Clause 5 - Remedial notices

High Hedges (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 pm ar 7 Mai 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Llafur, Ealing North

Before moving on, I draw the Committee's attention to a letter from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, copies of which may have been sent to other hon. Members. In it, Ben Stafford, the society's parliamentary officer, expresses concern that clause 5 may be contra-legislative, in that it could impact on the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. For instance, a nesting bird might be found in a leylandii hedge that was pruned under the Bill. Mr. Stafford gently and generously reminds me that such offences are punishable by penalties of up to Ł5,000 or up to six months' imprisonment—per egg. However, I am assured that there is no contra-legislative effect. Local authorities will act in accordance with best practice and guidelines. It is unlikely that osprey eggs will be scattered to the four winds by the whirling chainsaws of the Colchester arboriculturalists. Of that, I am confident.

The clause deals with remedial notices, which are to be drawn up by local authorities and set out the action that must be taken to remedy the adverse effects of the hedge. In most cases, we are talking about a specific requirement to reduce the height of the hedge, and possibly an ongoing requirement to maintain the hedge to prevent further problems arising. The local

authority cannot require the removal of a hedge or its reduction to below 2 m in height. Hon. Members will be aware of the extensive correspondence that ensued after the Second Reading and Committee stages of earlier attempts to legislate, when opponents stated that to reduce a high hedge to 6 ft would kill it. I am assured by Hedgeline that many such hedges that were reduced to that height 15 or 20 years ago are flourishing, and I have seen some of them. The lopping or semi-castration of such hedges does not kill them.

The clause sets out in detail what must be included in a remedial notice. As well as specifying the work that has to be carried out on the hedge, it must, among other things, indicate when the initial remedial work should be carried out and explain the consequences of failure to comply with the notice. Although there is a time limit for carrying out the work to remedy the original problem, a continuing requirement to keep the hedge at its reduced height would be open-ended. That maintenance requirement could run for as long as the hedge remained on the site. A remedial notice will therefore be binding not only on whoever owns or occupies the land at the time it is issued, but on their successors.

Finally, as long as the remedial notice is in force, there is an obligation on the local authority to register it as a local land charge. In that way, prospective buyers of the property would be alerted to the commitment that they would be taking on.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.