High hedges appeals

A recent case concerning the issue of high hedges has considered whether the planning inspectorate’s policy of filtering representations made on appeal is lawful and fair, and whether a crucial consideration had been taken into account or not when the decision was made.

A recent “high hedges” appeal case concerned a successful application for the terms of a remedial notice to be varied. In the case, Rochford District Council had issued a remedial notice requiring the property owner, R, to reduce the height of one of his hedges. On appeal by R’s neighbour, C, a planning inspector decided to vary the remedial notice, thus requiring R to further reduce the height of the hedges. R applied for judicial review of the decision to vary the remedial notice.

The planning inspectorate stated that the case was reviewed in accordance with the usual filtering process. This involved any representations deemed to be relevant being placed on the case file; however, any irrelevant representations were filtered out by case workers and not passed on to the inspector. Although R argued that the exclusion of some representations was unlawful and that the filtering process was not statutory, the process was held to be lawful by the court.

R also argued that the inspector failed to take a relevant factor into account: The decision turned on the condition of the hedge and the inspector had considered R’s unlawful conduct in excessively trimming the hedge, which had led her to vary the remedial notice on the grounds that the hedges were adversely affecting C’s reasonable enjoyment of his property. However, in R’s view the inspector had failed to take into the account the fact that the condition of the southern hedge resulted from C’s conduct.

The court, agreeing with R, held that the inspector’s decision was flawed because she had failed to take a relevant factor into account. R’s application was therefore granted.

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