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Lord Monson: I generally support the noble Baroness on the Bill, as she knows. I agree with her Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, although possibly Amendment No. 2 as modified by Amendment No. 3 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Will she clarify her assertion that trees are not included? Clause 2 seems to state that leylandii are trees.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Single treasured trees are not included. The Bill covers only two or more trees, which must be together. Individual trees, which are mostly the type that have tree preservation orders on them, are not included.

Baroness Hamwee: I support the amendment. It had not occurred to me until the noble Baroness tabled it that any light other than natural light might be the subject of the Bill and the proposed protection. As she said, sunlight falls within the category of natural light. Considerable angles are needed for properties to receive the benefit of sunlight at certain times of the year. It is normal not to have sunlight as much of the time as natural light. To restrict the provision further than natural light would not be appropriate, but the Bill should not extend to allowing artificial light to be accessed by cutting down trees. Natural light is the natural definition and understanding of the Bill's aims.

Baroness Trumpington: I have a question for my noble friend Lady Gardner. If you build a tennis court and need a background for it, in my experience you grow the quickest and tallest hedge. Will such a hedge be subject to the provisions of the Bill?

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: As always, my noble friend asks an interesting question. It depends on where the tennis court is situated. If it is next door to the window of someone's home—whether it is the ground floor or first floor—and the resident cannot see anything because the hedge is fast growing as my noble friend suggests, then yes, it would be covered. The point is the loss of light or amenity it would create for the person living in the adjoining house. If the tennis court is on the shady side, then the house on the sunny side would not be affected. If the situation were reversed and the hedge interfered with sunlight reaching the home then it would be subject to the Bill's provisions. We will come on to debate the issue of whether the word "barrier" is appropriate, but the provision would apply if the plants formed a hedge or a "barrier", as the Bill currently provides.

My noble friend highlights another issue by pointing out that people will put in the fastest-growing type of hedge. That is the practice where things have gone so wrong. I have received letters from various people who planted leylandii hedges which were small and

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harmless 20 or 25 years ago but which are now 80 feet high and a menace. No one is willing to undertake the cost of dealing with those hedges.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, for the stimulating debate on this issue. It is an important part of the debate that we need to have. I think that she is trying to ensure that the loss of sunlight is properly taken into account in determining a complaint. She also referred to the Building Research Establishment guidelines, which are very valuable in this context. I was extremely impressed by her understanding of how those guidelines might impact on individual cases. I think that the use of "dull" and "sunny" is helpful in that context.

The next group of amendments will widen the debate in relation to grounds of complaint, and I shall comment further on Clause 1 then. For now, I simply say that we accept that the loss of sunlight is different from the loss of daylight. Both, however, could be determined as issues surrounding the issue of natural light. On reflection, therefore, I am not sure that Amendment No. 1 hits the mark, and I think that the noble Baroness herself has some doubts about it. Nevertheless, we accept that this is the core of the issue and we have some sympathy with the point that she is making. All I can say now is that we shall consider her comments and see whether there is some way in which the terminology can be improved. We may be able to discuss the point further.

Therefore, although I cannot accept the amendment, we shall certainly reflect further on what has been said.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I thank the Minister for his comments. As I said, I shall not press the amendment now. However, I think that between now and Report—which is scheduled for 28th February—there is room for discussion of many of the issues that we shall be considering today.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes moved Amendment No. 2:


    Page 1, line 7, after "light" insert ";


    2 (ii) loss of amenity, whether in the dwelling or in any garden or yard associated with the dwelling; or


(iii) damage to any property, including damage to plants or soil"

The noble Baroness said: I have aired these issues for many years, and experience has shown the need for a definition that goes much wider than "light". I think that it should include the loss of amenity, loss of property value and loss of comfort. Someone sent me a very interesting short poem that outlines much of the problem. I shall read a part of it but not the part at the end dealing with the legislators. It states:


    "Hedge alongside our holding;

Bane of our life. The cause of unnecessary Neighbourly strife. 25' & towering high, Ragged, unruly,

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It soars to the sky. Blots out the sun; Plants do not thrive! A haven for magpies With incessant chatter! They drive out the black birds Does that really matter? Songbirds and robins—all driven away; We're deprived of their song on a Midsummer's Day. Hedge roots spread at an alarming pace. Encircling underground services All over the place. Goodness me! A crack in our wall? Does that really matter at all? Our neighbour wants privacy; We'd like the sun! To slip on algae on our path, Isn't much fun! From our side The hedge is an utter disgrace: It encroaches and invades OUR private space! We used to enjoy Our garden During the evenings and days. Until we were faced with That unruly maze! I think that that covers the issues, of which we are all so aware, and all of which were raised on Second Reading. I do not need to go into them in detail now.

The fact is that people are intimidated when trying to reach a resolution with their neighbours. They can become depressed and financially endangered by the damage done by overgrown hedges. As I have said in your Lordships' House before, I have been sent photographs of 25 metre hedges between two semi-detached houses. Although that may be difficult to believe, we have reached the point at which no one is controlling the situation. That is another reason for this Bill. I think that the amendment is self-explanatory. I beg to move.

12.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 2, Amendment No. 3:


    Line 2, at beginning insert "unreasonable"

The noble Baroness said: I have tabled this amendment because I believe that the loss of amenity can range from the very minor to the dramatic, or the other way round, and that the remedy could be disproportionate to the loss of amenity unless it is qualified, as I propose, as an "unreasonable loss of amenity". I think that it would also be appropriate to make this provision parallel to the "obstruction of light" provision mentioned elsewhere in the clause, which would also be qualified as an "unreasonable" obstruction of light.

I am sympathetic to the point of principle here. The loss of a very near and tall group of trees, for example, is different from the loss of light. Depending on the orientation of the properties, the trees may not cause the loss of much light, but they could make the situation uncomfortable if the complainant's garden is short and the neighbouring trees are close to the boundary. As

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Committee members with experience of local government will know from discussions on planning applications, it is not always easy to support an argument that an application should be refused because of the effect on a neighbour's amenity. Nevertheless, I think that it would be appropriate for the Bill's provisions to mirror as closely as possible the factors that apply in consideration of planning applications.

I have a question for the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, on Amendment No. 2. The amendment refers to,


    "damage to any property, including damage to plants or soil".

Are not other remedies available to deal with such damage? If so, is it appropriate to extend the remedies provided by this Bill to such damage? Might not other remedies achieve some of the Bill's objectives?

I hope that noble Baroness is sympathetic to my amendment to Amendment No. 2. I beg to move.

Lord Monson: As I indicated when speaking to Amendment No. 1, I support Amendment No. 2, but as modified by Amendment No. 3. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I am also slightly concerned about paragraph (iii) of the amendment, but for rather different reasons. It is perfectly reasonable not to qualify the word "damage" as applied to property, because property damage is serious. However, I do not think that one could really justify imposing the heavy hand of the law where slight damage to plants or soil is concerned. So perhaps the noble Baroness might contemplate at the next stage inserting the word "serious" before the second "damage" in the paragraph, so that it reads "including serious damage to plants or soil".


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