Does Lane Cove have a Hedge War?

In the Cove was perusing the Lane Cove Council April minutes and noticed that the Council had made a resolution about Leighton Greens and other high hedges. The resolution stated:

The Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 be used as the principal mechanism to control the use of Leighton Greens and other high hedges within the Lane Cove Local Government Area and Council’s website be expanded to include options available to address problem hedges.

This seemed an unusual agenda item and ITC decided to investigate further. What are Leighton Greens are why are they “problem hedges”?

According to the Collins Tree Guide, they are “Britain’s ‘most planted and most hated garden tree’. Apparently they shot to awful notoriety in the UK in the mid-1990s and they were called the ‘scourge of suburbia‘. They are sometimes called Britains worst export.

Cupressocyparis leylandi aka Leighton Green are fast growing conifers, capable or reaching great heights. They are excellent as a screening plant. They also look majestic trimmed into a formal hedge.

According to the Lane Cove Council April Agenda papers:

“The cultivation of hedge type vegetation, including Leighton Green trees and the like can cause tensions between neighbours where views or light are blocked. Plants such as the Leighton Green can form a ‘solid wall’ that can quickly reach in excess of 5 meters and up to 40 meters in height. The result is that sunlight to adjoining properties can be blocked to and views severely restricted from adjoining properties. This creates both amenity and health issues for adjoining neighbours of properties that cultivate this type of vegetation.

Leighton Green cypress is planted as a hedging plant for a number of reasons:-

  1. To gain privacy and/or as part of a landscaping plan;
  2. As a ‘spite’ tree (where DA’s are approved despite the objections of neighbours); and
  3. As windbreaks.

In NSW and the UK problems with these hedges have resulted in laws being passed to allow victims of excessively high hedges to address their loss of amenity such as sunlight and views.”

The Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (TDBN Act)  was introduced after neighbourhood tree issues escalated in NSW. Prior to the introduction of this Act. there was absolutely nothing an aggrieved neighbour could do about hedges that blocked out their view or light. This seemed ridiculous as there were regulations governing the height of buildings and walls, but hedges could go as high as an owner liked.

Since the introduction of TDBN Act, neighbours have gone to court to seek an order for the hedges to be trimmed or pruned.

In 2014, a Rose Bay resident took their neighbour to court over three hedges claiming that when they moved into their home they had harbour views from their main bedroom and living room. The hedges had now grown so high they no longer had harbour views. The Court held that although the neighbour had a reasonable need for privacy, the hedges did not need to be as high as they were to achieve that privacy.

An order was made that the hedges were to be substantially pruned and for there to be yearly pruning. The Court noted that the species of plant being Leyland Cypress cultivars could grow quickly to a large size resulting in a dense wall-like screen. When planted on suburban lots near boundaries the impacts on neighbours can be severe.  It is not unreasonable to expect that they be maintained in a way to minimise such impact.

To avoid going to court over a high hedge or having a “hedge war” it is important that neighbours make reasonable efforts to resolve their issues. Remember there is no automatic right to have tree branches cut back on your boundary fence but this is something that many neighbours are willing to consent to when asked by their neighbour.

The TDBN Act would not be of assistance where the loss of views and/or sunlight is due to a single tree. In that case, the only thing you can do is raise the issue with your neighbour and seek permission to prune their tree.

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ITC is wondering how many times the Lane Cove Council is asked to intervene in a hedge dispute, It must happen quite regularly for the “spite tree” to be the subject of a specific council recommendation!!

 

Do you have a local issue you would like help with? ITC is here to help just email us at [email protected]

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