Hedge growers run into a brick wall

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THE shadow cast over Britain's backgardens by the curse of Leylandii, the fast-growing hedging plant, could be cut down by the humble planning officer of local authorities.

There have been demands for the hedges to be declared a nuisance under new law and order legislation, but Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has resisted the pressure.

Instead, Angela Eagle, the junior environment minister, has come to the rescue of householders who claim their lives have been made a misery by the march of Leylandii across the suburban landscape of Britain.

She has yet to finalise the details with her officials but she has been impressed with the case for bringing the hedges under local authority planning controls for the first time.

"It is mad that a wall is covered by the planning regulations, but a hedge is not," said a ministerial source.

There has been speculation that there could be a complicated planning formula to limit the height of hedges according to their proximity to houses.

The French also have a planning code which requires hedges to be kept below head height if they form the boundary with another property.

But Ms Eagle is seeking a simpler solution to the blight of the Leylandii. She believes it would be better to give planning officers the power to determine whether a hedge should be cut down to size if it is causing problems for the neighbours by blocking out their light. It would require a change in the law, but it will come as a relief to Lynne Jones, the Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, who has taken up the case of one constituent who has become the national organiser for the battle against the Leylandii invasion.

He risked thousands of pounds in legal fees in taking a neighbour to court over a hedge that was cutting off light to his house and found hundreds of other home-owners who were similarly afflicted.