Accessing neighbouring land to prune a hedge

There is no automatic right to enter neighbouring land to prune a hedge. If you enter the land of another without their permission or some other form of lawful authority, you commit a trespass.

If you wish to enter your neighbour’s land to prune a hedge which belongs to you, you should first try to seek your neighbour’s permission. If their permission is not forthcoming it may be possible to obtain an ‘access order’ under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 (ANLA 1992).

When will an access order be granted?

ANLA 1992 gives the county court and the High Court the power to make an access order where a person wishes to enter land which adjoins their own and needs, but does not have, permission to enter that land. The order will only be granted if:

  • the works are reasonably necessary for the preservation of the whole or any part of your land; and
  • they cannot be carried out, or would be substantially more difficult to carry out, without entry to your neighbour’s land.

Before granting the order, the court must be satisfied that it is reasonably necessary to carry out any basic preservation works to your land. ‘Basic preservation works’ means:

  • the maintenance, repair or renewal of any part of a building or other structure comprised in, or situated on your land;
  • the clearance, repair or renewal of any drain, sewer, pipe or cable;
  • the treatment, cutting back, felling, removal or replacement of any hedge, tree, shrub or other growing thing which is in danger of becoming, damaged, diseased, dangerous, insecurely rooted or dead;
  • the filling in, or clearance, of any ditch.

A court will not make an access order if the neighbour or any other person would suffer interference with, or disturbance of, his/her use or enjoyment of their land; or the neighbour, or any other person in occupation of the whole or any part of the neighbouring land, would suffer hardship, to such a degree by reason of the entry that it would be unreasonable to make the order.

Rights and obligations under access order

If an access order is made, it will specify what works are permitted, the part of the neighbouring land that may be entered to carry out such works and the date on which, or the period during which, the neighbouring land may be entered.

An access order may also impose certain terms and conditions on the parties. For example, the court may stipulate the way the work is to be carried out or require you to be insured in respect of any loss or damage suffered by the neighbour resulting from the works. The order may also require you to pay the neighbour compensation for being allowed access to their land.

Alternative access methods

Sometimes the title documents (the deeds) to a property contain a right for a person to enter a neighbouring property for certain purposes, for example, to carry out maintenance work.
It may be possible to show that such a right has been acquired by way of ‘prescription’. However, to establish this, it is necessary to show that entry to the neighbouring land to prune the hedge was made for 20 years or more without force, secrecy or permission. If, therefore, the owner of the neighbouring land permitted access for this purpose, it will not be possible to acquire such a right.

Where a right arises in one of these ways, if the neighbour obstructs access to their land it may be possible to obtain an injunction against them requiring them to remove the obstruction through the civil courts.