Overgrown Trees, Shrubs, Hedges

What is overhanging or overgrowing vegetation?

Southend-on-Sea has many gardens that all help create a green environment in the town.

Usually residents can choose how they look after their own gardens.

If vegetation in the garden causes problems for other people, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council may get involved in how they are managed.

A common issue that can cause complaints is when vegetation overhangs or over grows from a garden so much that it:

  • creates a barrier to people using the footpath, or
  • partially blocks the footpath

The vegetation can sometimes:

  • stop a driver’s view of the road
  • stop drivers from seeing oncoming traffic
  • block the light from nearby street lighting

When this happens, we will usually raise the problem with the occupier of the home and ask for the vegetation to be cut back to the boundary of their land. If they do not, we have powers to send a Notice to them.

We may send a Notice immediately if there have been problems in the past at the same home.

We recommend that where residents have vegetation in their gardens that is likely to:

  • overgrow, or
  • overhang the footpath or road

they think about regular care so that it does not obstruct people walking or driving past.

How to report overgrowing or overhanging vegetation

If you are worried about someone’s garden or land having:

  • shrubs
  • hedges
  • trees

growing out over the footpath or road you can report it by visiting MySouthend: My Southend

Will every report lead to enforcement action?

No, Officers will visit and decide if the vegetation is affecting the footpath or road and stopping:

  • people using them
  • drivers from seeing other vehicles
  • light from street lighting so that it is unsafe

Enforcement action may result from the visit. The Officer’s decision is final.

When can’t we start enforcement action?

Sometimes trees and shrubs grow from one person’s garden into another person’s, we do not carry out enforcement action when this happens. You have a right to cut back vegetation growing into your garden if this happens, but it is best to speak to your neighbour first to see if they will help with the problem. If you have a property through a housing association or have a managing agent also speak to them.

If your neighbour will not help, this will then be a civil issue between the two of you and you should seek legal advice. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council cannot get involved in a civil issue and will not start enforcement action for this type of problem.

Frequently Asked Questions – overhanging or overgrowing vegetation enforcement

What powers do Southend-on-Sea Borough Council have?

We have powers to give a Notice, under section 154 of the Highways Act 1980, to the occupier of the land or the owner of a:

  • hedge
  • tree

asking them to lop or cut back the cause of:

  • obstruction
  • interference with driver’s views
  • interference with light from street lighting

within 14 days.

When will a Notice be given and what will it say?

We would usually contact the homeowner before taking formal enforcement action.

If they ignore our contact and the vegetation creating the obstruction or interference has not been cut back, a formal Notice will be given.

The Notice will tell the homeowner to lop or cut back the vegetation within 14 days of the date of the Notice, so the obstruction or interference is removed.

The Notice includes “vegetation of any description” not just:

  • hedges
  • trees
  • shrubs

How far does the vegetation need to be cut back?

It should be cut back level to the boundary of your land.

To completely remove obstructions, we ask that the cut back is enough so:

  • for pedestrians on footpaths, a minimum headroom height of no less than 2.3 metres (7ft 6 inches)
  • for vehicles on roads it is no less than 5.2 metres (17ft) high
  • when blocking the view of drivers, it removes the interference of views
  • when stopping light from streetlamps, it removes the interference of street lighting

What happens if I refuse to cut back the vegetation or ignore the Notice?

If needed, we have powers to arrange for the work to be done by our own contractor and to recover the cost of doing this from the person receiving the Notice.

What happens if I am a tenant only at the home?

If your tenancy includes maintaining the garden, then you will have to complete the cutting back yourself.

If your tenancy does not include the garden you must tell your landlord or the homeowner immediately, particularly if letters to them are sent to your home.

What happens once I have cut back the vegetation?

If you have removed the obstruction caused by the vegetation, thank you.

Please remember that:

  • trees
  • shrubs
  • hedges

will need regular maintenance to make sure they do not create an obstruction in the future.

Large amounts of green garden waste may be taken to Household Waste Recycling Centres.

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