I have no plans to develop legislation or guidelines for local authorities in this regard at present. Planning legislation places no specific restrictions on the height of trees or hedges, nor does it make any particular provision for remedy from any other nuisance which may be caused by trees in an urban residential area. However, there is currently a civil remedy available through the Courts concerning branches or roots of neighbouring trees encroaching on a person’s property.
The possibility of providing a broader civil law remedy for parties affected by high trees and hedges on adjoining properties was raised previously with the Minister for Justice and Equality. In this regard, advice was sought on the possibility of legislative provision being made, whereby a person substantially deprived of the enjoyment of their property, such as the deprivation of light caused by high trees on a neighbouring property, could apply to the Courts for an order, and that the Courts could make an order as they see fit, for example, to cut the trees back to an appropriate height.
In response, the Minister for Justice and Equality suggested that disputes of this nature between neighbours could perhaps be more appropriately dealt with through mediation, which is being increasingly used internationally as a tool for the resolution of civil disputes, rather than through the Courts. Legislation subsequently introduced by the Minister for Justice and Equality has been enacted as the Mediation Act 2017.
The Mediation Act, which came into operation on 1 January 2018, contains provisions to underpin a comprehensive statutory framework to promote the resolution of disputes through mediation as an alternative to court proceedings which should ideally be only used as a last resort. In essence, the underlying objective of the Act is to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings, thereby reducing legal costs, speeding up the resolution of disputes and reducing the stress and acrimony which often accompanies court proceedings, including those involving adjoining property owners.