Plans to create new laws to tackle the “thorny” issue of neighbourly disputes over high hedges have been announced. Recently, BBC news reported that MSP Mark McDonald is making a bid to tackle the problem of “hedge rage”.  While tall hedges might sound like a trivial issue, disputes can grow almost as dramatically as the troublesome Leylandii themselves.  A seemingly minor argument can escalate into a serious problem, with court appearances (and the associated stress and costs) not uncommon.

As David Hossack -- an experienced mediator and a Partner in Morton Fraser’s Litigation division -- explains, these disputes are often about far more than just the state of the garden.  He comments:  "this is a real problem. I volunteered for a while as a neighbourhood mediator and this valuable service is provided by SACRO (Safeguarding Communities – Reducing Offending).  Service funding has since been cut, so there are less resources to deal with this real problem.  In practice there is often more to a dispute about hedges than the hedges themselves. Mediation provides an effective platform to tackle these wider issues.”

In cases involving disputes between neighbours mediation can be a useful tool for resolving disagreements and is generally cheaper than going through the court process.  It also gives both parties a greater say in the outcome of the dispute, which may bode well for future relations.

On a more general note, the laws surrounding hedges and trees are decidedly complex, and outcomes depend heavily on the facts of each case.  You might view a dispute over a high hedge as clear cut (and indeed, if you cut the hedge, your view may indeed be clear), but this could prove to be far from the case.  It is always advisable to seek legal advice, and prevent problems later.