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Lord Hylton: My Lords, it is highly satisfactory that there should be an agreed all-party solution to a very real problem. My only regret is that it takes 19 new clauses to achieve that solution. This absolutely illustrates the point so often made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, about the prolixity of modern drafting. Soon we shall be having Bills not in two volumes but in three. Having said that, I welcome the improvement.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I return to the Dispatch Box simply to say to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that the issue he raises is best dealt with through guidance. We are grateful to him for tabling the amendment in the spirit in which he did. He made an interesting case. I can remember similar cases from my own local government experience.
The official at the ODPM has spent a long time dealing with high hedges. When I spoke to her this morning, I was concerned that she may be done out of a job, but she said, "No, I'm sure they'll find me some more work". I am sure that she will put her mind to the issues which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, raises in his amendment. They will no doubt be dealt with in guidance, along with many others, where there are some difficulties and complexities.
The Government are very pleased to have been able to find the opportunity to introduce the Pound Bill into the Anti-social Behaviour Bill. I think that we will do the public a great service and that there will be relief and acclamation all round. I have already read some in the press. I congratulate all those who have played a bit part, or a major parthowever they wish to describe their activitiesand I am most grateful to all for their support.
(1) In this Part "high hedge" means so much of a barrier to light or access as
(a) is formed wholly or predominantly by a line of two or more evergreens; and
(b) rises to a height of more than two metres above ground level.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) a line of evergreens is not to be regarded as forming a barrier to light or access if the existence of gaps significantly affects its overall effect as such a barrier at heights of more than two metres above ground level.
(3) In this section "evergreen" means an evergreen tree or shrub or a semi-evergreen tree or shrub." After Clause 69, insert the following new clause
(1) In this Part "domestic property" means
(a) a dwelling; or
(b) a garden or yard which is used and enjoyed wholly or mainly in connection with a dwelling.
(2) In subsection (1) "dwelling" means any building or part of a building occupied, or intended to be occupied, as a separate dwelling.
(3) A reference in this Part to a person's reasonable enjoyment of domestic property includes a reference to his reasonable enjoyment of a part of the property." After Clause 69, insert the following new clause
"PROCEDURE FOR DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS
(1) This section has effect where a complaint to which this Part applies
(a) is made to the relevant authority; and
(b) is accompanied by such fee (if any) as the authority may determine.
(2) If the authority consider
(a) that the complainant has not taken all reasonable steps to resolve the matters complained of without proceeding by way of such a complaint to the authority, or
(b) that the complaint is frivolous or vexatious,
the authority may decide that the complaint should not be proceeded with.
(3) If the authority do not so decide, they must decide
(a) whether the height of the high hedge specified in the complaint is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of the domestic property so specified; and
(b) if so, what action (if any) should be taken in relation to that hedge, in pursuance of a remedial notice under section (Remedial notices), with a view to remedying the adverse effect or preventing its recurrence.
(4) If the authority decide under subsection (3) that action should be taken as mentioned in paragraph (b) of that subsection, they must as soon as is reasonably practicable
(a) issue a remedial notice under section (Remedial notices) implementing their decision;
(b) send a copy of that notice to the following persons, namely
(i) every complainant; and
(ii) every owner and every occupier of the neighbouring land; and
(c) notify each of those persons of the reasons for their decision.
(5) If the authority
(a) decide that the complaint should not be proceeded with, or
(b) decide either or both of the issues specified in subsection (3) otherwise than in the complainant's favour,
they must as soon as is reasonably practicable notify the appropriate person or persons of any such decision and of their reasons for it.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (5)
(a) every complainant is an appropriate person in relation to a decision falling within paragraph (a) or (b) of that subsection; and
(b) every owner and every occupier of the neighbouring land is an appropriate person in relation to a decision falling within paragraph (b) of that subsection.
(7) A fee determined under subsection (1)(b) must not exceed the amount prescribed in regulations made
(a) in relation to complaints relating to hedges situated in England, by the Secretary of State; and
(b) in relation to complaints relating to hedges situated in Wales, by the National Assembly for Wales.
(8) A fee received by a local authority by virtue of subsection (1)(b) may be refunded by them in such circumstances and to such extent as they may determine." After Clause 69, insert the following new clause
(1) For the purposes of this Part a remedial notice is a notice
(a) issued by the relevant authority in respect of a complaint to which this Part applies; and
(b) stating the matters mentioned in subsection (2).
(2) Those matters are
(a) that a complaint has been made to the authority under this Part about a high hedge specified in the notice which is situated on land so specified;
(b) that the authority have decided that the height of that hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of the domestic property specified in the notice;
(c) the initial action that must be taken in relation to that hedge before the end of the compliance period;
(d) any preventative action that they consider must be taken in relation to that hedge at times following the end of that period while the hedge remains on the land; and
(e) the consequences under sections (Offences) and (Action by relevant authority) of a failure to comply with the notice.
(3) The action specified in a remedial notice is not to require or involve
(a) a reduction in the height of the hedge to less than two metres above ground level; or
(b) the removal of the hedge.
(4) A remedial notice shall take effect on its operative date.
(5) "The operative date" of a remedial notice is such date (falling at least 28 days after that on which the notice is issued) as is specified in the notice as the date on which it is to take effect.
(6) "The compliance period" in the case of a remedial notice is such reasonable period as is specified in the notice for the purposes of subsection (2)(c) as the period within which the action so specified is to be taken; and that period shall begin with the operative date of the notice.
(7) Subsections (4) to (6) have effect in relation to a remedial notice subject to
(a) the exercise of any power of the relevant authority under section (Withdrawal or relaxation of requirements of remedial notices); and
(b) the operation of sections (Appeals against remedial notices and other decisions of relevant authorities) to (Determination or withdrawal of appeals) in relation to the notice.
(8) While a remedial notice has effect, the notice
(a) shall be a local land charge; and
(b) shall be binding on every person who is for the time being an owner or occupier of the land specified in the notice as the land where the hedge in question is situated.
(9) In this Part
"initial action" means remedial action or preventative action, or both;
"remedial action" means action to remedy the adverse effect of the height of the hedge on the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of the domestic property in respect of which the complaint was made; and
"preventative action" means action to prevent the recurrence of the adverse effect." After Clause 69, insert the following new clause