Don’t let your Hedge, Trees or Vegetation be a Hazard!
How can Hedges and vegetation be a Hazard?
The issue of hedges and other vegetation overhanging and otherwise obstructing the highway (the definition of which includes the pavement) is one that regularly gives rise to complaints to the Parish Council from residents.
Overgrown hedges next to footpaths and roads pose a real hazard to people who are disabled or who are visually impaired and young children or other pedestrians who risk injury or damage to their faces or clothing from thorns and branches. If the pavement (footway) is narrow or the obstruction is excessive, they may be forced into the road. This is particularly dangerous for wheelchair users or for people pushing a pram or buggy.
On junctions and bends overgrown hedges may obstruct sight lines and the clear view of motorists. They may also obstruct traffic signs or streetlights, increasing the risk of accidents.
Our advice to residents
Check your own trees and hedges. Are they overhanging the footpath or boundary of your property? Are they affecting visibility for road users? If so, cut them back to (or arrange to have them cut back) as soon as possible.
Ensure they are cut back correctly within your boundary to, or above, the heights specified. It is also a requirement that anything overhanging a footway must be at least 2.3m above the footway, cycleway, verge and 5.3m above the road surface.
• Regularly maintain them so they do not become an obstruction.
• Seek advice if you have any doubts.
How far should I cut back?
What will happen if I don’t cut my hedge?
It is an offence under the Highways Act 1980 to allow trees, hedges, shrubs and so on to obstruct the highway.
Whilst the Parish Council has no legal powers to deal with the issue, the County Council, as the Highway Authority, do have such powers by virtue of the Highways Act 1980. The Act also places a duty on the owners of hedges, trees and other vegetation who are obliged, by virtue of section 96 of the Act to ensure that their trees and hedges do not obstruct the highway.
Where the overhanging hedge etc causes either a nuisance or danger to road or pavement users then the Highway Authority can serve the owner of the offending hedge with a Notice under the relevant section of the Act, requesting that the owner remove the overhanging branches etc.
The Highway Authority has the power to enforce this if necessary; the letter will give the owner a notice period to cut the hedge back or the Highway Authority will arrange for it to be done and then send the owner the bill. This is because the Highway Authority themselves have a duty under section 130 of the Act to remove obstructions.
However, the Parish Council seeks to promote social, inclusive behaviour by residents and believes that it is always preferable for issues such as this to be resolved within the village without the need to refer to another authority; the Parish Council would certainly only want to see legal enforcement action used as a last resort.