to explore this issue and to make sure the Bill lives up to people’s aspirations. It’s also vital that there is a clear process for review of the implementation of the Bill and that the Scottish government provides clear guidance and support to cash strapped local authorities who will have the responsibility of implementing the Bill. I hope that both the member in charge the Bill and the Minister will respond positively to the representations made by consultation to the Bill and to the debate in Parliament when it was clear that everyone is keen for this Bill to be passed but that there is still room for improvement.”