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Lord Methuen: I support both amendments. There is reference to "loss of amenity". I should like to see loss of view included. One may well have bought one's house because of its superb view of the neighbourhood. That view can be destroyed completely by high hedges. That is an important consideration.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Taking that last point first, unfortunately I do not think that anyone has an entitlement to a view. I supported the conversion of a barn with a two-metre wall opposite my small home in Oxfordshire. I was upset to find that a three-metre wall was built which shut out my view altogether. When I drew the matter to the council's attention, retrospective planning permission was given. I would not have supported the conversion in the first instance: I would have made an issue about the two metre wall. One presumed that if the greater height were not included in the planning application the wall would be only two metres high. Through that sad experience I learned that one does not have an entitlement to a view. If I am wrong, I should, of course, be happy to include "view" in the amendment. However, I am not sure that such a right comes within planning matters.

I should be prepared to accept "unreasonable" loss of amenity. It is a reasonable provision. However, what happens to the amendment to the amendment if I beg

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leave to withdraw Amendment No. 2? Perhaps the Deputy Chairman of Committees or the Clerk at the Table will know. No one seems to know that technicality. If the noble Baroness does not press her amendment to my amendment, I shall not then press Amendment No. 2. I am willing to bring forward an amendment to include "serious" damage to plants and soil. Perhaps we should review the wording of the amendment. I accept the noble Baroness's amendment to my amendment.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Dealing with the technical issue of the amendments, the answer is that the amendment would fall.

I seek to be helpful. We have listened carefully to the views expressed in the debate. The general rule for the Bill is to keep matters as simple as possible. In so doing, it achieves most of its objectives. If we try to deal with every eventuality we may run into difficulties. There is a risk that the scope of complaints caught within it would be widened to such an extent that the legislation would become unwieldy and unworkable.

As Government, we wish principally to focus on the hedge problem. Let us not forget that we have the facility to add to grounds of complaint through regulations. I know that that does not always go down well in your Lordships' House. However, it is no bad way for us to proceed in this kind of legislation.

On property damage and the other detail in the amendment, as the noble Baroness said at Second Reading, there are well established procedures for dealing with such complaints through the courts. Intervention by the local authority under this legislation should always be seen as a last resort where no other effective remedy might exist. In addition, the complaints are not so much to do with the height of the hedge—that is the principal concern of the Bill—as about issues of liability and compensation. As well as being outside the scope of the Bill, we argue that such matters are probably best left to the courts to determine. I am not convinced that by complicating matters we shall improve the quality of the operation of the legislation. The new system envisaged through the Bill is about right.

Subject to those comments, we shall reflect carefully on the issues raised in the amendment. In a sense, the amendment to the amendment is a lawyers' amendment, introducing "reasonableness" into the debate. It is not an unfair or wrong notion to introduce but it may further complicate matters.

While we accept in principle that some extension of the grounds of complaint may be advisable, we do not want to go too far beyond the issues of obstruction of light. We shall give consideration to those extra grounds of complaint. It is to be hoped that on Report we can bring forward a more suitable amendment and in the interim have further discussion on the wording.

I hope that that satisfies the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, and will persuade her and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to withdraw their amendments.

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Baroness Hamwee: I shall not take up your Lordships' time by arguing whether my amendment is a lawyers' amendment or simply a commonsense amendment. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I do not think that it will make any difference whether or not I withdraw my amendment since the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, is about to withdraw her amendment. However, in order to save 30 seconds, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 3, as an amendment to Amendment No. 2, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I listened to the Minister but I am not satisfied with not including damage to property. The Minister is mistaken—between now and Report the noble Lord can check the accuracy of what I say—in saying that the height of the trees bears no relation to the damage to the property. I understand from my botany studies many years ago and my constant gardening reading now that, with the rare exception of the Australian gum tree—it is very small rooted; that is why they fall down unexpectedly so disastrously killing people—most trees have a root span relevant to their height. If the tree is tall the roots are wide. I have received documented cases from people whose drains have been broken by underground roots. I read a poem about a building cracking. The roots can be as damaging as the height of the hedge. Reduction of the height of the hedge can help with regard to extra growth of roots. It is an issue we should consider.

I welcome the Minister's statement that the Government would be willing to widen the provision. The aim of the legislation is for people to have the right to enjoy their own homes. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Methuen moved Amendment No. 4:

    Page 1, line 7, after "hedge" insert "or plantation of trees"

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 4, 7 and 15 seek to add plantations to high hedges. My reasons for this are not to prevent the proper exploitation of commercial or other nurseries but to prevent the negligent or wilful misuse of them. I have given the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, and the Minister some photographs of a Christmas tree nursery adjacent to where I live where the owner has failed to harvest many of the trees. They are now of such a size as to make them unmarketable, being some 25 feet or more high. The occupants of the adjacent house, depicted in the photographs to which I refer, are now overwhelmed by the trees which are about 20 feet away from the front door of their house. They suffer an obstruction of light and loss of amenity quite as severe as if it had been caused by a high hedge. When they bought this house about five or six years ago, they had views of lakes and reservoirs which are adjacent to the property. Those are now totally obscured.

My neighbours, the occupants of the house—here I must declare an interest as, although I am not currently affected by the trees, if they continue to grow, I shall be—have endeavoured to get the owner of the

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trees to cut or trim them without success. That is a particular case. I am sure, however, that it is not unique and that there are many other householders in a similar predicament.

My amendments seek to rectify that situation and enable the householder to obtain an amelioration of the circumstances in a similar manner to that which applies if the problems have been caused by a high hedge, as defined in the Bill. It is not the intention to cause the wholesale destruction of the nursery.

Amendment No. 7 defines plantations and Amendment No. 15 describes the amelioration procedure required. I should point out that if these amendments are agreed to, there would be similar consequential amendments elsewhere in the Bill which, for the Committee's convenience, I have not tabled. I beg to move.

1 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I hope that my Amendment No. 9 will help to deal with this problem. If that is the case, the amendment we are discussing is unnecessary. However, I appreciate that whatever is blocking someone's light should be able to be tackled. To that extent, I understand and support the noble Lord's view.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: This amendment needs to be considered alongside the related Amendment No. 7 to Clause 2. Amendment No 7 seeks to define "plantation" as,

    "a group of cultivated trees . . . grown for domestic or commercial purposes whose height exceeds two metres".

Unlike the situation with high trees, there would be no requirement for them to form a barrier or to comprise only evergreens. Overall, the effect of the amendments would be rather more draconian than the noble Lord may envisage. They would bring all planted trees, other than single specimens, within the scope of the complaints system. The Bill is predominantly designed to deal with high hedges.

I make the simple point that the amendments lose sight of the positive benefits that trees can bring, including those that we might plant in our own gardens. After all, the right tree planted in the right place can make a significant improvement to the quality of the local environment. For that reason, the Government actively promote tree planting in both town and countryside. These amendments, if agreed, would discourage people from planting suitable trees and add to pressures to remove existing ones.

I read the correspondence and looked at the photographs that the noble Lord provided, and I certainly appreciate that some difficulties and problems may arise. One hopes that in that specific case the difficulties can be amicably resolved. The noble Lord may want to raise some of the issues with his local authority to ascertain whether it has some powers or influence that it can bring to bear to try to reach some suitable compromise or accommodation. In general terms, bad cases, such as the one that the noble Lord mentioned, do not necessarily lead to good

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law being made. I always canvass care in discussing examples of that nature when considering a measure that is designed to be of general benefit.

I certainly appreciate that neighbouring groups of trees can inflict the same misery as an overgrown hedge but I do not think that the problems associated with overgrown trees are in quite the same league as those associated with high hedges adjacent to predominantly urban or suburban homes. Although complaints about tall trees are received from time to time, I do not believe that the noble Lord's amendments necessarily constitute the right solution. There is a wider danger that in seeking to bring plantations within the scope of the Bill it may well lose the widespread support that it has, not just across political parties but also among those interested organisations, particularly local authorities, that would have to administer the system.

I fear that the noble Lord's amendments risk losing that consensus. I have no doubt that local authorities would be rather concerned about the additional burdens that could be placed upon them if they had to deal with all tree-related complaints in the way envisaged in the amendments. Horticultural, landscape and other tree-related industries, including timber growers, may be concerned about the impact of the amendments on their business. I hope that the noble Lord will understand our reasons for not being able to support the amendments, however public spirited he may have been in tabling them. I trust that he will feel able to withdraw them.

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