Labour MP wants hedges to get chop

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The Independent Online

Legislation aimed at resolving disputes between neighbours over "nuisance hedges", such as the fast-growing leylandii, was introduced by Labour backbenchers yesterday.

Legislation aimed at resolving disputes between neighbours over "nuisance hedges", such as the fast-growing leylandii, was introduced by Labour backbenchers yesterday.

Jim Cunningham, the MP for Coventry South, outlined proposals under his Control of Hedgerows in Residential Areas Bill, and warned the issue caused "real suffering to thousands of people".

"There is no proposal in my Bill to ban leylandii or any other tree or hedge, but it does provide for conciliation between neighbours by the Environmental Protection Officer.

"If that does not work, the Environmental Protection Officer will make a decision regarding the height of trees or hedgerows, and the decision will be binding and enforced."

Mr Cunningham added: "There is one [hedge] in Kent now over 150ft high and growing well. We need to take action now to prevent the situation getting far worse."

Mr Cunningham said an offending tree could threaten roofs, gutterings, drains and the structure of a building, deprive people of light and prevent them using their gardens. "The law is biased almost entirely towards protecting those individuals who wish to grow leylandii and other high hedges and offers no protection to people affected by an intruding hedge."

Mr Cunningham said civil action had proved inadequate in dealing with hedge disputes. His Bill would include tall hedgerows as an environmental nuisance and give legal recognition to their impact.

"My Bill does not unnecessarily erode an individual's right to enjoy his property as he chooses. But it is equally an individual's right to be free from the tyranny of the invasive practices of another. We must take action now."

The Bill gained a formal first reading without a vote, but it stands no chance of becoming law because of lack of parliamentary time.