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High Hedges Appeal Guidance

This guidance sets out the procedures for appeals made to the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal under section 7 of the High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 against council decisions in respect of high hedge complaints.

If you disagree with your local council’s decision on a complaint about a high hedge, or in connection with any remedial notice it has issued, you may be able to ask the independent Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal to review the case.  This is known as an appeal.  This guide explains when you can appeal and how the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal will deal with your case. You should read it carefully before deciding whether to appeal.  Please note that this is a simple guide and not a statement of the law.

1      Can I appeal?

Whether or not you can appeal to the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal depends on the nature of the decision made by the council, who you are and your reasons (or grounds) for disagreeing with the decision in question.

Remedial notice issued

You can appeal against the council’s decision to issue a remedial notice, requiring the size of a high hedge to be reduced, if –
You are the person who complained to the council about the hedge; and

  • You think the required works aren’t enough to protect your amenity.

 

You own or occupy the land where the hedge is situated; and

  • You think that no notice should have been issued; or
  • You think that the required works go too far; or
  • You think that the council has not given you enough time to carry them out.

 

Please note that the remedial notice will be put on hold while your appeal is being determined.

No remedial notice issued

You can appeal against the Council’s decision not to issue a remedial notice if –
You are the person who complained to the Council about the hedge; and

  • You think that the Council has got it wrong and the hedge is adversely affecting your reasonable enjoyment of your property; or
  • You think that the Council, having agreed the hedge is causing problems, should have issued a remedial notice to reduce the size of the hedge.

 

Remedial notice withdrawn

You can appeal against the Council’s decision to withdraw a remedial notice if –
You are the person who complained to the Council about the hedge or their successor (i.e. you now live in the property that was affected by the high hedge); and

  • You did not agree to the notice being withdrawn; and
  • The council has not issued a new remedial notice in respect of the same hedge; and
  • You think nothing has altered regarding the height of the hedge.

 

Please note that the council’s decision will be put on hold while your appeal is being determined, so the original remedial notice remains in force.

Remedial notice revised

You can appeal against the council’s decision to set aside or relax some of the requirements in the remedial notice if –
You are the person who complained to the council about the hedge or their successor (i.e. you now live in the property that was affected by the high hedge); and

  • You did not agree the changes to the notice; and
  • You think nothing has altered that would mean there is no longer any need to reduce the hedge or keep it to the size set out in the original remedial notice; or
  • You think the works to the hedge, as revised, aren’t enough to protect your amenity.

 

You own or occupy the land where the hedge is situated; and

  • You did not agree the changes to the notice; and
  • You think the works to the hedge, even though they have been revised, still go too far.

 

Please note that the council’s decision will be put on hold while your appeal is being determined, so the requirements in the original remedial notice still apply.

2      Whether or not to appeal

Appeals are expensive to administer and time-consuming for everyone so should not be made lightly.  You should read the whole of this leaflet before making up your mind so that you understand what’s involved.

In particular, bear in mind that –

  • If you’re going to appeal, it’s not enough to say that you don’t accept the council’s decision. You need to explain why you disagree. Ask the council for clarification if you don’t understand the reasoning behind its decision.
  • The Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal will have regard to and make use of the advice in High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 - Guidance for Councils and High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 – Technical Guidance.  This is the same guidance that councils use when deciding a complaint about a high hedge, or to withdraw or revise a remedial notice.
  • It’s possible that you could end up worse off. This could happen if your neighbour also appeals against the same council decision – but for the opposite reasons.  If this happens, the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal might reject your arguments but accept those of your neighbour.  So it is important to think carefully about the strength of your case before you appeal.

 

Depending on how well you get on with your neighbour, you might discuss your concerns about the council’s decision with them to see if there is a better solution.  If you agree a different way forward, you could make a joint application to the council to withdraw or revise the remedial notice.

3      How to appeal

Appeal form

Your appeal must be made on the form provided by the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal.  You can obtain the form from their website at www.courtsni.gov.uk or by telephoning or writing to them (see Section 5 below for their contact details).

What it costs

The fee for an appeal is currently set at £126 (which is the same fee as for a domestic planning appeal).  This must be included with the appeal form.  Payment should be made to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) and can be taken at most court offices.

Deadline

The completed appeal form, with the appropriate fee and supporting documents, must be received by the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal within 28 days starting from –

  • The date that the remedial notice was issued; or
  • The date of the council’s letter informing you that they had decided –
    • not to issue a remedial notice;
    • To withdraw a remedial notice; or
    • To set aside or relax some of the requirements in a remedial notice.

Withdrawing an appeal

You can withdraw your appeal at any time by writing to the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal.  This means that you can carry on any discussion with your neighbour, even after you have submitted your appeal.

If you agree a different solution, you can then withdraw the appeal (see Section 2 above).

4      Format of appeal

Written procedure

All appeals will be dealt with through a written procedure.  This requires the council to send to the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal all relevant papers from its case file.  These include copies of the original complaint or request to the council, all the information and comments they received on it, the decision letter and any reports prepared by officers dealing with the matter.

The Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal might ask for further information, if it thinks it is necessary.  In all cases, a Valuation Tribunal member will visit the site to establish facts and gather information about the hedge which will subsequently be used by the Tribunal in coming to a decision on the appeal.

Who is involved

The following people will be involved in the procedure, whether or not they made the appeal.  They are known as “the parties” and are –

  • The council;
  • The person who complained to the council about the hedge or their successor (i.e. the person now living in the property that was affected by the high hedge); and
  • The owner and occupier of the land where the hedge is situated.

All the parties play an equal part in the appeal procedure and see all relevant papers.  The Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal cannot consider any document that has not been seen by everyone else involved in the appeal.  Other people who might have made comments to the council on the case – such as other neighbours or local amenity societies – have no direct role in the appeal.  However, the council will forward their comments so that the Valuation Tribunal can take them into account when making the decision.

Site visit

Normally, the Valuation Tribunal member tasked with performing the site visit should be accompanied throughout the visit by all the parties.  This is necessary so that the Valuation Tribunal member can easily gain entry both to the site of the hedge and to the property affected by it.  It also helps to ensure that everyone is satisfied the Valuation Tribunal member has carried out the visit fairly and properly.

Even if you don’t get on with your neighbour, you should be prepared to let them onto your property while the Valuation Tribunal member is there.

The Valuation Tribunal member might ask general questions to clarify factual information. However, no discussion about the main issues of the appeal is allowed during the visit - its purpose is to enable the Valuation Tribunal member to gather information and facts in relation to the hedge and not to facilitate mediation or negotiation between the people in dispute.

Deciding the appeal

As noted in Section 2 above, the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal will have regard to the advice in High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 - Guidance for Councils and High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 – Technical Guidance.  The Valuation Tribunal will weigh up all the information gathered from the paperwork and at the site visit before reaching a fair and balanced decision.

The Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal will notify all parties of its decision, including the reasons for it, as soon as possible after the site visit.

The Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal may allow or dismiss an appeal, either in total or just part of it.  Depending on the circumstances of the appeal, the end result could be that:

  • The remedial notice is cancelled;
  • The works to the hedge set out in the remedial notice are changed in some way;
  • A new remedial notice is issued.  This can happen only in cases where the council decided not to issue one in the first place; or
  • The works to the hedge set out in the original remedial notice stay as they were.

 

Whatever the appeal decision, the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal might amend the date when the remedial notice comes into force.  This is known as “the operative date”.  The time allowed for carrying out the works to the hedge set out in the notice would start again from this date.

All parties must abide by the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal’s decision, even if they did not make the appeal in the first place.

Even if the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal revises a remedial notice or issues a new one, the council remains responsible for making sure that the owner or occupier of the land where the hedge is situated complies with the terms of the notice.

After the appeal decision

There is no separate right of appeal against the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal’s decision.  It is possible in certain circumstances to make an application to the High Court for a judicial review.  Such a review is about whether the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal has applied the law properly.

It is not about the strength of your arguments or the merits of the appeal decision.

Before taking such a step, you should obtain legal advice on the procedures involved and the likely costs.

5      Contact details

If you want general information about the appeals procedure, contact the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal at –

Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal
3rd Floor, Bedford House<
16 - 22 Bedford Street
Belfast
BT2 7FD

Telephone: 028 9072 8752
Email: tribunalsunit@courtsni.gov.uk

If you have an appeal under consideration and want to check progress, you should contact the person whose name and telephone number will be shown on letters you receive from the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal.

6      Further information

The Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal

The Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal is an independent Tribunal which was set up to hear appeals by home owners against their domestic rates which, for the first time in 2007, were based on the capital value of their property.

For further information visit the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal web site at:   www.courtsni.gov.uk

The Law

High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 - sections 7-8 deal with appeals. The act is available at www.legislation.gov.uk/nia/2011/21/contents

High Hedge Complaints

You can find out more about how complaints about high hedges are dealt with by contacting your local council.