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HIGH HEDGES AND OTHER NUISANCE VEGETATION - GOVT. CONSULTATION

 A Picture

JOIN SCOTHEDGE TODAY TO DEMAND END OF HIGH HEDGE TYRANNY

E-MAIL

Dr Colin Watson

Tel 0131-449-3037

E Mail docwat@colwat.com


Comment

Scothedge is not against trees and is not looking for “anti tree” legislation. Scothedge stands against those who use trees in an inappropriate and unreasonable way. People are the problem and the law must ensure that a small but significant group of selfish individuals cannot continue to behave in a way that the vast majority our society finds unacceptable.


A proposal for a Members' Bill - "the High Hedges Bill (Scotland)" - was lodged in the Scottish Parliament by Scott Barrie MSP on 21 May 2002 and on the same day, it acquired its 11th supporter which means that Scott Barrie had the right to introduce a Bill to give effect to his proposal, this was to provide local authorities in Scotland with the powers to deal with complaints regarding high hedges.

HOLYROOD 2007

Scott Barrie lost his West Dunfermline seat in May 2007 without lodging any Bill.WESTMINSTER LEGISLATED SEPTEMBER 2003.

2007

Scottish Government assigns Fergus Ewing to High Hedge Dispute legislation.

2008

July 2008 Scottish Government consults Scothedge Team over legislation options.

2009

April 2009 Community Safety Unit proposes new consultancy launch in summer in liaison with Scothedge.


OPEN LETTER TO MSPs


YOUR HIGH HEDGE/TREE VICTIM CONSTITUENTS CALL UPON YOU TO URGE ENDING THEIR YEARS OF DISTRESS, CAUSED BY THE UNACCOUNTABILITY WHICH ENABLES CARELESS, SELFISH, RETALIATORY AND VINDICTIVE HIGH HEDGE OWNERS TO IGNORE REQUESTS TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEMS THEY ARE INFLICTING UPON HELPLESS NEIGHBOURS.

THESE DISPUTES ARISE BECAUSE THERE IS NO RECOURSE TO INDEPENDENT ARBITRATION TO HANDLE VESTED INTERESTS OR ULTERIOR MOTIVES AS WITH PLANNING APPLICATIONS. A NUMBER OF VERY NASTY PEOPLE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR IMMUNITY FROM CHALLENGE, TO DO WHAT THEY ENJOY DOING BEST - BEING NASTY -- AT GREAT EXPENSE TO THEIR POWERLESS VICTIMS.IT IS NOT REALITY TO EXPECT PERSONAL CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE CONTESTANTS TO BE FAIR MEANS FOR RESOLUTION AND IT DOES GREAT CREDIT TO THOSE MANY NEIGHBOURS WHO COLLABORATE IN A FRIENDLY MANNER. THIS OPTION IS SIMPLY NOT ON OFFER IN MOST DISPUTES.

WE AT SCOTHEDGE HAVE APPRECIATED MEETING WITH FERGUS EWING'S POLICY ADVISERS IN ORDER TO SUGGEST BETTER LEGISLATION THAN THAT ENACTED IN ENGLAND IN 2003 AND AT SUBSTANTIALLY LESS COST. LEGISLATION CAN BE ON THE STATUTE BOOKS VERY SOON. WE HAVE DRAWN UPON EXPERIENCE OF OVER A DECADE OF HELPING VICTIMS THROUGHOUT SCOTLAND, ENGLAND AND WALES, AS PART OF THE NATIONAL HEDGELINE ORGANISATION. IT HAS TAKEN NINE YEARS TO ARRANGE SUCH AN IMPORTANT MEETING AND COST US NINE YEARS OF EFFORT, EXPENSE AND FRUSTRATION. JIM WALLACE, THEN JUSTICE MINISTER, STATED THAT LEGISLATION WAS PROBABLY NECESSARY IN JANUARY 2001 FOLLOWING A PUBLIC CONSULTANCY IN 2000.

WE ARE RELYING UPON OUR MSPS TO PLAY THEIR PART IN GETTING RID OF THESE HIGH HEDFGE AND TREE DISPUTES BY ENDING THE ROLE OF THE PLANT OWNER AS JUDGE, JURY AND EXECUTIONER WITH THE ABILITY TO REFUSE RESOLUTION. MOST OF YOU KNOW OF THESE PROBLEMS AT FIRST HAND AND LIKE US WOULD LIKE TO SEE A FAIR SOLUTION.

VERY MANY THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SUPPORTED US THOUGHOUT SCOTLAND AND SHARED OUR FRUSTRATIONS OVER TWO PARLIAMENTS.


HOLYROOD TROUNCES WESTMINSTER !!

7/11/09


As the Scottish Government High Hedges and Other Nuisance Vegetation consultancy draws to its close Scotland's powerless victims of vegetation tyranny have obliterated any sense in Government that Scotland is less affected by the issue than England and Wales.

After demographic adjustment the Holyrood response is shaping up to exceed the Westminster response by a whopping 55%

We have waited a decade - How many more if us will suffer this unjust and costly abuse by neighbours entitled under Scottish Law to refuse decent response to a complaint over their excessive greenery ?



ONLY SIX WEEKS REMAIN TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

24/9/09


SCOTHEDGE has now responded to over 260 Scottish residents seeking relief from obstructive and inappropriate high hedges and other nuisance vegetation.

Day by day new cases are approaching us with horrific tales of distress caused by the law forcing personal confrontations where the complainant cannot be protected because in the sight of the law trees and hedges can be grown to any height in private land regardless of the damage to and devaluation of a neighbouring home and garden.

IF THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT DOES NOT HEAR FROM YOU THIS INJUSTICE WILL CONTINUE INDEFINITELY

RESPOND TO FERGUS EWING'S "HIGH HEDGE AND OTHER NUISANCE VEGETATION CONSULTANCY". HE HAS PROVIDED THE OPPORTUNITY AND NEEDS YOUR VOICE TO SUPPORT LEGISLATION.

If you have not already joined the campaign contact us. Click on the GOTO FRONT PAGE tab to see the campaign progress and to join SCOTHEDGE.


IT IS EASY TO STOP HEDGE DISPUTES - GIVE THE VICTIMS RIGHTS !

15/08/09


The Scottish Government consultancy on High Hedges and other Problem Vegetation was published on Friday 14th.

The emphasis is on prevention of disputes before they start. This is absolutely correct but for this to happen the hedge victims need rights not advice.

The vast majority of expected English disputes ended immediately hedge owners were given the right to Local Authority inspection with the power to order remedial trimming.Those seeing their position as unsustainable, generally capitulated. Some 250 Scottish complainants on the Scothedge books are prevented from fair resolution by having no rights in the matter.

Respondents to the consultancy should empasis this legal vacuum which locks them into an entirely unjust misery.



THE CLOCK IS TICKING AS THE LIGHT SHINES ON HIGH HEDGE INDECENCY

02/09/09


Throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, the indecency of selfish refusal to deal with legitimate complaints from neighbours suffering damage to their homes by unacceptable high hedges is being exposed as the Scottish Government Public Consultancy in the matter seeks to understand the injustice which denies victims of this abuse, any rights to protection.

In recent days, there has been an increase in perpetrators lopping their awful vegetation as realisation dawns that the game is up. In England the dawning of capitulation by hedge owners understanding that an inspector would reveal their miserable and untenable refusal to attend to a problem forced upon neighbours caused perhaps 90% of these miscreants to chop their hedges in order to avoid legal penalty and public condemnation.

So will it be in Scotland when new legislation is introduced to similarly give the tight of independent inspection to High Hedge and other nuisance Vegetation.

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RESPONSE TO THE APPROACHING PUBLIC CONSULTANCY IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE

25/07/09


The role of the Public Consultancy is to give the Scottish Government the confidence and authority to spend taxpayers money in order to CONSIDER launching a new bill.

The crystal clear claim is that our problems with high hedges and trees are enabled by the injustice of the right to grow hedges and trees to any height without any balancing right by those sharing the nearby residential land to their own fair access to communal quality.This may be reduced or destroyed by unsuitable vegetation, entirely free from challenge because the law protects the interest of the plant grower and affords the complainant no such protection.

This is the simple and obvious reason why no voluntary help can take account of the vested interests, leaving the only recourse, face to face confrontation, if the plant owners are not prepared to do the decent thing.

The Scottish Government,in discussion with Scothedge, evidently wishes to see an end to this inequity which generates antisocial behaviour - in some cases amounting to abuse and cruelty of a most unfortunate nature ranging from malicious action to simple selfish indifference.

But the hedge or tree owner has the legal option to ignore the complaint and it needs legislation to bring equity to such contentions.

But within our Parliamentary system legislation must start from an evidence based requirement which is to be established,not from the evidence of a lobby group but from a consultative exercise. The lobby group brings about the awareness of the issue to merit a consultancy and it plays a major role in the explanation of the issue to legislators.

THE WINNING OF LEGISLATION WILL ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY RESPONDING TO THE CONSULTANCY QUESTIONS IN SUFFICIENT NUMBERS. UNBELIEVABLY THE 2000 CONSULTANCY RAISED LESS THAN 100 RESPONSES. THIS TIME ROUND ? -- REQUEST YOUR CONSULTANCY PAPERS AND MAKE YOUR VIEWS CLEAR. SCOTHEDGE WILL ENSURE THAT THEIR HUNDREDS OF CONTACTS ARE KEPT INFORMED.

The platform is now awaiting the train which must be seen to be long and powerful !


SCOTHEDGE SURVEY IMPRESSIVE

10/07/09


The superb response from Scothedge mwmbers provides solid evidence of just what the Scottish Government needs to do.

The impractacality of escaping an un-neighbourly confrontation because of the legislative vacuum is crystal clear.

As expected loss of garden light tops the poll at 81%. Loss of view sits at 68% whilst light loss to windows accounts for 64%. Single trees are cited as being involved in 47% of response. 37% face hostile hedge owners.

Much more detail is available. Very many thanks to all of you who took the time to fill in heafty form SH101B.


FERGUS EWING TEAM IS UP TO THE MARK ON HIGH HEDGE CONSULTANCY

03/07/09


The Fergus Ewing team are holding to their proposed progress towards the necessary public High Hedge consultancy launch which is the next stepping stone towards achieving a viable legislative option.

Our negotiators are invited to meet the professional legislative team again later this month in order to review the consultancy launch document and assure ourselves that the options presented in the document are fit for purpose, in the eyes of ourselves and the Scottish Government.

Scothedge members are currently completing a update survey which will help us ensure that our case has strong evidential quality. WE HAVE SURVEY FORMS AVAILABLE FOR SCOTTISH RESIDENTS FACING HIGH HEDGE TYRANNY WHO ARE NOT YET MEMBERS OF SCOTHEDGE.

ANYONE WISHING TO TAKE PART IN THIS SURVEY OR WHO WISH TO REGISTER AS SCOTHEDGE MEMBERS PLEASE E-MAIL ME ON docwat@colwat.com

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HIGH HEDGES CONSULTANCY PROGRESSES TO PLAN

16/06/09


In a comprehensive communication, the Scottish Government tells us of substantial work being carried out to achieve an effective Summer Consultancy with timelines to be proposed shortly.

The Scothedge view is we are in business as agreed in the April meeting at Holyrood.


2003 WESTMINSTER HIGH HEDGES BILL WAS BEGINNER'S LUCK

29/05/09


When Westminster legislated to end high hedge disputes in 2003 the understanding of the issue was largely speculative. Stephen Pound expected 40,000 cases to swamp the English Local Authorities and accordingly they saw a huge new workload and considerable costs. The iconic Leylandii were seen as the problem rather than the legal right to grow anything along a residential boundary. High hedge owners could claim that they were doing nothing wrong when they stole a neighbour's fair share of the residential environment. Somehow legal right justified wrongdoing. The realities of this assumption have come home to roost to similarly minded MPs and bankers.

In the event these overestimates forced excessive constraints over the definition of a hedge as a 'line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergree trees or shrubs' and forced Local Authorities to charge unacceptable fees which have to some degree prevented use of the high hedges law by less well off or non-compliant problem victims. The victim pays all is not an attractive idea !

Nevertheless there is evidence, in England, of over 90% capitulation by parties expecting to fall foul of inspection and a more reasonable post legislation estimate of 1600 inspections over four years has seen Local Authorities reducing their fees - in some cases to zero.

The reduced population in Scotland suggests that perhaps 40 inspections per year might even be excessive. If this is realised the interventions by the authorities in Scotland may cost very little when compared with earlier estimates assumed by the Scott Barrie proposals.

In Wales, application of the Westminster Bill was implemented through a single inspector. This has not been successful because of the poor performance of the retired solicitor employed to perform inspections. A more reasonable implementation in Scotland might be a three man inspection team of law expert,arboriculturist and representive of the Local Council of the claimant as a better option.

The English legislation has worked well within its narrow aims possibly by luck rather than design. The Scottish Government has better legislative mechanisms than the ancient 'Mother of Patliaments' now in the Mother of a mess. The realities of the unfair immunity of challenge against plant mismanagement be it from inconsideration or malicious intent are fully available to our legislators who will be able to create new legislation fit for purpose.


AN ENGLISH CASE GOES FULL STRETCH

22/05/09


Neighbour Fined Over Hedge

A man who repeatedly ignored requests to cut a 12ft hedge at the centre of a dispute with his next door neighbour has been ordered to pay £730 in court fines and costs.

Magistrates in Wolverhampton took a dim view that it had taken the hedge owner three years to trim the row of leylandi trees on the boundary between gardens in Wolverhampton. The hedge restricted light into the home of neighbours, a pensioner aged 81, and his wife, 79.

The chairwoman of the magistrates bench, told the 49-year-old hedge owner: "We feel that most of this is due to you."

The prosecuting solicitor, said the council got involved in February 2007 when a complaint was received from the complainant. Yesterday's hearing was told the trees were finally cut on Saturday.

The hedge owner pleaded guilty to failure to comply with the remedial notice, under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act. A similar charge against his partnerwas dropped. The defending solicitor, said: The defendents certainly don't wish to be presented as neighbours who would cause problems."


For legal reasons the identies of those involved have been excluded. Scottish victims urgently require similar protection against thoughtless or malicious destruction of their fair living space.



IS THIS THE LEGAL PRETEXT - STATUTORY NUISANCE ?

15/05/09

In England the legal pretext was 'loss of reasonable enjoyment of a property'. In Scotland 'Statutory Nuisance' might be legally appropriate.

4.12 Overgrown gardens and high hedges - comments were received suggesting that overgrown gardens and high hedges should be included as statutory nuisances. There is currently no legislation in place in Scotland specifically governing the height of hedges and trees. However section 179 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (that makes provision for land affecting the amenity of a neighbourhood) may be appropriate for overgrown gardens. Also where a Housing Renewal Area exists under section 2 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, a local authority can issue a Maintenance Order under section 42 or a Works Order under section 30 requiring works to a garden by virtue of the wide definition of 'house' in the Act. Controls were implemented in England and Wales through the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003. It gives local authorities power to deal with complaints where high hedges are having an adverse effect on a neighbour's enjoyment of his domestic property. The procedure only applies after the complainant has attempted to resolve the matter informally with their neighbour. The complainant must submit a fee to the local authority for the service. The main complaints with hedges generally are:


  • Reduction in light.
  • Blocking Views.
  • Damage to Drains and nearby structures.

4.13 The issue is being considered as part of the current review of the Antisocial Behaviour legislation in Scotland. The final policy position will be agreed by Ministers in due course and this guidance will be amended to reflect the position.



HIGH HEDGE LEGISLATION DELAYS FUEL FRUSTRATION

14/05/09

In England frustration led to several horrific actions against horror hedges, including murder. These virtually ended in 2000 when Westminster confirmed that the law would change so that there was an end in sight.

I hear rumours of a case in Aberdeenshire where an enfuriated victim, seeing no Scottish solution, simply burnt his neighbour's hedge to the ground. Unfortunately his neighbour's house was timber built and this also ended up as a pile of ashes !

Whilst our government is now taking high hedges seriously, this message requires declaration before other tragic release of frustration occurs.

After nine years of failed initiatives before May 2007, there is at last light at the end of the tunnel - but I have said that before too many times !


SCOTHEDGE GOOD NEWS

22/04/09

Following the ground breaking April 2nd meeting with a Scottish Government team led by Fergus Ewing, Scothedge are now working under agreement with the Government towards a pre-requisite consultancy to be held over this summer.

We are extremely grateful for the Government's now established serious committment to the understanding and resolution of the interminable high hedge dispute and look forward to the next few months destined to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome.


THIRD TIME LUCKY?

17/04/09


The Westminster high hedge legislation consumed three Private Member's Bills before the glorious day in 2003 when the High Hedges amendment to the Antisocial Behaviour Bill saved the day in England and Wales. It took almost two years to implement the legislation (The legislation has many anomalies and insufficiencies).

The Scottish Parliament initially looked like making progress with a similar Bill in 2003 when 25 MSPs qualified the Scott Barrie Bill for launching. It never happened.

In 2000 and 2006 public consultancies were published and now in 2009 a third consultancy will be published. Third time lucky ?

Legislation entails the creation or modification of law and is a complex process. Precedence appears lord of the manor. "In the reign of James the second, it was generally reckoned as a rather serious crime ---" is the sort of pre-amble much in the vocabulary of learned counsel. The Westminster Bill hung around a historic legal ruling which upheld "the reasonable enjoyment of a property". We are in Scotland embraced by Scot's Law.

Significantly the immediate discussions with Fergus Ewing and his team provided access to the very strong legal skills which are prerequisite to achievement of the "Better Scottish Bill" and we are satisfied that the intent to solve this interminable issue exists.

The process appears now to be up and running. However the task is by no means simple and the consultancy proposal needs to identify a bill which will ultimately require to be passed by our Scottish Parliament. But this is what our legislators are there to do on our behalf and it is appropriate that we now support them whenever necessary. Politics is quite unlike normal life and there will be swings and roundabouts affected by the minority government realities. Remember the 2006 Planning Bill where the labour whip caused a high hedges amendment to fall by a single vote. That was politics which had little to do with the issue but everything to do with the whip.

So we need a substantial chunk of third time luck and the substantial skills of the Ewing team with whom we are now working to gain the long awaited solution to the legal hole which encourages disharmony and bullying through the deployment of unsuitable major plants without last resort equity. The few months required to launch this third consultancy at the end of nine years frustration will be a testing time when yet again we are now half way through a Parliament. This is really make or break time where we rely upon the legislative intent and skills of our Holyrood specialists.


I AM SURE WE CAN MAKE MEANINGFUL PROGRESS TOWARDS DELIVERING A WORKABLE SOLUTION

3/04/09


For the first time in nine years, the Scothedge team have received thanks for a meeting with the Scottish Government and the invitation to collaborate in the delivery of a workable solution to the high hedge issue.

The frustrations expressed immediately follwing the meeting have been very substantially wiped out by a positive summary of the meeting from Fergus Ewing which may restore our faith in the Holyrood process following the many years of wasted breath under back bencher constraints.

We fully accord with the above ministerial sentiment.


BEWARE OF LIGHT TOUCH REGULATION

22/03/09


If the collapse of the banking system has taught us anything it is the reality that "light touch" means "no touch" when it comes to single minded exploitation of powerful vested interests.

The last Scottish Planning Bill breathed the mantra of "lighter touch" local planning regulations which one could argue would be to the advantage of those intent upon grabbing the most out of residential extensions freed from the scrutiny of regional planning officers.

The reality of "no touch" high hedge and tree regulation is a remarkable parallel to just what went wrong when banking "light touch" regulation opened the door to unbridled greed and exploitation. The unscrupulous become emboldened and secure in their dumping of scruples whilst the innocent pay the price.

The now released Scottish Community Safety Review seeks PREVENTION - INTERVENTION - AND ENFORCEMENT as the logical approach to cutting down antisocial behaviour.

PREVENTION of hedge and tree management abuse of neighbours can be PREVENTED by the clear message that ARBITRATION using commonsense GUIDELINES will provide an arm's length statutory path to be ENFORCED by a REMEDIAL ORDER where appropriate.

ANY LIGHT TOUCH PROPOSAL - SUCH AS MEDIATION - WILL END AS BEING AS WORTHLESS AS THE RELAXATION OF BANKING REGULATIONS ALMOST A DECADE AGO.


S'appressan gl'instanti (The moment approaches)

20/03/09


On April 2nd. Scothedge will met with Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety to discuss "the most constructive way forward on the issues--".

The operatic excerpt of this note heading expresses the dire nature of this meeting where we will learn for the first time just what the Scottish Government understands of the plight of high hedge & tree victims.

We are told that the meeting will be broad ranging so we hope that it will align the Government plans to the expectations of Scothedge members.


THE GAME IS NOW AFOOT

18/02/09


Fergus Ewing, the minister who has taken on the rescue of the high hedges dispute legislation after the useless two labour administrations, has invited our team to meet him at the end of March.

We are invited to discuss a constructive way forward which sounds positive.

Whilst the wait has been enfuriating, this administration has been meticulous in not telling us any lies which bodes well for a proper move towards an intelligent solution.


THE TIMELINE BECOMES CLEARER

13/02/09


The end of March is now announced as the date before which Fergus Ewing will state his chosen option for dealing with the hedge/tree dispute tradgedy

We remain very concerned about just how intelligently the reality of facing a vindictive and unaccountable hedge/tree owner is when correspondence from the Community Safety Unit still advocates mediation. Mediation has been shown to be completely valueless both in Scotland and in England over decades. We have stated this time and again. We need arms length arbitration to be available as an option should a recalcitrant hedge/tree owner think that the matter is no-one elses business than his own.

BACK TO BUSINESS !

5/02/09


Well they have sorted out their little local difficulty and Fergus Ewing remains responsible to us as the minister charged with ending the high hedge lunacy.

But how as mere Scottish residents, do we get him to engage with us so that we know that he understands our case ? We met his advisors last July but since then we have been offered nothing to encourage us that this meeting was not simply window dressing. No engagement whatsoever other than the mantra that nothing will happen until marginally relevant ASB Review is completed.

We have been here since 2000 when we were led to understand that legislation would follow through the Scott Barrie Private Member's Bill and that nothing would happen outside the hidden world of Scott Barrie's evident difficulties with his executive.

We cannot bully anyone to force legislation and we should not need to. But it seems that politicians only are nice to those who can hurt them by power or insult. Do they only understand rude jibes ?

After almost nine years of 'support' by our Parliament we are still awaiting a committment beyond the devalued political promise.

The prevarication has been disgraceful and the management of our request for fair arbitration abysmal. Westminster during their legislation process opened a special desk in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to keep in touch with high hedge complainants.

I have always maintained that the Scottish Parliament can provide better legislation that the flawed English Bill but they are not stepping up to the line. For sure this administration is not being duplicitous and we are refreshed by their honesty. We are not satisfied however that they are as yet committed to anything or that they are engaged in any form of debate or development of ideas. All we know is that we will get some idea of what could or could not be done, early in this 'New Year'. MSPs, complaints and Scothedge are being given no encouragement to believe that anything which they have told the Government has been incorporated in any future legislative plan.

As the sufferers of this awful misfortune and abandonment from justic there is nothing in the dialogue with the Community Safety Unit to bring us the slightest crumb of comfort outside of trust and belief. We experienced the meaning of this throughout the last two Parliaments with atrocious failures against useless promises of progress.

Yet again, we must trust in those charged with ending this hopelessly unfair situation along our residential borders. Fergus Ewing is shortly expected to open his mystery box and let it be known that we are all expecting fair arbitration along the lines which we have proposed.


THE CATS AMONGST THE PIDGEONS

28/01/09


The failure of the Budget Bill is simply the reality of a minority Government and if sorted out in early February should have served to illustrate the dangers of party politics trying to override concensus.

In the short term it has almost certainly delayed the ASB Review and with it the progress towards arbitration to decide fair boundary plant deployment.

It should be a salutory lesson to the SNP about leisurely timescales which make projects a waste of time.

Much of the extreme frustration of victims of vindictive or inept plant deployments stems from the refusal of our Parliament to give proper answers to victims which might illustrate a competent understanding of the problem which victims have faced for decades. Suggestion that mediation is a solution appears incompetent to those with experience in the matter.

Having promised to decide upon the legislative options "early in the New Year" it is important that we now hear the new target date for release of the review and some statement as to the Government's understanding of the problem relative to the experience of victims.

This information is not being made available to us or our MSPs. This needs to change.



HAPPY XMAS TO ALL AND THIS YEAR AN END TO HIGH HEDGE BULLIES

24/12/08


Despite nervousness established by the strange world of politics, we face the new year knowing that we are close to the first assurance by a Scottish Government that their intentions will be made clear within the next few weeks and that the reality of our plight has been placed before Fergus Ewing through the July 2008 meeting with his policy advisers.

Fergus Ewing has claimed that he desires a solution "sooner rather than later" - a claim stated now for well over a year. Several MSPs have actively sought confirmation of an intended solution only to receive encouragement but nothing substantive under the pretext that Fergus Ewing is awaiting the outcome of his ASB review which has been delayed until next session of the Parliament.

Until we have the opportunity to meet Fergus Ewing personally we are denied the opportunity of judging the calibre of the man and we must simply rely upon his integrity and honour which we have no reason to question.

So let us wish him well for the challenges of the New Year and to thank him for whatever he is doing on our behalf on the understanding that he has taken into account the experience we have offered him from long involvement with the injust unaccountability of problem plant owners who damage our home environments and which leads to vindictive and hostile response to a sensible plea for consideration. This is not matter for mediation but arbitration under a better specification than provided in England in 2003.

Very many thanks to all who have helped to persuade Fergus Ewing and their MSPs of their plight without whose support we would have less authority within the skewed walls of the Holyrood Parliament!


IS EWING ABOUT TO DITCH US ?

19/12/08


In a recent internal letter, Fergus Ewing has drawn attention to the Westminster plan to review their High Hedge legislation in 2010.

Having suffered the unprincipled delay of the Barry years and bearing in mind the well documented failings of the Westminster legislation - it would be a further demonstration of the downside of devolution if the New Year brought this outcome from the Scottish Government.

Because Fergus Ewing will apparently not respond to Scothedge until he has made up his mind, we simply cannot rule out this awful possibility.

We simply have to put our trust in Fergus Ewing and his proclaimed desire to see the high hedge dispute issue sorted out "sooner rather than later". He knows our dislike for the English legislation which penalises complainants, protects hedges which might be damaged by trimming and gives Local Authorities the option of selecting their own arbitration fees whilst constraining arbitration to a hopelessly narrow definition of a hedge.

We have always suggested that our own Government can avoid the crass Westminster law and achieve a sensible and effective legislation through our better Committee processes. It would be a complete betrayal were our legislators to wash their hands of Scotland's frustrated victims and wait for the revision of the English Law. This Scottish Government is not tied to London - or at least it would have us believe that it freely represents us, the people of Scotland.


WORRYING NAIVITY STILL PORTRAYED

21/11/08


In a letter to David McLetchie MSP, Fergus Ewing declined a meeting until he has considered the option paper from his advisers

He even suggested that the services provided by Community Safety Partnerships could be effective in dealing with high hedge disputes.

This must be declared a wholly naive belief and portrays little evidence of the realities faced by some who have sought resolution for up to 20 years facing sympathy but no power to arbitrate or act to end the dispute.

It is simply mind boggling that politicians can ignore the years of experience of thousands of victims in Scotland, England and Wales over decades and yet still imagine that versions of mediation offer a solution.Do planning applications rely upon mediation ? No, of course not, a decision is made on the evidence and implemented.



OUR PATIENCE MAY WELL BE REWARDED THIS SESSION

13/11/08

In a meeting at Holyrood, Kenneth Gibson MSP for Cunninghame and Arran was thanked for his active support for constituents under hedge abuse and in one case an atrocious threat of violence well known to Scothedge.

There is a feeling that legislation will come within an Executive Bill within this parliament and that it is the timeline of this bill which is driving the Fergus Ewing plans.

The crutial information which has yet to be revealed is whether Fergus Ewing has recognised the utter unsuitability of mediation where a middle position is sought twixt totally diverse individuals. One perhaps with s csreer of reward through bullying and the victim perhaps elderly and deprived of fluent ability to challenge such as my own speech pathology) Mediation was very quickly eliminated during the Westminster Bill process. It would be a complete nonsense if it was even considered as being relevant in Scotland. Quite simply arbitration is called for to create a level playing field and an arms length assessment of the vested interests.

We await clarification from the only man who can offer it. Minister, Fergus Ewing.

DISGRACEFUL POSTPONEMENT INTO 2009 ANNOUNCED

9/10/08

It has not taken long for the "between the lines" realities to become fact.

I recently suggested that we should trust Fergus Ewing but the latest news that no evaluation of the options paper will be announced until early 2009 shakes our confidence to the core.He may very well decide that he is not going to legislate.

Just why we have to await the antisocial behaviour review remains a mystery which appears to betray a fundamental disregard of the cause of the resulting antisocial behaviour, being the immunity of the problem plant deployers from accountability.

Following two Public Petitions and two Public Consultancies and apparent acceptance as early as 2001 of the need for legislation, it could have been expected that ministerial authority would have brought competent action long before now.

"Sooner rather than later" was the commitment of a year ago. We appear to be back in the realms of mantra. Absolutely disgraceful.


FERGUS EWING ASKS FOR FURTHER WORK ON OPTIONS PAPER

9/10/09


Apparently the Minister has seen the options paper prepared by his policy advisors and has requested further work.

This may either mean that he is seeing value in this important document and wishes its content developed or that we are facing another postponement of our hugely overdue legislation.

The Autumn parliamentary session is running its course and there should be no doubt in the Minister's mind that the frustration of hedge dispute victims calls for legislation to enable third party arbitration as a matter of great priority.

Legislation was proposed in 2001 and anything short of an executive bill within this parliamentary session will be seen as a failure of the Holyrood project. It is a weakness that we get no information as to our legislator's understanding of our July presentation in order to ensure that our requirements have been understood.

Certainly when a Bill is launched our participation should receive priority consideration but as of now we are simply hearing nothing other than courteous pleasantries. It is imperative that this matter is now concluded with the greatest expedition.


PETITION COMMITTEE COMMITTED TO SUSTAIN SUPPORT THROUGH TO LEGISLATION

24/8/09


On Tuesday the Petitions Committee gave their continued support to the campaign to end the shocking legal loophole which enables growing plants to be deployed with vindictive or careless intent.

MSPs expressed their intention to see this matter through to approptiate legislation and recognised the frustrations of historic inaction.

They will await the statement from Fergus Ewing and review the situation early in the New Year after the Fergus Ewing Statement.

The support from MSPs is very substantial as a crossparty view and the support is proffered regardless of the Ewing decision. It is anticipated that Fergus Ewing will provide the solution but this may very well call for a private member's Bill but this time fully supported by the Government.


A JUSTIFIABLE SENSE OF BEING SERIOUSLY WRONGED

4/8/08


The complainant suffering damage to his home by a neighbour's inappropriate hedge or tree, finds that the perpetrator of his problems is judge, jury and executioner without any accountability other than to himself. This is wrong.

This is the feature of the high hedge/tree dispute which enables outrageous response to a fair complaint, opening the door to vindictive deployments of horror plants against which the victim is denied just protection. This is a failing in Local Government.

Arguing that such disputes are simply private contentions between householders and therefore not within the responsibility of Local Government denies the victims protection from selfish vested interests isolated from any concepts of right or wrong which is a fundamental purpose of Government.

At the most basic level, without arbitration between divergent vested interests across the residential border, the law of the land is blatently deficient and requires new legislation as recognised by the Scottish Minister of Justice in January 2001 and by Westminster in their legislation of 2003. The inconsideration shown by the Scottish Parliament since then creates a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged.

The SNP Government, to their credit, has undertaken to resolve this matter "sooner rather than later".They know our problems. They should now legislate to secure arbitration with considerable alacrity.



SERIOUS PROGRESS

24/7/08


This week, the Scothedge team spent 90 minutes in St.Andrew's House meeting the policy advisers within Fergus Ewing's Community Safety Unit.

In what we can gratefully describe as a highly inclusive and intelligent meeting, we introduced the Government to our experience, representing the most important people to be considered in this miserable situation, the Scottish victims. We explained that such abuse was enabled by the serious freedom from accountability of tree and hedge owners who carelessly or vindictively stole our fair rights to cohabitation of the residential land.

We are not yet negotiating a Bill but are advising the Government about the true nature of the problem within their development of a legislative option paper.

This sits within the stated intentions of the minister to seek a solution "sooner rather than later". It is a matter of gross injustice appropriate to ministerial action within the Community Safety Unit within the Justice Department. We acknowledge the minister's interest in this matter in which as an MSP he has personal experience.We urgently intend that this should be the start of the end game after the failure of the previous administration to implement the Scott Barrie proposals over a period of eight years which demonstrated the inadequacy of the backbencher option.


WHY IS DECENCY ONLY HEDGE DEEP ?

10/7/08


With the Government now consulting with the Scothedge team, the required documents are being revised to secure the long awaited legislation so clearly essential to end the lack of accountability for indecent deployment of major plants to the detriment of equitable occupation of the residential lands.The shift from campaign to consultation has returned focus to the appaling behaviour of hedge and tree owners currently mistaking immunity from intervention from any authority towards their powerless victims, as their right to be inconsiderate and much worse.

It was my original instinct simply to publish on this website many of the letters containing woeful tales of physical threats ranging from retailiation to complaint by adding further trees to sending round a thug to threaten breaking the arms and legs of a pensioner if he dared to continue his entitled abatement to the border of encroaching branches and roots.The more sophisticated refusal to even discuss the problems is none less outrageous as the plants grow and the problems, together with their costs escalate.

The very real threat to victims of this anti-social behaviour makes it clear that the sensible path is to keep this awful evidence to the confidence of the committee room and put aside the tempation to use the detail of such behaviour to draw any additional atrocity from those whose lack of maturity allows them to treat their neighbours in this manner.

MSPs are well aware of the nasty side of the hedge and tree contentions and thanks to our members, the documentary facts are compelling and incontrovertial.

The St.Andrew's House meeting on 23rd July is not a campaigning event - the process towards legislation is underway - but it is part of the routine consultancy process which is an important part of Scotland's modern legislative process.

In the remaining days before this meeting it seems appropriate to encourage victims of high hedge and tree problems who have no membership of Scothedge to E-Mail us to add their weight to the already substantial evidence of anti-social response to legitimate complaint about loss of enjoyment or value of a home through external hedges, trees or major plants which cause nuisance.

We would be pleased to include any such information in our evidence to the Community Health Committee within whose remit the consultation falls. Just click on my E-Mail address on this website. If you have horror photographs then attach them and I will add them to the CD which we use when talking with the Government. Your case could make all the difference!


RELIEF UNBOUNDED ! ----

4/7/08

The proposed meeting is now being scheduled for later this month.

Taking into account the years of broken arrangements since 2000 this is a most pleasing turn of events.



WHY ARE WE WAITING ? ----

4/7/08

With the Summer recess now in course the description "Early Summer" for our meeting with the Community Safety Unit has passed and we still have no advice as to this essential meeting despite queries. We understand that everything is in due process but failure on the part of the Unit to tell us what is going on is simply not acceptable.Many of us have waited over two decades for fair arbitration and some even now face uncivilised and antisocial bullying for refusing to lie down and die in our own time.

My thanks to a long suffering Perth couple who sent me an extract from the A-Z Guide in Scottish Law. The existing Law which protects hedge and tree owners against trimming across a boundary is accompanied by responsibility for branches encroaching a neighbouring property to the extent that any branches entering your property which you cannot easily trim can be requested to be trimmed by the hedge/tree owner at his or her expense.

If the request to trim is refused then the advice is to apply to the sheriff court for a court order requiring the owner to trim. Any branches trimmed belong to the hedge owner ands MUST be returned whether the request is made or not.

Of course this is not always an easy path to follow and there is history to suggest that the courts are not always responsive. However it should be appreciated by errant hedge and tree cultivators that this is the law in Scotland and that they are liable. Whilst we await the viscous seep towards arbitrated compulsory remedial orders the offenders should realise that in the matter of root and branch encroachment they have liabilities but it is important that affected neighbours make them aware of the problem if they are to be held liable. Correspondence should be created and retained. One wonders whether dumping excessive leaves and pine needles back from whence they came is not actually our neighbourly duty!

A-Z is edited by non other than Prof. Robert Black, Scotlands senior Law academic.

Meanwhile I continue to press the Community Safety Unit for their "Early Summer" meeting and its agenda.



SLIPPAGE IS POOR MANAGEMENT ----

14/6/08


Afer being advised that we would meet with the Government 'Early Summer', we are only a week away from mid-summer and there is not even the proposal of a date for this essential indication that anything is happening.

What is it with Governments and politicians which makes obscurity an artform ?

We all have lives to lead and it is common decency to establish a date for this meeting so that we understand that this proposed meeting is going to happen and the team members involved can plan their schedules to be available and appropriately briefed.

Over the past eight years Scothedge have been able to safely make the assumption that utterances from Hollywood were entirely spurious. On one memorable occasion I shared a radio broadcast with Scott Barrie to support a consultancy launch in 2005, which evaporated within hours of the programe with no explanation or heaven forbid, an apolgy offered. We had to contact members by phone and first class post to cancel their plans to come to Edinburgh to support Scott Barrie's launch.

Then we were dealing with a back bencher, now we are dealing with a Government Unit under ministerial management. Yet uncertaintainty is the only certainty. There are no specifics.

Indeed are all of our efforts shadowed with the prospect that most of us will be dead and gone before this matter is dealt with ? Eight years of hard work have been cast aside by arguably feigned concern.

Last Autumn the assurance attributed to Minister Fergus Ewing was that he wished to provide a solution to these disputes "sooner rather than later". Half a year further on and the communications are still window dressing.

As the body representing Scottish victims of high hedge and tree persecution and the sponsors of two supported Public Petitions and the motivators behind two consultancies, Scothedge still remain to engage with anyone bearing responsibility with whom we can effectively negotiate. Not at all a satisfactory situation. We are now five years behind Westminster's High Hedge Bill of 2003.


CONTACT ! ?

31/5/08


It has been a long time coming but we are now talking to the Scottish Government unit with responsibility for deciding upon the most appropriate means to abolish the immunity of major plant owners from challenge by a neighbour suffering collateral damage and even aggressive abuse.

The Community Safety Unit, part of Police and Community Safety Directorate confirms their intentions to "discuss the detail of what needs to be done", hopefully primed by the many Scothedge submissions which up until now have been largely brushed aside by holding statements,for a period of eight long years. As yet there is scant indication that intellect has been brought to bear with largely irrelevant undertakings to consider the strange Barrie Consultancy which was trapped in pre-2000 concepts of the Leylandii Hedge dispute. These early concepts failed to realise that the 'dispute' was primed by the lack of definition of any responsibility by a neighbour to consider the effect of major plants upon other residences and the legal protection afforded to the plant as an item of private property. The fact that a number of hedge and tree owners felt happy to ignore commonsense refuse reasonable response to a complaint is clearly an act of antisocial behaviour to be addressed by community guidelines and where necessary, last resort arbitration and penalty. Man made structures invoke planning regulations to negate unreasonable deployment in residential land.

It has been a historic travesty that campaigners have been forced to attempt to trust promise after promise, over the last two Parliaments, since the Executive Consultancy in 2000 which was deemed to suggest legislation was appropriate by Jim Wallace in January 2001. In the intervening period several campaigners have died under the intollerable stress of un-neighbourly behaviour and trite Holyrood shows of concern. Engaging with the Scottish Parliament has always been cordial but until the fall of the previous administration totally untrustworthy and a complete waste of time.

Since the election, duplicity has not been an issue but it has taken extraordinary persistence to detect whether things have moved forward. It appears that they have.

Now for the very first time a member of the Government team committed to solving the legal defficiency which prompts these disputes, has written to us, yet still with little evidence that any real effort has contributed to anything beyond the naivities of the September 2006 Communitee Committee debate which mused that hollyhocks might be cut down or whether it took more than two trees to make a hedge.

The identificxation of unreasonable behaviour, when framed by guidelines, becoming antisocial behaviour, avoids the anomalies of the salvaged 2003 English Bill and would achieve universally fair and democratic outcome at minimal expense. Even the neutered Barrie was ultimately seeking to use the definition of nuisance as the legislation opportunity. We go a stage further by choosing antisocial behaviour as the reality behing refusing consideration or indeed using vindictive planting, accepted willingly by most garden owners as a matter of common decency. Planning regulations prevent personal dispute where man made structures are concerned.

So we greet with great relief the first step of opening discussion with us, the victims of this perverse problem - it has been a mighty long time coming, but nevertheless extremely welcome.


BUT WHERE IS THE MINISTER ?

20/3/08


Whilst is is understood that the Community Safety Committee have accepted responsibility for the requirement to close the legal quirk which incites high hedge and tree dispute and vindictive plantings, where on earth is the responsible Minister ?

Without discusions with Fergus Ewing, we the victims of this abuse simply have no idea whether he has any contribution to offer beyond the early concepts of the Barrie Bill - frozen and inadequate since 2003.

The Petitions Committee have asked for some clarification by August 8th. This is still 4 months away. By all accounts we may be faced with either a fait accompli or a naive attempt to deal with Leylandii rather than the awful situation ensured by the denial of any rights to the complainants through which to ensure fair outcome.

We have to assume that Fergus Ewing is an intelligent and responsible Minister - but where is he ? We cannot even take an educated guess.

Scottish high hedge and tree complainants have faced eight years of politicians telling us that the matter was being dealt with - that it will only be a few more weeks more to wait without any responsible explanation or discussion as to the process maintained to be underway.

Certailnly the Minister will wish to clarify his options before the solution is proposed but does he even know the appropriate questions ? The Barrie consultancy regurgitated questions from 2003 rather like a crib from the Stephen Pound Bill in England.

We in the heat of this problem have lived the options since before 2000 as our single topic. There will be bitter anger if some ill thought out utterance eventually kicks off progress in August. We may be very pleasantly surprised about the energy and intelligence of the Minister - but we simply do not know.

The Minister does not communicate or make himself available. As throughout eight years of disastrous prevarication, it is the voter who appears to have no say in the matter. Just like the May Elections really, we are simply an afterthought. Perhaps even an inconvenience.





A BETTER DAY AT THE OFFICE --

19/3/08


The Petition Committee showed real intent yesterday in their desire to see Fergus Ewing become specific about the options for legislation.

Our case was excellently advocated by MSP Jamie Stone confirming that MSPs frequently faced high hedge and tree complaints which were now long overdue fair legislation. We are grateful for his intervention at this critical time and indeed for his long term historic sympathy with the problem.

Since last May we have seen several MSPs actively taking an interest in this issue now that the dead weight of party politics has been fragmented. Scott Barrie never had a chance.

Given that Fergus Ewing has accepted responsibility for finding the answer and the statement that Scothedge will meet with his representatives and to a timetable committing the Government at least to clarifying what can be done, it is clear that we are now in the Holyrood process but need to now focus upon maintaining impetus and removing trite, naive concepts of the hedge dispute.

The owner of large trees or hedges has a duty of care towards those outside his boundary to avoid nuisance. Most need no reminder of this responsibility but the few who cause distress must surely now wake up to the fact that a final resort intervention will take a sensible view and require the problem to be removed.

The emerging English experience of wholesale capitulation to avoid arbitration, proves that much distress and dispute can be prevented even from even getting off the ground when there is a final resort scrutiny of what is fair and reasonable.

It is time now for those causing such problems to recognise that they will be held to account and realise now the impropriety and sometimes cruelty of their actions.

We are no longer hitched to a powerless back bencher. The matter has the backing of our Scottish Government whom we can expect action from and if necessary hold them to account.

Now is the time for our MSPs to represent their constituents in hedge and tree disputes in the expectation that their advocy will be heard and acted upon.

Our friends in the media can play an important role in making it well known that inconsideration or vindiction in hedge and tree deployment will soon be dealt with "sooner rather than later" in the words of the responsible Minister. "We like our trees and we are keeping them" is no longer a safe response.



"THE DUCKS ARE BEGINNING TO LINE UP --"

13/03/08

We now have it in writing that the Health and Safety Commity will meet with Scothedge in due course and that a decision will be made by the end of 2008 as to the "most appropriate means" to resolve hedge disputes.

There is still the concentration on the dispute which indeed should rarely happen if the "nuisance" of unsuitable hedges and trees close to a curtilage is defined in guidelines which if breached, bring arbitration and a penalty.

We belive that the English pre-requisite to describe a "hedge" entirely misses the point that the "nuisance" is the impact and that the local councils could provide a great service, simply by being able to issue "helpful" guidelines which if ignored would bring forth the last resort penalty of arbitration, to take the sensible decision should the parties fail to act reasonably. Where vindiction or agression is established then the ASB provisions should be used otherwise a remedial notice should be issued requiring the hedge or tree owner to remove the nuisance.

One English Council tells us today that 97 out of 100 disputes in their area, never went to arbitration but to capitulation by the unreasonably party facing third party judgement and censor.

The sad history of this campaign has made us distrustful of political statements but the wind of change is palpable and in recent months the Parliamentary dialogue has been professional.

Whilst retaining sceptical fears - I must admit to being just a little bit pleased to see the services of the Petition Committee and the Community Safety Committee being constructive and communicative in a manner not experienced since I joined this campaign in 2003. It has been a long, long time coming.

If the press could circulate this committment by the Community and Safety Committee to resolve this very unfair abuse, then there would be some Scottish disputes which would instantly resolve and many which would never develop, once it is clear that a solution is being planned by the Scottish Government.


"WE INTEND TO MAKE A DECISION ON THE MOST APPROPRIATE WAY FORWARD --

26/02/08

In a letter to the Petitions Committee from the Community Safety Committee, we now learn that the "Review" will report to the Parliament by the end of 2008.

The Government believes that most hedge disputes can be solved by mediation but acknowledge that a few may require a means of last resort to secure resolution.

Yet we have told them repeatedly that the serious disputes simply exist because there is no incentive for an unreasonable hedge owner to negotiate anything unless there is a price to pay for not doing so. There is simply no basis for negotiation or mediation. Binding arbitration and a remedial order is not rocket science. The break down of neighbourly relations is ensured when a hedge owner refuses to be reasonable or intentionally deploys a hedge with vindictive intent. The victim is on a hiding to nothing - he is like a lamb negotiating with a pack of wolves.

In England a very substantial number of disputes have evaporated the instant arbitration could be seen to identify the reasonable outcome. In South Tyneside all but four out of around 46 hedges were apparently trimmed.

We at Scothedge have been involved in these disputes since the late 1990s and we have voluntarily invested thousands of manhours in raising the problem to the Scottish Parliament and debating solution. Yet the minister has not agreed to talk with us. If no more time is to be wasted in naive outdated concepts it is essential that we meet with Fergus Ewing or his representative as a matter of urgency. After eight years of prevarication this matter must be brought to a sensible conclusion. Hundreds of victims in Scotland are crying out for relief.

OUR PARLIAMENT NEEDS TO EARN OUR TRUST

24/02/08


Whilst my instinct is to give Fergus Ewing some credit for his statements accepting responsibility for the nuisance hedge and tree issue and insistence that he 'wishes to see the problem tackled - sooner rather than later', the long history of unfulfilled promises over eight years, requires that the Government makes an immediate and substantive statement as to their committment to ending the freedom of hedge and tree owners to disregard or even with intent cause damage to a neighbour's enjoyment of their home.

MSPs are our democratic channel to representation. We rely upon their intervention through questions from the floor of the chamber and direct approach to appropriate ministers.Complainants should maintain pleas for resolution to their MSPs.

The press and media are also part of the process and their journalists should by now be questioning the incredibly poor performance of Holyrood in failing to establish a timeline to legislation aimed at ending the unchallengable abuse of neighbours through inconsideration, carelessness or downright vindiction through the deployment of 'nuisance' trees and hedges. Contrast this to the recent case of challenge to a straightforward 2 metre high fence in Edinburgh Morningside.

The 'problem' is no longer the problem. It is simply the unyielding dead weight of our legislators, despite acceptance as far back as 2001 that legislation was required, acceptance by MSPs of the Scott Barrie Private Member's Bill for lodging in 2002 and the Westminster legislation in 2003. Year upon year we have been promised fair legislation and in every case, political interference has appeared to kill the process to the distress and ongoing expense in time and effort of those bringing the detail of the problem to the attention of Holyrood.

It has been a hard experience that no news is distinctly bad news and that is what we are getting just now under the advice that Fergus Ewing is awaiting the report of his ASB review. The potential of any review to reject a topic is a possibility in which case we will simply have lost yet another year in the effort to solve this desperately unfair matter.

So we call upon MSPs and the Media to bring pressure to bear to bring the minister to confirm his intentions to close the freedom for unreasonable hedge and tree owners to disregard reasonable complaint against nuisance with indecent impunity.

FOOTNOTE

I achieved somewhat shameful destruction of my hard disc in late January having equally shamefully delayed a routine backup, thereby losing two E-Mail addresses of two new high nuisance hedge victims. I would be grateful if any new correspondents since late December 07 would E_Mail me so that I can correct the loss of their contact addresses.



OUR EXPECTATIONS ARE AS USUAL TRASHED BY PREVARICATION

28/01/08


The Petitions Committee asked our Scottish Government for a response as to their intentions by 25th. January 2008

Apparently response came there NONE. Only the suggestion that the "REVIEW" is expected to last 3 months and so nothing will emerge until March/April/May --- -- or by our experience when the moon turns blue.

Have our MSPs used super glue as a lip salve ? Why do we the victims of High Hedge and Tree deployment have to do the work our MSPs are paid to do ? Is our Scottish Government only interested in distributing useless statements such as "The Minister wishes to see this problem resolved sooner rather than later" simply as holding verbage ?

For goodness sake, we have listened to this sort of thing for eight years without any Holyrood legislation. England legislated in 2003 and our own MSPs around then approved the launching of the Scott Barrie Bill.

By May this Government will have trashed yet another year of complaints from Scottish constituents without anything even approaching a timelined proposal.

THIS IS SIMPLY NOT RIGHT AND THE RESPONSIBLE MINISTER NEEDS TO COMMUNICATE HIS INTENTIONS AS A MATTER OF BOTH COURTESAY AND RESPONSIBILITY.

This is not an unreasonable requests. We need confirmation that legislation is being prepared. Yes - it needs to be the right legislation. But are we only starting to "REVIEW" the problem today ? If so, the hundreds of Scottish complainants will feel very aggrieved. We implore our MSPs to get rid of the super glue and do their jobs to some effect. We are grateful for their support but now deserve a great deal more.


WE EXPECT IMMEDIATE ANSWERS FROM OUR SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

24/1/08


The deadline for response to the Petition's Committee is 25th.January.

It is now a matter of trust which has been desytroyed by 8 years prevarication and callous broken promises.

We all understand the trully woeful behaviour of the last administration and have learned to view our Scottish Parliament with distrust and disappointment. There is just a chance that the scenario has changed since May 2007. Fergus Ewing as a responsible Minister has accepted that the High Hedges remit is his. He must realise that this is unfinished business that needs urgent legislation to be provided by Holyrood in response to substantial correspondence over the years from complainants all over Scotland.

WE NEED REASON TO BELIEVE THAT THE REQUIRED LEGISLATION WILL BE PUT IN PLACE SOONER RATHER THAN LATER - AS COMMITTED TO BY THE MINISTER HIMESELF.

For eight long years Scottish High Hedge Complainants have invested time, energy and resources to compound their sufferage of unfair anti-social abuse sometimes with vindictive intent. In all decency this awful and discraceful failure to legislate must be brought to an end by the proper legal enactment by our own Government.



THE TIME FOR PREVARICATION IS OVER.

5/01/08


I am reserving best wishes for the New Year until the Petitions Committee tells us that the Government will Legislate when they report later this month. Fergus Ewing MUST confirm the validity of his "sooner rather than later" statement at the end of 2007.

After eight years of broken promises and duplicity we see it as the responsibility of a decent Government to get onto the statute books a vastly improved Bill than the 2003 Westminster High Hedges Bill. The new optimism pervading Scotland is welcome.

JUST DO NOT LET IT BE A MIRAGE YET AGAIN !



BRING ON THE NEW YEAR

21/12/07


As a final statement for 2007 we have this:

"Please be reassured that the Mimister for Community Safety recognises the importance of the issue(High Hedges) and is keen to see an effective solution developed, sooner rather than later."


PE984 REVIEW

18/12/07


Well I suppose that the Petitions Committee has reached the same stage as all of us in simply having to await the Fergus Ewing review on the matter of high hedges. The only difference is that the Committee has only been waiting for a year and a half when we have been waiting now for eight years ! They have agreed to ask the Government if they intend to legislate.

The Petitions Committee has previously asked the questions which the Community Safety Committee may or may not have been asking. We simply do not know until their supposed 4 month review concludes and brings the minister into the picture.Until that time it appears that Fergus Ewing will not enter the debate.

As yet another New Year approaches Those Scottish residents being bullied by some rather nasty thieves of their fair share of the residential lands whilst our Parliament prevaricates must be wondering what devolution has done to them.

Fergus Ewing is believed to be sympathetic to our problems - that is what he professes.

But was not that the situation when Jim Wallace confirmed that legislation was probably necessary after the first public consultancy in 2000 ?

MSPs in connversation,felt that we would hear that the matter would be included in an antisocial context before Xmas.

Although not a problem through which the Government can be brought to their knees, it is one which is unfair and which allows innocent residents to be victimised and abused. The hundreds of Scottsh victims have chosen the democratic option of trusting our own Parliament to remove this misery. MSPs and the new Government are aware of the awful situation. If action does not soon follow, then our trust will have been wasted and destroyed.


WHAT A DIFFERENCE !

7/12/07


Whilst we have no commitments as yet from this Government other than good intentions, the difference from the behaviour of the ousted Executive could not be more marked.

The Community Safety Committee is in dialoge with us. The Petitions Committee is talking to us and several MSPs are helping us with unsolicited information and active querying of the Government.

Bit by bit things are moving beyond the mantra stage towards a functional dialogue.

It is difficult to fail to acknowledge that there is some intelligent process moving on within the depths of Holyrood following years when every move to progress was blocked by an unseen hand incompetently disguised.

In the spirit of Xmas all those who are now moving things along deserve our thanks.

Of great significance has been the correspondence from Scothedge members adding urgency in the face of miserable inconsideration and often bully behaviour from nuisance hedge owners.

The Petitions Committee review of PE984 will hopefully confirm these impressions.


PE984 NEXT REVIEW

27/11/07


The next Petition Committee review of the High Hedges and Trees issue under PE984 will take place 18th. December in Committee Room 1 starting 2pm.

The last review session did not refer to the Scothedge extensive briefing statements.

The submissions this time round may be viewed in the following link:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/petitions/docs/PE984.htm

It is some consolation however that there is now a new review scheduled.



E-MAIL ADDRESSES BACK!

17/11/07


Found missing Address Book Files - Back in business !

EPA DEFINITION OF NUISANCE

6/11/07


Fergus Ewing has raised interest in the 1990 Environmental Protection Act.

For the purposes of the EPA 'NUISANCE' had been given some interesting connotations as a legal word of hazy definition.

The Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health offers this guidance.

"A working definition of it(nuisance) is concerned with striking a balance between conflicting uses of land.The conflict is pragmatically resolved by the courts imposing a duty on a proprieter of land not to use his land in an unreasonable way so as to prejudice the enjoyment of land of another.

The legislation further applies to "any other matter declared by any enactment to be a statutory nuisance.

So perhaps the apparently inhibiting terror of Scots Law legislation is a myth. All that is required is to declare hedge and tree deployment nuisance as a statutory nuisance to secure the protection from this act. To give him his due Scott Barrie was just beginning to see this and was enthusiastic about a possible nuisance solution when I met him in a Holyrood lift on the day he launched his consultancy. It is intriguing to see Fergus Ewing as a lawyer happening upon the EPA 1990 in a matter of weeks rather than years.

Of course nothing is simple to the legal mind and the EPA may not produce the goods - still it is hard to avoid the huge scope of nuisance which arises in the improper deployment of high hedges and trees.


ARE WE INVISIBLE ?

5/11/07

The Scottish Government is still seemingly mesmerised by the problems of the daft Westminster High Hedge Bill. In a reply to a Gordon constituent, the First Minister cites the English defficiencies to support his claim that the government still has no current plans to introduce High Hedge legislation.

Meanwhile in an internal E-Mail to an MSP, Fergus Ewing re-iterates the government's intention to consider how it can best support provision of a last resort solution to high hedge and tree nuisance.

After the unsatisfactory Holyrood process over the last seven years, there is still a worry that the debate is internal without any consideration for the suffering electorate victims. Does this sound familiar ?

It should; the fiasco of the May election was claimed by Gould to have arisen because the electorate were inadequately considered.

We have comprehensively offered solutions which avoid the English mistakes but these are not registering in the internal Holyrood process. It appears that we the victims in this matter are the last to be allowed to bring our experience to the table.


STRANGER THAN FICTION

3/11/07

It seems that under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities are required to respond to complaints about possible statutory nuisances occurring on premises(which includes land). If the authority concludes that a statutory nuisance exists, or that one is likely to occur or recur, they are obliged to serve an abatement notice on the person responsible for the nuisance. The minister is however unaware of any such notices being served in relation to high hedges.

This perhaps blows a complete hole in the use by the previous administration of the COSLA argument. They already have the obligation but it is the definition of nuisance which needs arbitration to ensure that tree and hedge problems fall into the statutory nuisance category.

This is still just scraping the surface however of what happens when the person responsible for the nuisance believes that he has no responsibility of care towards a neighbour or is being downright vindictive or aggressive.

The minister argues that mediation can be "very effective" in high hedge disputes. The 'can be' may be right but in many cases and in all the worst cases mediation fails completely. Indeed mediation infers a compromise where the victim has to agree to accept part of the nuisance. A bit like agreeing not to take a burgular to court if he returns the computer if rewarded by being allowed to keep the T.V.

Should it turn out that the local authorities were required to intervene since 1990, before devolution, why has England had to legislate ? Why have they not intervened ? They have told us consistently that they have no power to intervene.

Stranger than fiction.


THE ANSWERS ARE EAGERLY AWAITED

26/10/07

Whilst the Petitions Committee awaits the Government's response to their request for news of the High Hedges/Trees legislation, we also eagerly await response to our own continuing efforts to accelerate ministerial understanding of the problems of antisocial disregard for neighbours, whose living space and lives have been pillaged with no course for challenge.

Credit however is due to the Community Safety Unit whose dialogue is appearing to become increasingly constructive and indicative that research is being carried out.

Our own research amounts to almost a decade of living with this problem and all its aspects so the learning curve of the Government appears painfully early in its development.

Scott Barrie's consultancy is to be examined and the need for Government as opposed to backbencher legisltation evaluated. Mediation versus arbitration is also being discussed.

Of course we call for a Government Bill,arbitration and the understanding that the Barrie concept froze solid in 2003. In 2006 John Home Robertson advised the Communities Committee that this was not a matter for back bench legislation but requiring Government authority.

These points have been put to the Minister and we await his response. Unlike history over the last seven years - I am sure that it will be forthcoming.



THINGS MOVE IN THE PRIMORDIAL SWAMP

5/10/07


Assurances are now leaking out that we are likely to hear before Xmas that the Antisocial Behaviour Bill, as in England, will be the vehicle for legislation against the nuisance hedge and tree bullies.

This was suggested to the previous administration as long ago as 2003 and it was Jim Wallace who introduced the Scottish Antisocial Behaviour Bill who in 2001 assured us that legislation was appropriate. Truck loads of mantra was dumped on us but actual progress was obstructed.

What a difference a change in the Executive/Government makes. I hope that we will never return to the inanities of the early Parliament and the primordial swamp becomes an inappropriate description of our Scottish Parliament.


A STRANGE AFFAIR ----

3/10/07

The Petitions Committee review of PE984 was a strange affair.

There was little evidence of urgency with no reference to the awful reality that we have been expecting legislation for seven years and this was the second review of PE984 since its 2006 birth.

The committee, despite being informed by me that Fergus Ewing was now dealing with the matter, had to be informed by Christine Grahame MSP, who just happened to be visiting the meeting, that this might be the situation. Clearly we as Petitioners should have been giving the review rather than the Petitions Committee, since we were better informed!

Nevertheless the outcome was a decision to contact Fergus Ewing, the responsible minister, to be brought up to our own level of understanding. They will be in a position then to tell us whether what we know is now known by them, that is if what we know is actually known by Fergus Ewing who let us know in the first place.

Sounds a bit like that guy who was helping George Bush to blow up Iraq.

The committee however were supportive and did agree to maintain its interest in PE984. For this they deserve our thanks.


NOW WE MUST HAVE A TIMETABLE

21/09/07


Those suffering from high hedge and tree nuisance have lived through seven years of Scottish Parliament inconsideration of the most painful kind.

The New Scottish Government is now considering how best to end this disgraceful history.

ON OCTOBER 2ND. THE PETITIONS COMMITTEE WILL REVIEW PE984 - THIS REVIEW SHOULD BE ADVISED THAT A TIMETABLE HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF "APPROPRIATE AND EFFECTIVE LEGISLATION".

Only then will belief be restored that the wasted seven years of political roadblock is finally at an end.



WE TAKE THIS AS A HARD COMMITMENT !!!

20/09/07


We have it in writing - High Hedges and Trees Legislation

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT IS CURRENTLY CONSIDERING WHAT WOULD BE THE MOST APPROPRIATE AND EFFECTIVE MEANS OF INTRODUCING AND FRAMING SUCH LEGISLATION"


WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING AT ?

18/09/07


The press should relish the chance to attend the PE984 committee meeting on 2nd. October at 2pm.

The atrocious plight faced by Scottish residents facing careless or vindictive excessive hedge and tree deployment has seen hand wringing support from two Petitions and no legislation in seven years - despite 2003 legislation in England & Wales.

What are our MSPs playing at ? Devolution has been a farce. The press should ask why this simple matter is still unresolved ?


Is the grass greener, are the skies bluer and the sands whiter ?

7/9/07



Without a shadow of doubt dialogue with the new Scottish Government appears brighter and more directed towards the question than the miserable and depressing mantra years of old style communications - but is it any more productive ?

Well yes it may be and we are now told that high hedge legislation has not been ruled out and the need for it will be considered seriously. The minister "fully appreciates the misery caused by disputes over high hedges and trees".

He certainly should and in his time he has seen some awful cases from within his own constituency and given them considerable attention.

But the time for "appreciation" is years past its sell by date. This has been work in progress in progress since 2000 and has been catered for in England and Wales in the 2003 Antisocial Behaviour Bill.

We have victims attempting to sell their houses to escape the problem and finding their properties seriously devalued or unsaleable at a reasonable price because of a neighbour refusing decent response.

We need more that proposed interest from the Government. We need an undertaking NOW. ALL MSPS, PLEASE CALL FOR THIS.

The SNP Government will prove its "feel good factor" by ending the shocking prevarication of the discredited old regime. We need no more "Let me make this very, very, very,very clear" use of stupid verbage.



MINISTERS FOR CASH

3/09/07


Whilst the Scotsman News Paper fans the flames of SNP CASH FOR MINISTERS hype, it is nevertheless a perception that the unfinished "High Hedge Bill" fiasco is not causing SNP ministers to bring appropriate urgency to the plight of those inadequately financed to "encourage" ministerial interest in fair protection from anti-social or vindictive nuisance hedge and tree deployment.

London provided a dedicated desk in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in order to liaise with English victims. After six years on from the first Executive Consultancy what is happening at Holyrood ? Do our ministers give a damn ?


FERGUS EWING HAS ANTISOCIAL HIGH HEDGE/TREE DEPLOYMENT IN HIS PORTFOLIO

16/08/07


Fergus Ewing MSP

Minister for Community Safety,

St.Andrew's House,

Regent Road,

Edinburgh EH1 3DG

An SNP Minister, Fergus Ewing MSP, accepts that antisocial High Hedge/Tree disputes fall within his portfolio as Minister for Community Safety.

Victims of this legally untouchable abuse eagerly await an immediate declaration of intent to deal with this matter, so to end the seven year frustration of the Scott Barrie roadblock.

We deserve nothing less.




THE SEASON FOR FARCE

12/08/07


The recent Scott Barrie, High Hedge Consultancy is apparently languishing in a dark corner of Holyrood.

You would think that it should be available to any MSP wishing to take an interest in this matter - but no, it seems it can only be released to those authorised by - guess who ? Mr.Scott Barrie, a private individual having no status within the Parliament, as an ousted MSP !

The result is that any MSP wishing to launch a High Hedges Bill cannot do so without launching a new consultancy or after obtaining approval from Scott Barrie to use the results of his efforts.

So even as a private individual it appears that Scott Barrie can extend the seven year fiasco by witholding his consultancy results or only making them available to an erstewhile buddy in the Parliament.

Perhaps our colleagues in the press might wrap this story up in a "Yes Minister" context ?

The humour becomes "black" when frustrated campaigners against antisocial deployment or mismanagement of Leylandii tot up the £1,000s which we have invested in backing the Barrie Bill, the course suggested by the also ousted Scottish Executive.


WHAT IS GOVERMENT FOR ?

6/08/07

A high hedge victim writes:

"I am a widow in my late seventies and live alone as well as having spent 2 years getting orthopaedic treatment for my back and hips and am no longer allowed to climb ladders. I have offered to cut my side up to 7 feet which I can manage but he still persists that his hedge remains at this ridiculous height (11ft) and stated that that was the end of the matter as far as he is concerned. I feel that I am being bullied by this retired Senior Council Officer and my garden is being spoilt".

The Scottish Executive are considering whether the issue of high hedges should form part of their review of antisocial behaviour strategy.

The precedent of Westminster legislating in their ASBB (2003) and the awful prevarication by Holyrood since 2000 should persuade the new SNP Executive to announce that they will legislate as a matter of urgency by amending the Scottish ASBB THIS YEAR!


IT REALLY HURTS

27/07/07


An extract from a gardening forum is worth reading:

"I DO THINK THAT HE IS BEING INCREDIBLY SELFISH.I WOULD BE SO ASHAMED IF I THOUGH I WAS CAUSING SO MUCH UNHAPPINESS TO MY NEIGHBOURS AND WAS ABLE TO ACT BUT DIDN'T"


In a nutshell most of us simply would not see anything honourable in being inconsiderate of a neighbour by refusing to address a valid complaint over problems caused by overgrown hedges, trees or bushes.

But when our own Parliament has 'BEEN ABLE TO ACT' for seven years but has failed us, the above paragraph refers even more so to them.

In our talks with the new concensus government at Holyrood as yet we have not seen any evidence that they will act with considersation at an Executive level. It is still early days for them, but very frustrating days for us having been so very badly let down over the last two Parliaments.

We need every help from many MSPs to persuade the Executive that this is unfinished business which would have reliable cross party support.We need the media now to question why we remain refused fair legislation four years after England and Wales ? Especially since MSPs immediately approved the Scott Barrie proposal in 2002.


SO WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

20/07/07


Seven years of prevarication and nothing from Holyrood - by 2003 Westminster debated three private members Bills and then the Executive took the initiative. In 2003 Holyrood looked like beating Westminster to the Statute Book. What went wrong ? The New Executive should see this as unfinished business and follow London with a swift Executive solution. Planning to do nothing is open to ridicule.Seven years of spin and mantra. The writers of "YES MINISTER" could have conceived this historic scenario.

Possible outline legislation

Lacking final resort third party adjudication, neighbours in contention over nuisance caused by inappropriate close to boundary hedges and trees, are forced into unequal and unfair personal confrontation without any guidelines or recourse to impartial judgement.

The opportunity exists for one party to exercise unreasonable inconsideration or even vindictive intention against a neighbour with complete immunity.

Such disputes have no means for fast resolution and can condemn an innocent resident to stress, expense, property devaluation, loss of quality of life for the rest of their lives to the detriment of their health. In the worst cases this amounts to simple cruelty against which there is no protection.It is not surprising that there have been fatalties in such disputes.

An extremely simple and inexpensive solution can be proposed. Amend the ASBB to provide:

  • 1) Parties facing such contention could apply to their Local Council for "guidelines" which outline unacceptable "nuisances" which can result from inappropriate High Hedge and Tree deployment and offer third party arbitration should the parties fail to follow the guidelines.

    2) A central arbitration service could be empowered and required to arbitrate according to the "guidelines" and where appropriate, to issue compulsory remedial orders designed to remove the identified nuisance.

    3) Should the party which has been issued with the remedial order refuse to comply, then remedial action could be taken by the Local Authority with costs falling upon the party held responsible for the nuisance.

    4) The decision of the arbiter could be taken to appeal should the affected party feel that the arbiter has failed to follow the guidelines.

  • We need to see an immediate undertaking in the SNP Executive programme to compensate for the incompetence and political obstruction by the previous administration which brough anger and frustration to victims and MSPs alike.



    JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE

    .

    18/07/07


    Legislation

    S3W-1290 - John Lamont (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con) (Date Lodged 20 June 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether it plans to introduce legislation similar to that in England and Wales to address the issue of overgrown hedges, trees and other vegetation.

    Answered by Kenny MacAskill (5 July 2007): The Scottish Executive has no current plans to introduce such legislation.

    So here we go again - Let the media now be very aware that current Executive have taken this stance despite the inactions of the past seven years.

    Scottish victims of inconsideration and vindiction are to be denied consideration by their own Parliament- Westminster acted in 2003.

    Scottish residents should immediately write or E-Mail Kenny MacAskill to express outrage at the above response and ask for immediate Executive committment to the simple, inexpensive and widely supported requirement for legislation. We are being classed as third class citizens in our own country.


    AMMUNITION IS MADE READY

    13/07/O7


    On listening to Newsnight Scotland where Scotland's isolation from leading the Fisheries Policy was rubbished by a Labour MP by mantra, the truly awful politics which has blocked our rights to representation in the Scottish Parliament were fully illuminated.

    Labour's ancient lack of intelligence, in blind belief in their own central spin-meisters is a total embarassment, laid bare by the "new politics" of crossparty concensus and the floating to the top of articulate ministers and MSPs more fitted to the task of a Scottish Government.

    Of course this irresponsibly optimistic take on such matters, has yet to be sustained but the chink is there. It just feels as though Alex Salmond and his ministerial team are an order of magnitude more competent that the outgoing uninspiring denizens of the ancient political swamp.

    It becomes clearer every day that the last administration found the plight of Scottish residents facing vindictive deployment of hedges and trees as being utterly trivial and inconsequential to their imagined security of tenure at Holyrood.The disabled pensioner being bullied by a protected neighbour is not in the least trivial. It would be naive to think that our victims actually brought their demise in May, but the atrocious treatment which we received was indicative of the more general mindset which has ensured a very rough ride for Labour for years to come.

    Despite supported Petitions and public consultations, the mantra of "We support the Scott Barrie Bill if it meets our Policy Objectives" clearly more accurately could be translated as "you are not even going to be considered unless it suits us."

    With the Summer recess now in progress, the time is long overdue for the Scottish Executive to understand the damage done to our Parliament by the arguably dishonest "backing" of the Barrie Bill to actually inhibit debate and progress towards legislation, concluded as long ago as 2003 in England and Wales.

    It is not even as though the provisions called for are complicated or expensive. Scotland, in the view of the last administration was COSLA and that was that.

    England used an amendment to their Antisocial Behaviour Bill.The new SNP Executive should realise that our own ASB (2004) provides a very quick path to ending this disgraceful seven year episode of bad government.

    The Scothedge campaign has of course moved on from Barrie and will use every means at its disposal to test the New Scottish Executive which should be making the solution to this problem a priority if they are not to re-establish serious distrust of the Parliament. After the experience of the last seven years this is an opportunity for them to act with understanding and responsibility.

    The ammunition of evidence accumulated over the years of betrayal and mantra is being loaded into the magazine. Time is now of the essence.


    ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER GOVERNMENT

    3/07/07


    It would be no exaggeration to conclude that the past seven years of the Labour Executive has brought High Hedge victims to the view that never again will they back Labour. The mantra "we support the Barrie Bill in principle if it meets our policy objectives" led to the belief that this was Labour speak for " you are shunted into a cul de sac from which you cannot escape unless it suits us".

    It would be entirely credible that the Barrie failure was the outcome of Executive complicity. Very late on in the day our MSPs reacted with the Planning Bill amendments when Barrie simply ran out of time and became totally valueless.

    Now we have an initial response from the SNP Executive."We will consider whether the issue of high hedges should form part of this review" suggesting a possible route into the Antisocial Behaviour Bill as they review anti-social behaviour strategy in general.

    We therefore are required to make our case yet again to a new forum which may or may not respond positively.

    The case for third party arbitration has been accepted in England (2003) and we have added to our ammunition locker the blatant insincerity of the Labour years where repeated promises were broken until meetings became meaningless. We funded support of the Barrie Bill and had the energies of our largely elderly team calously stolen from their retirement years. The Parliamentary response was no less disgraceful than that of the vindictive actions of the worst problem high hedge wielder.

    The Westminster Executive, to their credit recognised inappropriate wrecking by Christopher Chope MP as being disgraceful and intervened to secure the English ASBB legislation.

    In Scotland no such response came inspite of the disastrous performance of the Barrie proposal. Far from it, they prevaricated to be surely implicated in the failures.

    We have to pray that the SNP Executive understand the cost of these failures to our members. By supporting Scott Barrie and his High Hedges Bill, we have been forced by the Labour whip to endure a totally unacceptable political blocking of our case which the SNP Executive can now bring to an end.

    The summer recess should enable minds to be made up and the intentions of our new Executive made clear.


    THE POST MAY ENLIGHTENMENT

    26/06/07


    When meeting with Christine Grahame MSP,SNP, in exploratory discussion, Scothedge negotiators were aware that for the first time for many years the real problem was being assessed and understood. Hopefully this will lead to appropriate legislation once the options have been debated throughout the summer recess.

    Of particular relevance was the obvious realisation that there was a need for a wider solution, to tackle the absence of any fair means to create equality in the management of common residential boundaries, across the board, rather than only a small subsection such as a problematic evergreen hedge height. This was foreseen by our High Hedges Etc. approach and PE984 prompted by the worthy efforts of an Inverness colleague.

    No immediate resuscitation of the Scott Barrie Bill is on the table since the man himself is gone and nothing he did reached any stage of formality. There is now even some doubt as to whether the recent consultancy response is available to the Parliament. However the moves to amend the Planning Bill appear to have been motivated by a genuine concern over the treatment of our cause under the previous Executive. Practical progress will have to await the Autumn session and the helpful advice from Christine Grahame following examination of our documents.

    The Parliamentary liaison shows signs of being of a much higher grade than we have experienced in the past but we will need to test this over the coming weeks and avoid being locked in to any process in which the motives are clouded by political mantra. Let it be fully understood that the last seven years are engraved in our minds, as being a cynical obstruction through denial of representation by the Executive whip. The SNP Executive has to recover the reputation of the Scottish Parliament which in the experience of our members, has betrayed us utterly. In 2004, MSPs approved the lodging of a Bill that never happened.

    There is no undertaking as yet by the Parliament to deal with his legislation but the talk with Christine Grahame starts the process anew and will evolve, assisted by her well demonstrated ability and legal comptence, to advise our campaign. Derek and I were more than happy with this first step into the new SNP politics and away from the dead hand of history.


    THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING ---

    22/6/07


    On Tuesday 26th we will meet with an SNP MSP who played her part in lodging a Planning Bill "probing amendment" which successfully forced Scott Barrie to hastily launch his required consultancy some seven years after taking the issue of high hedges to himself with the apalling subsequent history.

    Perhaps I am guilty of always looking on the bright side, in suggesting that the delay has clarified the problem as an anti-social topic which we can deal with far better by a Scottish Bill which recognises that any boundary plant can present unfair destruction of a neighbour's environment if mismanaged or deployed without consideration or indeed with vindictive intent.

    Post May elections, we are in an entirely new political environment where we expect mantra and party dogma to be replaced by sensible assessment and solution to problems facing Scottish residents.

    The proof of the pudding will be in the tasting. The previous administration let us down in a disgraceful manner by feigning support and yet achieving nothing but a road block. The experience has certainly been learned that political promises are not worth believing. The new administration will now have to put this unfair abuse by hedge and tree to bed very quickly but with careful recognition of the muddled English Bill defects. PE984 clarified our requirements.


    OPEN LETTER TO MSPs.

    22/5/07


    Dear MSP,

    Scothedge has campaigned since 1998 to prevent abuse of the freedom to plant hedges and trees, which forces face to face dispute between neighbours, without any means for fair resolution. For seven years, despite Westminster legislating in 2003, no legislation has been forthcoming in Scotland through failure of Scott Barrie to lodge his proposed Bill. Furthermore, without debate on the matter, the Barrie concept remained as the 2003 English concept which was itself a fudged law having been rescued from a series of wrecked Private Member's Bills.

    The Scottish Parliament can and must provide a more simple and fair solution which recognises that the problem is not linked to a specific hedge or tree but to the freedom of the plant owner damage the interest of a neighbour. The provision of third party arbitration would prevent this misuse of hedges and trees which in the worst cases is vindictive.

    We seek a simple enabling Bill to empower and enable Local Councils to provide last resort arbitration, should the distribution of "good practice" guidelines fail to bring about a fair solution. The cost of the arbitration would be borne by the party failing the arbitration and a remedial order would be issued requiring removal of the identified problem.An appeals process would enable either of the disputees to test the arbitration should they feel that the guidelines have been misinterpreted. The guidelines would identify situations where hedges and trees cause problems to neighbours.

    This is not an anti-tree or anti-hedge legislation but against unsuitable deployment or management of large plants which make life difficult for a neighbour sharing the local residential land.

    As it became clear that the Scott Barrie initiative had failed two Parliaments, frustrated campaigners and MSPs forced High Hedge probing amendments to the Planning Etc.(Scotland)Bill. These amendments were defeated by the Labour Whip

    With legislation first deemed appropriate in an announcement by Jim Wallace in January 2001, two supportive Public Petitions and finally a second consultancy at the end of 2006, it is now urgent that this matter is resolved to end the misery of those largely retired victims of this anti-social behaviour. Several have died during the campaign holding the false hope offered by Scott Barrie and the previous Executive. Many of the campaigners have donated their final years to trying to circumvent the indecent road block of Executive mantra "the time line is Barrie's".

    This is an inexpensive Bill which would largely succeed simply by its existence. In England, the vast majority of cases have been resolved immediately one or other of the parties became accountable to an arbitrator.

    Scothedge is the Scottish Branch of Hedgeline and supports members throughout Scotland, trapped in this unfair situation.

    We appeal to you to seek early legislation in this new and exciting Parliament, either as an Executive Bill or a Member's Bill.

    Very many thanks,

    Dr. Colin Watson. Scothedge Campaign Leader. Edinburgh.



    BARRIE HAS GONE - PROGRESS MUST NOW RESUME.

    4/5/07


    Well with a great sigh of relief, we are now freed from the dreadful Barrie road block whereby he acted as the Aunt Sally in a political cage. We must thank him for early good intentions but what happened after 2003 was simply a disgrace. Enough said.

    So we now enter new territory with a head start.

    We have the pre-legislation "CONSULTANCY" done and dusted and the renewed backing of the Petitions Committee. We have had High Hedges probing amendments which have forced Communities Committee naive debates upon the problem. We have undertakings from the Conservatives -Mary Scanlon is back as a list MSP, to back us and with one of the Planning Bill amendments by the Christine Grahame SNP we can fish in the open waters outside the turgid and muddy,inhibiting Labour politics.

    There is no guarantee that things will immediately fall into place, however it will not take long to find out and now we are in the driving seat. This was not the case from 2003 onwards. The Executive locked us into Scott Barrie, telling us that they were behind him. This at least was true! - he "bore the stripes" to show it.

    So we now have the freedom to choose which MSPs to encourage and there should be a new Communities Minister. Watch this space.

    In the previous note, I described the case of a Gretna couple feeling relieved that their Council had rejected an unsuitable fence and warning that planting a hedge would be a "downright mean and vindictive act". The neighbour immediately took this option against all common decency.

    This is a key case due to a very sensible coverage by the Daily Express which presents the facts and which involves a concerned Dumfries and Galloway councillor. It suggests that the Leyland hedge was planted as a "mean" act against which the victims had no protection.

    NOW THAT THE SHACKLES HAVE GONE, WE LOOK TO INVOLVEMENT OF THE VERY MANY MSPs WHO HAVE FELT FRUSTRATION IN THE FAILURE OF SCOTT BARRIE TO LAUNCH A BILL UNDER THE HISTORIC CONSTRAINTS AND MANTRAS. THEIR FRUSTRATION IS AS NOTHING WHEN COMPARED WITH INNOCENT VICTIMS OF HIGH HEDGE AND TREE ASSAULT THROUGH INCONSIDERATION OR SHERE VINDICTIVE INTENT. THIS IS NOT A MATTER FOR NEGOTIATION -THE PERPETRATOR IS LEGALLY ALTHOUGH NOT MORALLY FREE TO REFUSE NEGOTIATION AND SEEK THAT AS THE SAFE OPTION. THE VICTIM IS HELPLESS.

    Our MSPs have time and time again shown that they understand this very nasty reality and are now urged to complete the legislative task to put in place third party arbitration backed by remedial orders where appropriate

    I invite interested MSPs to E-Mail for a copy of the SCOTHEDGE High Hedges Etc. document. A particulary contentious case in Inverness assisted in the evolution of this document.As in the Gretna case the severely disabled complainant faced a life threatening battle to save his home from a neighbour offering retaliation rather than consideration.THIS SIMPLY HAS TO END.

    SCOTHEDGE
    Comment


    THE TIME HAS COME ---

    1/05/07


    As May 3rd presents Holyrood with something akin to a tsunami, it is impossible to find any reason why this should not be so.

    We have had to sustain Scothedge pressure in the face of support from our MSPs - in some ways it would have been much easier against opposition !

    This Parliament has arguably attempted to tire us out by offering legislation and shoving it into a siding on every occasion.

    In reality we were entangled in a vicious political no-man's land which voters this week are very likely to sort out.

    But we emerge, hopefully, into the light of a feel good factor through the electorate making their democratic choice. This does not guarantee instant High Hedges legislation but the starting position with the "Consultancy" (2) out of the way and renewed support by the Petitions Committee in place. Also with the Conservative and SNP Planning Bill probing amendments, MSPs have recognised the "road block" tactics and actually started to do something about it.

    What has taken place since 2000 and the first hedges consultancy has been a frightening indication that enfuriating mantra of support whilst letting Scott Barrie "bear the stripes on his back" has been Executive policy. These painful stripes (September 14th. 2nd stage Planning Bill meeting) are nothing to the stripes suffered by Scottish Hedge victims and those trying to help them absorbing the remaining years of their lives. The cruelty of the vindictive Leylandii deployer has been replicated politically. The discredited Blair even came out in favour of the Westminster High Hedges Bill. Our Executive simply did not respond to requests to meet the Communities MInister. "We back Barrie - the timeline is his" was as far as they would go.

    As soon as the dust settles after the election I would ask everyone caught up in the unfair immunity of problem hedge and tree owners from third party judgement to yet again write to their MSPs and insist that with the High Hedges consultancy now done and dusted that immediate moves are made to launch an Executive Bill or for your MSP personally to launch a member's Bill.

    Post Thursday the political scene will have changed very substantially. It may be better or worse but it will be different.

    We move forward into this new world with great excitement.

    Finally from the Solway Firth:

    Area planning manager David Suttie said (Daily Express Friday 27th April), having blocked a massive garden fence - "the applicant can grow leylandii instead and that can grow far higher as there is no control in Scotland for high hedges and Leylandii".

    The 6ft garden wall proposal was described as downright vindictive.

    The blocking of the Barrie Bill for seven years has wasted enough time for a 7 metre hedge to grow legally. This unbelievably selfish refusal of garden owners to see beyond their hedge and worse still fight to sustain it must be ended before more lives are ruined in such legally incited disputes.


    THE FINAL ACT IN A MISERABLE PARLIAMENT

    3/4/07


    As a Scottish pensioner fighting for fair relief for a largely elderly group being bullied by misuse of boundary trees and hedges, it has been a truly miserable experience dealing with the now historic Scottish Executive.

    Having gained a consultancy in 2000 quickly followed by a statement from Jim Wallace, the then Justice Minister that legislation was the likely solution and Westminster legislation to introduce arbitration in 2003, the political road block which has frustrated MSPs and imposed a sustained effort upon elderly victims required to protect their homes from becoming a clearing in an invasive and destructive forest, has been obscene, demeaning and disgraceful.

    THANKFULLY THE PETITIONS COMMITTEE DEALING WITH OUR SECOND PETITION PE984 HAS AGREED TO KEEP THE PETITION OPEN INTO THE NEW PARLIAMENT -CONSERVATIVE MSP JOHN SCOTT COMMENTED " I SHARE THE PETITIONER'S SENSE OF FRUSTRATION, AND WE MUST ENSURE THAT A BILL IS INTRODUCED. IF KEEPING THE PETITION LIVE FACILITATES THAT BY KEEPING THE PRESSURE ON SCOTT BARRIE - OR WHOEVER - THEN SO BE IT." JOHN FARQUHAR MONRO COMMENTED "IF WE WERE TO CLOSE THE PETITION NOW, THE MATTER MIGHT SIMPLY FALL".

    So we now have accumulated two consultations and two petitions PE497 and PE984 plus MSP backing for a Bill that never was in 2004.

    The consultancy was forced by Conservative and SNP amendments to the Planning Bill. In December 2006 55 MSPs supported us, 56 opposed us blindly disciplined by the whip.

    The story has been one of shere duplicity with everyone believing that the Scott Barrie High Hedges Bill was set to reach the statute books. The Executive mantra was " the time line is Barrie's."

    Personally I find this hard to believe. The support by the Executive was credibly feigned. We have lost seven years in the campaign and a had consultancy initiated under very questionnable circumstances. We sat in Scott Barrie's office in early 2005 and agreed a consultancy date in May 2005. We supported this agreed launch in a joint radio broadcast with Scott Barrie. The Petitions Committee, after discussion with Scott Barrie were satisfied that their support was no longer required and within days the launch was cancelled and we had to turn back campaigners from all over the country. We were not informed of this cancellation but found it out when we struggled to confirm the details for the launch day. Such was the disregard for our victims and MSPs trying to gain a solution, by the Executive that not even an apology was forthcoming.

    Certainly is appeared that the responsible politicians were offering the same lack ofconcern as the badly behaved hedge owners refusing consideration to their neighbours and in some cases undertaking vindictive response.

    In seven years a Leyland Cypress hedge may have added 9 metres to its height. An overgrown Scots Pine may have dumped tons of pine needles to smother a neighbours lawn and block his gutters and drains. The elderly lady living out her final years in a dark sitting room, her husband having died before relief could be offered should bring shame to the forces which blocked the Scott Barrie Bill. "THE SUBJECT OF THE PETITION HAS BEEN A MAJOR ISSUE FOR A LONG TIME, PARTICULARY IN MY CONSTITUENCY; INDEED FOR THE PAST FOUR OR FIVE YEARS, I HAVE BEEN WRITING TO PEOPLE, TELLING THEM THAT SCOTT BARRIE IS ABOUT TO INTRODUCE A BILL ON THE ISSUE. (John Scott MSP).

    Our politicians are maybe just waking up to the face that they are not living in a protective "Holyrood Village". There may have been a mystique about the distant Westminster Village but Holyrood is directly responsible to the Scottish People and heaven help us if we do not establish this in the May elections!.



    HIGH HEDGE CONSULTATION ENDED

    23/2/07


    Well that is it - the Barrie High Hedge Consultancy is over.

    It just remains to be seen whether Dunfermline West will change hands in the May election in order to decide who will take us forward to legislation in the New Parliament.We had a consultancy in 2000. We have had another consultancy in 2007.Is this joined up Government ?

    It is salutory to realise that seven years of support for the Scott Barrie Bill has achieved absolutely nothing.We have had a proposed Bill going nowhere.

    Well that is not actually true. This consultancy was forced by ourselves and MSPs. Fearing that the Planning Bill amendments might be approved. Scott Barrie had to announce his consultancy to give the Labour Whip against the Conservative and SNP amendments some security. The 56/55 result was the clearest possible meassage that time was running out for credibility in the stalled High Heges Bill.

    PE984 will be reviewed again by the Petitions Committee in March which will keep the topic alive and continue the drive for many improvements over the 2003 Westminster Bill.

    In May we hope to find freedom from the obvious political sabotage which we have experienced and if the new (hopefully)Executive will not clear up the mess with an immediate Executive Bill then there are any number of MSPs who would like to see this disgraceful episode brought to an end.

    THE MAY ELECTIONS ARE CAUSING CLOSE TO PANIC IN THE RULING RANKS. IT WILL BE HARD FOR US TO TRUST ANY POLITICIAN AGAIN BUT THERE ARE SOME GOOD GUYS OUT THERE. THIS WILL BE THE FIRST SERIOUS ELECTION SINCE DEVOLUTION AND THE ELECTORATE WILL DO ITS JOB.





    SCOTHEDGE HOLYROOD DEMONSTRATION

    1/2/07


    Thanks are due to the members who travelled to Edinburgh for the Holyrood demonstration.It was a great pleasure to meet the committed and supportive crew who put in some excellent work in chatting to the MSPs who came to visit us on the day.



    RESPONDING TO THE CONSULTANCY

    3/12/06


    The implications of our response are huge bearing in mind that the published document affords no intellectual advancement over the seriously inept Westminster Bill which expects the complainant over to be the only party subject to an uncapped fee for arbitration regardless of winning the arbitration. If hedges might be killed by trimming they cannot be trimmed despite being the agreed cause of a problem following arbitration. Deciduous trees are not included in the inappropriate definition of a hedge which makes the application for arbitration unsafe. The whole attempt to define a hedge in order to claim a problem is fundamentally flawed and brings anomalies which are destructive of the intentions of the English legislation.

    We need a "HIGH HEDGES Etc.(Scotland)Bill" which deals with the problems caused by the deployment or mismanagement of any substantial plants over 2 metres in height which a reasonable third party would agree existed to the unfair detriment of a neighbouring property.

    Accordingly we should not box ourselves in at this stage to anything as inept as the Westminster Bill which appears to be the starting point for our legislators. The eventual legislation will be debated by a lead committee, possibly the Communities Committee which after May 2007 may comprise MSPs other than those who have at last started to consider our problems. This consultancy will become the key document through which we can establish the requirements of the forthcoming legislation.

    The consultancy questions are laid out in Annexe 1:-

    1. How should high hedges be defined and why ?

      To attempt to assign the problem to a "high hedge" is impossible and so anomalous. This difficulty can be avoided by calling for a High Hedges Etc. Bill where any "problem" imposed by any major plants outside a property curtilage, if agreed by a sensible third party arbitrator can be dealt with.

    2. Are the criteria for admissible complaints sufficient or should there be any other criterion ?

      The criteria should be any problem which a reasonable third party, such as a Local Authority possessing "guidelines" would recognise as being detrimental to the fair interests of an affected complainant.

    3. Who should complain about a hedge ?

      The owner or occupier of a residence should be allowed to complain.

    4. Should the appeals process work administer the complaints system or is there an alternative solution ?

      Not an easy question to make any sense of. Respond to the question "How should the appeals process work ?" as posed in the accompanying text.

      There should be provision to appeal to an independent third party if the decision of an arbitration fails to comply with the provisions of the Bill or with the published "problem" guidelines.

    5. What should be the basis for setting fees and who should pay them ?

      If there are to be fees to be charged for the arbitration service then they should be identical throughout Scotland and be insufficient to remove access to the legislation from low income families. They should be levied upon the party against whom the arbitration decision is made.

    6. Should local authorities administer the complaints system or should the Sheriff Courts resolve high hedges disputes ?

      The Local Authorities should provide advice on the matter even before a dispute starts through the publication of "guidelines". The guidelines should clearly indicate that failure to follow the guidelines will result in third party statutory arbitration with mandatory remedial orders. This should be sufficient to cause most perpetrators of a problem capitulate or complainants perceive that their complaint is invalid.

      The Sheriff Courts are entirely unsuited for this sort of work

    7. Do you believe any equal opportunities questions will arise from this proposal ?

      Yes - the charging of fees for the service may limit access to the legislation only to those who can afford to pay.

      It should be realised that the worst cases arise where a complainant is suffering vindictive, anti-social abuse, or inconsideration. In such cases the complainant is actually a victim seeking relief from a very nasty neighbour.

    8. The Scottish legislation should heed the mistakes and anomalies of the English flawed legislation.

      What is required is a helpful Local Authority service able to set the sights of complainants and the perceived perpetrators of the problem by the issue of common sense guidelines backed up by statutory powers to arbitrate and issue an appropriate remedial notice and with the power to enter a property and carry out such remediation should the remedial note fail to be acted upon.

      Any attempts to define a "hedge" will provide anomalies and fail to address the problems faced by a complainant. It is entirely inconsequential to the complainant whether his garden is dominated by a large overgrown ewe tree or a leylandii hedge. His window access to light will not in any way relate to the species being allowed to grow to block it. Arbitration will be much more simple and fair if it is based upon the identified problem(s).



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    THINK ABOUT IT !

    22/11/06


    The Scottish Parliament High Hedges consultancy is the means by which our Parliament ensures that legislation is fit for purpose by seeking the views of what they call "Stakeholders" - us.

    When we respond to the "Consultancy" there is no obligation to consider the suggested possible solutions as being in any way to limit our requirements. Indeed it is imperative that we say exactly what we would wish the legislation to achieve. Otherwise the "Consultancy" is meaningless.

    The last thing we need is a carbon copy of the 2003 Westminster High Hedges Bill which falls into the trap of assuming that the hedge owner actually may have rights to justify inconsideration or vindictiveness.

    For instance if a hedge is so big that trimming it back to remove the problem caused to a neighbour might kill it - then a remedial order may be refused. The only party to be charged an uncapped arbitration fee is the complainant. The reliance upon a narrow hedge description denies justice to those facing problems from a single ewe tree which might be indistinguisable from a hedge in its effect upon a neighbour. Deciduous hedges are exempt and so on.

    The insane concept that any problem must be due to a "row of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees is riddled with anomalies which ruin confidence in the legislation to the extent that it is about as risky as the courts in preventing those who cannot affort to take the risk from gaining benefit. Local Authorities can charge what they like for the service and so price it out of the complainant's reach. A very few Local Authorities provide the service free of charge in recognition of this inequity

    So it is important that we make full use of the opportunity of the "Consultation" to seek legislation which removes our problems reliably and which is worthy of the extraordinary path we have had to endure to get to the starting gun in the third Parliament since the Scottish Executive backed the Scott Barrie undertaking to propose a Bill.



    WE HAVE 14 WEEKS TO MAKE OUR CASE

    17/11/06


    With the Barrie High Hedge Consultancy appearing some 24Hrs before the Planning Bill Stage 3 exposure of MSP and our own frustrations and yes, anger at the apparent blocking of progress, the conclusion might very well be that there is some cynical political game being played.

    According to the Parliament rules for Private Member's Bills the complete process must be completed by September in a fourth year term and for Barrie to launch at this late stage, unless I am mistaken, can only achieve a Consultancy return and the Bill proposal will fall with a new proposal required in the New Parliament.

    Since the Consultancy was believed to be ready for kick off May 2005 it is left to those seeking this legislation to ponder upon the intentions of this last minute consultancy re-appearance. There is every reason to believe that it would not have happened had Mary Scanlon MSP not started the Planning Bill probing amendment policy and Dave Petrie MSP, sustained the option of exposing the situation through to Stage 3 of the Planning Bill. We owe a very substantial debt of gratitude to these Conservative MSPs who have intervened upon our behalf.

    WITH THE CLOCK NOW RUNNING TOWARDS 22nd FEBRUARY - THE CLOSING DATE FOR THE CONSULTANCY - IT IS NOW ESSENTIAL THAT EVERYONE INTERESTED IN HIGH HEDGE AND TREE THEFT OF RESIDENTIAL AMENITY MAKE USE OF THE CONSULTANCY TO MAKE VERY CLEAR TO OUR LEGISLATORS WHAT IS REQUIRED OF THEM.

    The SCOTHEDGE committee will be meeting shortly to establish an effective response to the questions in the Consultancy and we have been assured that we will participate in the post 22nd February assessment. We will be examining means for aiding the widest possible distribution of the Consultancy which will be key to our ability to influence the final Bill.

    This is our official path to avoiding the considerable failings of the Westminster High Hedges Bill, rushed into existence in the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act. It is our chance to make our case for fair and effective legislation to establish the responsibility of hedge and tree owners to respond with consideration to complaints from neighbours and to understand that residential property boundaries are mutual concerns and not to be planted without giving thought to the impact upon neighbours.Most neighbours understand this but some do not and even become abusive when their mis-management of a tree or hedge raises a complaint. Retaliatory response has even been augmented planting to further harm the complainant and even physical abuse occurs. We have had pensioners pushed off their ladders when attempting legal abatement and the police have had to respond to threatening behaviour by challenged hedge and tree owners. In England there have been deaths.This vicious selfishness is currently enabled through there being no third party arbitration with teeth to end such abysmal behaviour.

    The Scottish Parliament claims to make good legislation by Consultancy and Committee derivation of legislation.We have to claim our influence to get a much better Bill than that cobbled together to get around Westminster "wrecking".

    THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT IS OUR PARLIAMENT AND IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE STRONG REPRESENTATION.



    LATE THROW OF THE DICE HITS STAGE 3 AMENDMENTS

    15/11/06


    Well at least the call for Planning Bill amendments has forced the 'apparent' re-appearance of the Barrie Consultancy Stage-just in time to ward off the amendments raised in frustration by MSPs.

    Quite what has held this up for years is not immediately obvious from its text now circulating Holyrood and beyond.

    The model appears to be the Westminster Bill with some hope that the complainant will not be the target for any fees.

    But the process appears to be starting and it is now up to the responders to powerfully request a Bill which will actually solve the problem by making boundary plant owners accountable for any damaging impact upon their neighbours.

    The Scottish Parliament provides Consultancy and Committee access ostensibly to ensure that good legislation ensues.

    Owing to the delay of the Consultancy until the final moment before the stage 3 amendment it will not end until February 22nd and the required assessment will carry us through to March 22nd. This leaves a month until the May Elections and so the likelyhood of legislation this Parliament appears highly unlikely.

    But the Consultancy stage "if it actually comes about - remember it has been scheduled before - is the formal opportunity for the victims of boundary hedge and tree abuse to fight for sensible and appropriate legislation better that the pitiful Westminster Bill.

    THE RESPONSE OF OUR PARLIAMENT IS NOW MEANT TO TAKE ACCOUNT OF 'WE THE PEOPLE'. IT IS UP TO US TO BRING AN END TO THE LEGALISED THEFT OF AMENITY BY THE ANTI-SOCIAL FEW WHO REFUSE TO MANAGE TREES AND HEDGES RESPONSIBLY.

    It has taken an incredible 6 years and two Parliaments to reach this stage but now the opportunity may just have come to actually talk with the legislative process. Better late than never is only acceptable if the legislation is also better !

    Consultancy Document Link

    LETS GO WITH PETRIE

    10/11/06


    There is a corollary to the "if it aint broke dont fix it" utterance which is "if it dont work dump it". Few High Hedge victims would now regard the support of the Barrie initiative(?) as having brought anything at all. Trying to negotiate progress has been a time wasting and unprofessional experience. Even after the forced September 13th. debate through the Dave Petrie and John Home Robertson amendments, no new energy has moved the process on and we remain in the situation where slippage continues to confirm that the Barrie process is if not broke, running on empty.

    Meanwhile with Dave Petrie we are "getting what it says on the can" and although the latest amendment to the 3rd stage falls short of what is required, it still represents a better than Westminster deal if the proposed post legislation consultancy is available to us for explaining the sense of our Scothedge requirements. Significantly in the Petrie negotiations we are talking to people who behave professionally and participate in a business like process. We are working with a team committed to legislation to solve many of our problems. Our work will be cut out during the proposed Executive Consultancy process.

    So let us back Dave with our support for his Stage 3 amendment which has addressed the problems raised during the stage 2 debate.

    Yet the progress still carries the curse of history. We are told that labour will whip against the amendment and maintain that Barrie should be our route to legislation. "2000-2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-200?" and still bogged down - where is the sense in that ?



    CONSULTANCY DOCUMENTS FAIL TO APPEAR - YET AGAIN

    31/10/06


    If my bank, insurance company or lawyer behaves incompetently I can and do take the reasonable step of sacking them.

    What are we to make of MSPs who underperform at our expense ?

    The High Hedges Bill was lodged in 2003 with strong MSP support but a year later it had not been introduced and therefore fell.

    It took another year to prepare Consultancy preparatory documents. A date was agreed for the consultancy but it was abandoned within days of the chosen date.

    Since then every estimate for a new date has slipped without the slightest apparent concern for Scottish Constituents despite protestation by the Deputy Communities Minister that she took our plight seriously and the Executive continuing to back Barrie and advise us that his consultancy will start soon.

    Our latest dealings with the member for Dunfermline West offered sight of the latest Consultancy documents in the post 23rd. October. THE DOCUMENTS HAVE FAILED TO BE DELIVERED. YET AGAIN SLIPPAGE DESTROYS ANY CONFIDENCE IN THE PROCESS.

    To take responsibility for this legislation and fail to come up with anything in six years and yet retain confidence of anyone including the Scottish Executive must be some sort of record. One can qualify to become a doctor in this time or complete a Ph.D.

    But the worst aspect of all of this is the apparent "so what" attitude of the Executive who carried out their own Consultancy in 2000 and announced in 2001 that legislation was appropriate. The English legislated in 2003.

    The Parliament is quick enough to use our money to feed its own. It looks as though cookies will crumble in May 2007 and we may then get free of this catch 22 position where progress in this matter appears to be cynically stalled.

    We must be mugs to even give Barrie a second thought but that is the catch 22 reality. The Executive back Barrie and will whip against Dave Petrie's Planning Bill amendment. Who is the labour chief whip ? Unfortunately you cannot ring and win £1,000.

    OF COURSE THE CONSULTANCY DOCUMENTS MUST BY NOW BE IN THE POST - LIKE THE PROVERBIAL CHEQUE.


    WE ARE PROMISED CONSULTANCY DRAFT THIS WEEK !

    23/10/06


    It is now over a month since the Consultancy Launch was expected "soon" by the Deputy Communities Minister.

    Having originally slated 20th.May 2005 for the launch, what can possibly have taken 17 months to put right ? How many years does it take to organise a Consultancy Stage ?

    We are now promised the Consultancy Documents this week and our High Hedges Etc. Bill proposal has been sympathetically received by Scott Barrie.

    Barrie admits that legislation before May 2007 is now unlikely but that the Consultancy Stage results are permanent and available for any Bill in the New Parliament.

    It is entirely reasonable given the atrocious history of slippage, to ask "which Parliament and whose Bill ?" Had the Consultancy been launched even a month ago this Parliament could have legislated. What has changed to enable progress now to suddenly appear ? Are we yet again being taken for a ride ?

    We have asked for a ministerial meeting to explain the repeated failure of promises, despite huge cross party support, three year old English legislation and repeated evaporation of progress.


    BARRIE MUST LAUNCH BEFORE 20TH OCTOBER

    7/10/06


    It is nearly three weeks since Deputy Communities Minister Lamont expected Barrie to launch his Public Consultancy "soon".

    We have been here for far too long - and the launch never comes.

    LET BARRIE PROVE THAT HE IS NOT OBSTRUCTING THE INTERESTS OF HIGH HEDGE AND TREE VICTIMS AND FRUSTRATED MSPS BY LAUNCHING HIS CONSULTANCY BY 20TH. OCTOBER 2006 AT THE LATEST.

    After six years of failing to respond to the unfair and miserable plight of Scottish residents suffering at the hands of indecent and even vindictive depolyment of boundary hedges and trees the whole Parliamentary process is in danger of falling into disrepute. The Deputy Communities Minister was asked on 14th. September to "bang heads together". She should start with the "invisible member for Dunfermline West". Soon means within days.


    THE RUNES COULD BE IN OUR FAVOUR

    23/09/06


    The purpose of the Planning Bill amendments were to get a response from the Executive and to enable Community Committee MSPs to indulge in a short debate.

    The MSPs who spoke all favoured legislation. The Deputy Minister considered that the matter deserved urgent attention but through the Barrie Bill proposal. Barrie reaffirmed his intentions to push ahead.

    Subsequent conversation with Barrie reveals that he does have early plans to launch his consultancy and when complainants are responded to by the Executive, in addition to the tired old mantra, they are urged to apply to Scott Barrie for the Consultancy Document(When it is published).

    Given the history of the last six years scepticism would be wise. Neverthless the responses during the September 13th. meeting by Deputy Minister Lamont were seen as being a step forward.

    What we need to do now is assume that the runes are in our favour and encourage the Parliament's own belief that the commitments have been made and to get on with the job.

    What is for sure is that the legislation is coming. The sooner the better was the clamour from the Communities Committee.


    I COULD NOT HAVE PUT IT BETTER.

    18/09/06


    John Home Robertson MSP suggested to Deputy Minister Lamont that the urgently required legislation was not really in the capability of a back bencher and that heads need banging together.

    There is very little airspace between this and saying the Barrie Bill is a dead duck and the Executive better do something about it.

    The response that 'we look forward to Barrie's Consultancy' is hard to give any credance to. We are in this end of term mess because we have been waiting for Barrie, once named the invisible MSP for Dunfermline West, to morph into something visible ! In two Parliaments this has not happened so why expect it now ?

    ANOTHER WAY OF PUTTING IT WOULD BE - DUMP BARRIE AND USE THE EXECUTIVE PLANNING ETC (SCOTLAND)BILL OR PROVE THAT THE EXECUTIVE DO NOT CARE A TOSS FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM CARELESS OR VINDICTIVE BOUNDARY HIGH HEDGE AND TREE WIELDERS.


    YOU DO FEEL THAT LITTLE BIT LET DOWN BY THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE !!

    13/09/06


    The Communites Committee debate this morning turned out pretty well exactly as we feared. Dave Petrie's amendment and that of J.H.R. was turned down in the hope that Scott Barrie might give a little shudder and a puff of steam rise from his boiler.

    It was a strange event. Everyone thought that legislation was long overdue and Barrie explained that it was the huge complexity of the matter which had driven him to fail to launch anything in SIX years.

    John Home Robertson thought every hedge over 2.5 metres and within 5 metres of a curtilage should be accounted for within the planning records. Well that is really something for COSLA to get their teeth into.

    Dave Petrie's amendment was described as being too wide and draconian by including trees and shrubs.He was accused of enabling Local Authorites to rush in a chop down every sweet pea in the land. MSPs tittered at hedge puns. Good fun stuff which destroyed the real underlying injustice of a neighbour vindictively deploying a plant to get at you.

    What can be more simple ? Hand a wad of guidelines detailing problems caused to the unfortunate residents by neighbouring herbage without all the anomalies of defining a hedge. Let the parties know that if the guidelines are not followed arbitration will follow and the guilty part charged the costs for arbitration and remedy. In England in one county 39 ot of 40 perpetrators capitulated when they viewed arbitration in realisation that they would be held to account.

    Yes Barrie is right when he says you will never satisfy everone but by guidelining the problems rather than the plants very many more problems will be solved at less effort for our servants in COSLA.

    The Executive have taken their eye of this ball and showed some irritation when Dave Petrie suggested this. How they can even countenence the excuse that the legislation has been too complex for them makes the mind boggle and the hand long for the ballot box.

    "What was I to do ? Every bottle in the house was stock full of nothing at all" about describes the parlous state of our legislative body. Good God, people are dying in stress and misery under the heel of the very small number of high hedge, tree and shrub owners who are simply indecent neighbours who take a delight in the damage they are doing to other peoples' lives.

    I know many of them are Scothedge members



    HIGH HEDGE LEGISLATION TO BE RAISED IN TOMORROWS COMMUNITY COMMITTEE MEETING

    12/09/06

    The first test of the Planning Bill High Hedge amendments will arise at Wednesday's Community Committee meeting.

    Dave Petrie will insist that high hedge complainants have already waited far too long for protection against irresponsible hedge and tree deployment close to residential boundaries and that the Planning Bill is the right place to complete legislation by Xmas.

    The historic fear of COSLA is based upon a false perception of Local Councils having to act as hedge police. They will simply have to distribute guidelines which describe what problems must be avoided by high hedge and tree owners. Should the guidelines be ignored, then arbitration will result in the problem plant owner receiving a remedial order or the complainant being told that his complaint is not upheld.

    In nearly every case the perpetrator of the problem capitulates in the face of arbitration which will confirm the problem.

    Should the amendment be rejected then it may be re-submitted at the 3rd. stage of the planning Bill

    SHOULD THE EXECUTIVE OPPOSE THE DAVE PETRIE AMENDMENT THEN THEY WILL LAY THEMSELVES OPEN TO THE CHARGE THAT THEY HAVE NO CONCERN FOR THOSE UNDER HIGH HEDGE AND TREE ABUSE

    Dave's mailbox has been inundated by complainants urging success.

    DO YOU EVER FEEL THAT LITTLE BIT LET DOWN BY THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE ?

    11/09/06


    At least one Labour MSP tells us that the Scottish Executive does not wish Planning Bill amendments and will be whipping accordingly.

    The Executive would prefer a free standing Bill. But after six years where is it ? They purported to back a Bill imagined by the Chief Labour Whip and have utterly failed to ensure passage for this Bill.

    In an extraordinary phase earlier this year Barrie was thinking of going for a Planning Bill amendment instead of his own Bill !

    What on earth has been going on ? It is not surprising that frustrated MSPs are forcing the Executive to come clean as the May 2007 elections approach and the substantial cross party support for legislation appears to have been sabotaged to rob high hedge and tree victims of protection.

    The Executive want a special Bill. Let them tell us how we are going to get this before May 2007 if they are whipping against the amendment.

    This is not rocket science. All we need is a simple enabling Bill to require and empower Local Government to arbitrate when problems are not dealt with by the perpetrators. A plentiful supply of "guidelines" to identify unacceptable problems and to confirm that arbitration will face those who fail to abide by the guidelines.

    In England the vast majority of problems are corrected without going to arbitration simply because the perpetrators realise that they can be held to account. In South Tyneside 39 out of 40 cases did not proceed to arbitration and remedial action cost the LAs nothing.

    Indeed with the termination of complaints which had to be given the explanation that nothing could be done man-hour savings probably pay for the service. English cost estimates were out by possibly a factor of 50 and our demographic 1/11 population deficit makes our costs for implementation miniscule.

    So what has been the cause of the Barrie fiasco ? MSPs facing re-election in May 2007 in almost every Scottish Constituency will not be very happy that in two Parliaments they have not achieved appropriate legislation. There is still time - just.

    WRITE OR E-MAIL DAVE PETRIE MSP TO TELL HIM WHY YOU NEED HIGH HEDGE AND TREE LEGISLATION.

    E-Mail dave.petrie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

    NOW MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD !

    20/08/06


    With Dave Petrie MSP and John Home Robertson MSP interceding on our behalf through probing amendments to the Planning Etc(Scotland)Bill, it is urgent that all those facing unfair theft of their home and garden amenity by indecent deployment or miss-management of neighbour's hedges, trees and shrubs should make their plight known to the Deputy Communities Minister and the Convenor or Deputy Convenor of the Communities Committee in time for the expected 14th. September committee meeting.

    Circumvention of the Barrie Bill road block was first attempted by Mary Scanlon in support of a Planning Bill amendment with Scott Barrie in tow. With her untimely departure in the Moray bye-election and Barrie's failure to continue, we approached Dave Petrie, her successor as Highlands and Islands MSP who agreed to lodge a new amendment substantiall in agreement with Scothedge guidelines.

    These amendments appear not to be supported by the Scottish Executive who seek a free standing Bill but have failed to provide one.The amendments do however show that MSPs are seriously unhappy having to refer their constituents into the Barrie black hole. The Planning Bill is a passing bus of last resort before the May 2007 elections. It is managed by the Communities Committee.

    Those let down by the debacle of the last six years should write or E-mail the Communities Committee Convener Karen Whitefield MSP to explain that it is essential that problem hedge and tree owners understand that it is their responsibility not to destroy their neighbour's fair share of the residential land and that it is completely wrong that they should be immune from penalty to the extent that they can simply ignore the havock they are creating, perhaps respond abusively to complaints or even compound their anti-social behaviour by vindictively deploying trees and hedges. When negotiation is refused by the hedge owner - contention, misery and ever worstening hardship is imposed as the plants grow with remedy refused by their owner.

    Write or E-Mail also the Deputy Communities Minister, Johann Lamont to describe to her the extent to which we feel let down by the Scottish Parliament in forgetting the commitment of Justice Minister, Jim Wallace in 2001 and by not ensuring our protection with the same vigour as the Westminster Executive who legislated in 2003.

    THE DISGRACEFUL STALLING OF THE BARRIE BILL CAN BE SEEN AS A FAILURE OF THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE TO PROTECT SCOTTISH RESIDENTS ABANDONNED TO AN UNFAIR,SELFISH AND INDECENT ABUSE LONG AFTER RELIEF IN ENGLAND AND WALES THROUGH LEGISLATION BY THE WESTMINSTER EXECUTIVE IN THE 2003 ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR BILL.

    E-Mail Johann Lamont MSP Deputy Communities Minister.
    E-Mail Karen Whitefield MSP Convener Communities Committee.



    WHAT WE EXPECT FROM THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

    13/08/06


    With the latest attempt by two MSPs to seek amendment of the Planning Bill to overcome the debacle of the Barrie High Hedges(Scotland)Bill, MSPs are perhaps waking up to the fact that something has gone very seriously wrong following the 2000 Public Consultancy and the 2001 Ministerial Statement that legislation was appropriate. In six years nothing substantive has been achieved.

    Frustrated campaigners will now be satisfied by nothing less than a fully comprehensive legislation appropriate within the responsibilities our own Parliament to protect us and devoid of the extraordinary weaknesses of the 2003 Westminster Legislation.

    We will not accept that victims alone should pay for justice or that uncapped arbitration fees should be used to inhibit reasonable complaint. Nor will we accept that if remedial trimming will kill a hedge that remediation will be refused regardless of the interests of the complainant.

    The legislation must remove the unacceptable impact by of inappropriate or improperly managed neighbouring herbage be it evergreen or deciduous, hedge or damaging trees.

    The freedom to allow plants to invade or devalue a neighbour's home should be removed by statutory last restort arbitration preceded by "code of practice" guidelines to advise plant owners what to avoid in order to avoid theft of amenity from neighbours' homes and gardens.

    The Planning Bill amendments should put the sought after legislation back on track, but should not compromise the proper consultancy processes and the drafting of good legislation which will fully protect residents against the costly and harmful destruction of their fair enjoyment of their homes.

    The Scottish victims of high hedge and tree abuse will remember the 2000-2006 failure to legislate with considerable incredulity and expect the outcome of the Planning Bill amendments to be a fast and effective commitment to create the sorely needed legislation in the dying days of this Parliament.


    ONWARDS AND UPWARDS ?

    6/08/06


    By and large our MSPs have responded sympathetically to the repeated pleas from the Scottish Hedge abused but have felt unable to do other than back the Barrie High Hedges(Scotland) Bill - into oblivion.

    That is until recently. First Mary Scanlon encouraged Scott Barrie by supporting a joint amendment to the Planning Etc.(Scotland)Bill to be followed by Dave Petrie and John Home Robertson when the Barrie/Scanlon initiative hit the rocks following the Moray bye-election in which Mary Scanlon lost her seat.

    It may be that now the Barrie bubble has burst, a route is now open for MSPs to do something on our behalf and that the Scottish Executive will realise that their arms length support of Barrie has led them into the same mess that we their constituents find ourselves mired. In the eyes of those seeking fair release from the inconsideration of a minority of hedge and tree owners the Executive has let us down badly by not acting upon their conclusion in 2001 that legislation was required by raising an Executive Bill and by supporting the Barrie Bill without ensuring its progress. To get nowhere in six years is a truly awful achievement under the excuse that the timeline was Barrie's.

    It is now time for the Scottish Executive to commit themselves either to use the Executive Planning Bill to honour their 2001 Jim Wallace commitment or to launch an immediate Executive Bill to be passed by May 2007. Failing this we need all parties to place in their 2007 manifestos a promise to introduce proper legislation to prevent homes and lives being damaged by the indecent or careless deployment and management of substantial residential boundary plants.

    To this end all those suffering from this unfair and miserable abuse should now turn their complaint to the Scottish Executive, despairing at their failure to legislate in over six years and nearly three years since Westminster legislated. In a matter such as this devolution should have given us more say in the quality of our lives rather than none whatsoever over more than half a decade. Why did Scott Barrie fail ? The conclusion must be that the support given by the Scottish Executive was at best ineffectual. Has this to be the epitaph of the Executive over these two Parliaments ?



    .

    THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE RESPONSE

    31/07/06


    Tom Martin, writing in the Sunday Express, ended his July 30th. article confirming that the Scottish Executive was unlikely to support a High Hedge amendment to the Planning Etc.(Scotland)Bill.

    "A consultation we carried out in 2000 identified that the issue would be dealt with not by amending the Planning Laws but through separate legislation." was attributed to a Scottish Executive spokeswoman.

    The question is "where is the separate legislation ?". Scothedge fought for the original 2000 consultancy and 2001 statement. Apparently Phil Gallie MSP wished to support us in 2000 but was told that Scott Barrie had things in hand. In November 2003 Barrie's Bill qualified for lodging through wide MSP support. In Novenmber 2004 the Barrie proposal was still insufficiently advanced and fell. 20th. May 05 invitations to Scothedge Members to support and agreed Consultancy Stage Launch had to be withdrawn when final enquiries revealed the shocking truth. It had been shelved.

    Not only has no legislation been achieved but owing to failure of the Barrie Bill to progress, there have been no debates over the appropriate legislative measures. Is this is how the Parliament responds to constituents in dire trouble ?


    WHY LEGISLATION IS URGENT

    28/07/06


    Scottish residents have no protection against a neighbour who deploys or fails to manage hedges and trees which destroy fair enjoyment of their homes.

    Inconsiderate hedge or tree owners have no incentive to negotiate with affected neighbours since there are no statutory constraints on the height of a hedge or tree. Hedges and trees, because of this statutory imunity, can and are occasionally even deployed with vindictive intent.

    Victims of such abuse are forced to complain with the only option available to attempt to face down the hedge or tree owner by personal confrontation. This is stressful,expensive and unfair. The outcome has nothing to do with fairness or commonsense.It is common for such confrontations to last many years and deny peaceful and happy living.

    Most seriously affected are often the elderly, the retired and the disabled whose home is their safe refuge and their main security in the final years of their life. Homes affected by high hedges and trees may suffer a severe loss in value at a time of life when there is no possibility of recovery.The stress of confrontation in some cases is a debilitating health threat.

    Resolution is entirely in the hands of the plant owner who may chose to make a complainant suffer by aggressive response. In a recent survey 45% of Scothedge respondents identified the hedgeowner as being abusive. 85% said that the hedgeowner refused to negotiate.

    The case for legislation has been established at Westminster and Holyrood. Westminster legislated in 2003. Scott Barrie MSP proposed to seek Legislation in 2000. In 2006 there is not even legislation in progress and the victims of this abuse find the apparent political indifference a bitter pill to swallow and which suggest that the Scottish Parliament places little priority in legislation against this awful inconsideration by a minority of indecent hedge and tree owners. The fact that victims have died in such dispute should amply warn our legislators that LEGISLATION IS NOW URGENT.


    POLICY RESOLVES

    27/07/06


    It is now reasonable to assume that the purpose of the Planning Etc(Scotland)Bill amendments regarding High Hedge and Tree assault on residential properties is to probe the thinkings of the Scottish Executive during the Communities Committee Meeting which debates the High Hedge/Trees etc amendments.

    No-one believes that without consultation with the so called stakeholders that actual legislation will be forthcoming on the basis of last ditch but welcome test amendments. The Executive will have to face the fact that in six years nothing has happened in their watch over two Parliaments and with the May 2007 election looming they will have to justify the collapse of the Scott Barrie initiatives.

    Questions are being asked why six years after an Executive Public Consultancy in 2000 followed by the Jim Wallace statement, as then Justice Minister, in favour of legislation and legislation by Westminster in 2003 in the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill that Scottish residents abused by inconsiderate management of hedges and trees, and often by their owners still suffer through the immunity of these owners of excessive plants from any challenge owing to absence of statutory means to secure commonsense behaviour. The Executive have failed to offer protection to vulnerable Scottish residents from inconsiderate or even vindictive theft of their amenity and fair enjoyment of their homes by a minority of hedge and tree owners who have no concept of sharing the communal residential amenity of our beautiful country.



    THIS IS WHERE WE ARE

    26/07/06


    The last week before the Summer Recess has been like a newly shaken kaleidoscope. The political scene has changed beyond recognition.

    With the Barrie Planning Bill amendment having evaporated, like the May 2005 Consultancy, it was clear that reliance upon his 6 year effort was long overdue conseignment to the status of the Dodo. Just why Barrie failed to reach any result deserves serious consideration since to take 6 years to get nowhere suggests that he was frustrated by some political opposition which might have been the Scottish Executive and some fear of COSLA whose members would be called upon to implement a High Hedges Bill. From personal experience Scott Barrie completely understood the problems faced by Scothedge Members but whenever any opening came for launching a Bill, despite solid MSP support, something got in the way. Whatever it was, it was presented as a small problem which he could overcome but never was. A suitable epitaph would be the Barrie Bill that never was.

    Following the departure of Mary Scanlon MSP,joint Planning Bill amendment proposer, in the Moray election and the time available to mount a Consultancy Stage Dave Petrie MSP and David McLetchie MSP following a long history of support for hedge victims starting with Phil Gallie MSP in 2000 re-confirmed commitment to the solution of the problem and the Scothedge negotiators drew a comprehensive "Guideline" document to be used as a comprehensive "blue skies" wish list for legislation without the drawbacks of the constrictive Westminster legislation. Dave Petrie and his team suggested that there was still time to present an amendment to the Planning Bill.

    Things were complicated on June 28th. when John Home Robertson jumped in with a new amendment which proposed any hedge within 5 metres of a curtilage and over 2.5 metres high requiring planning permission which could be withdrawn upon the basis of a complaint. There could be no Public Consultancy in this proposition and it seems that it might be considered by the Communities Committee around September 14th. and very likely fail.

    Furthermore John advised that any alternative amendment such as that in preparation by Dave Petrie would almost certainly bring failure since the Executive would suspect that no strong agreement existed as to the form of the legislation.

    The proposition was that we should back the J.H.R. amendment on the very slight chance that it might succeed without any opportunity for the representation of member interests. The J.H.R. amendment it was suggested was lodged to get some response from the Scottish Executive and to encapsulate an important part of our needs in a Planning ethos, thought best suited to a Planning Etc.(Scotland)Bill.

    The only other option on the table is to use the final months of this Parliament to enable Dave Petrie or another member of the Conservative interest to prepare a new Private Member's Bill based upon the Scothedge Guidelines so that a Consultancy Stage could be started immediately following the May 2007 election to achieve a well considered legislation being more inclusive that the Westminster Bill and being Nuisance focussed.

    The above is an attempt to clarify where we stand with the next critical date being the 14th. of September when the John Home Robertson amendment will likely be considered by the Communites Committee.

    It should be remembered that Jim Wallace MSP as Justice Minister opined that legislation would be an appropriate solution in January 2001 following an Executive Consultancy and that the Barrie Bill gained qualifying support from MSPs in 2004.



    POLITICAL DECISIONS

    19/07/06


    The six years which have elapsed since the Scottish Executive carried out the 2000 Consultancy over the impact of high hedges has convincingly established that they do not care a fig for the plight of Scottish residents being forced to see their homes and quality of life destroyed by a neighbour's deployment or mismanagement of unsuitable high trees or hedges.

    In a similar period, the Westminster Government has debated three Private Member's Bills and in the face of wrecking amendments intent upon showing the futility of private member's Bills has ensured legislation through an amendment to the 2003 Anti-social Behaviour Bill. They have recognised that this is a horrific and unfair assault upon the quality of life of vulnerable residents faced by inconsideration and sometimes vindictive intent of neighbours who are unprepared to accept that they share the amenity of this planet with those who live alongside them.

    It is no accident that the complainants against this severe assault are largely the retired, the elderly and infirm. These people expect and deserve to enjoy their homes and quality of life as their reward for years of work and deserve protection from abuse by neighbours immune from penalty and therefore impossible to engage in fair negotiation.

    Having concluded that legislation was the solution in January 2001, the Scottish Parliament has failed at every level to respond to the needs of Scottish residents despite the evidence from England and Scotland that legislation was essential if awful suffering through indecent deployment and management of massive garden plants is to be brought to an end.

    With commendable commitment MSP Scott Barrie proposed to lodge a Private Member's Bill in 2000. At the end of the 2nd Parliament since then he has been unable to lodge a Private Member's Bill which inevitably poses the question why not ? Despite substantial support from fellow MSPs he has failed to launch the pre-requisite consultancy and has failed to lodge an amendment to the Planning Etc.(Scotland)Bill after a collaborative decision to do so with Mary Scanlon MSP before her courageous but failed attempt to win the Moray constituency.This has been left to East Lothian MSP John Home Robertson whose amendment apparently faces little chance of success and which is too late to undergo the essential scrutiny of a Public Consultancy Stage or specialist submission to the lead Communities Committee.

    The conclusion must be that despite being a Labour Chief Whip, Barrie did not receive sufficient backing from the Executive in the face of COSLA negotiations for funding. Thus a minority of seriously compromised Scottish residents were ignored and written off as being insignificant despite grossly unfair abuse already acknowledged by the Jim Wallace and Westminster assessments. Elderly residents, facing property devaluation and indecent abuse appear to be quite acceptable to the Scottish Parliament thus devaluing the whole concept of devolution and the representation of the Scottish people. This is not the expected outcome of a Parliament committed to the welfare of Scottish residents.

    The widow living out her life in a darkened living room having seen her husband die whilst suffering an abusive neighbour, the disabled home owner facing unnecessary planting of seventy Scots Pine along his borders and the resident threatened with a defamation suit for accurately describing his neighbour as a bully for hiding behind legal impunity are rightly irate when the Holyrood Parliament fails to protect them. 87% of Scothedge members claim that their neighbours simply refuse to negotiate a commonsense solution to high hedge and tree problems.

    These are not trivial dissentions but grossly unfair thefts of fair amenity and home enjoyment by small group careless or vindictive plant owners who show indecent lack of concern for their neighbours being aware that there can be no legal retaliation.To them might is right.

    We need an immediate statement from the Scottish Executive re-affirming their intention to support or to provide legislation to close the door on improper behaviour by the owners of excessive boundary plants.


    THINGS CLARIFY AND GET MUDDY

    13/07/06


    The penalties of the 6 year static Scott Barrie phase are now very clear. We have a proposed amendment to the Planning Bill which cannot be considered during a Consultancy Stage and where there will be no time for a Scothedge submission to the Communities Committee. Effectively we are substantially disenfranchised from our involvement within the legislative process. Coming at the end of over 6 years of campaigning the Scottish Parliament this is a bitter pill having originally suffered delays through the 2004 Standing Order change which made the Public Consultancy Stage a pre-requisite for the launching of a Member's Bill.This requirement was sold as being a substantial means through which to improve Scottish legislation (but not for us it appears).

    Back in March 7th. of this year we saw the opportunity for Consultancy go up in smoke as the proposed Consultancy never materialised as usual.

    The John Home Robertson MSP amendment, as I now understand it, simply enables a hedge, over 2.5 metres high and within 5 metres of a curtilage to require planning approval should there be a complaint. It appears to consider Local Government involvement as being something that should be avoided since they have plenty to do without any involvement in arbitration.

    This is certainly a very simple solution but perhaps inadequate to deal with the real complexities of high hedges, trees, loss of reasonable enjoyment, access to views etc. It would certainly solve a percentage of problems.

    I am advised that there is a high possibility that this amendment will be rejected. It is a sort of test to excite some response from the Executive.

    The option also is available that we submit an alternative amendment in line with our experience from Scothedge members but John Home Robertson MSP considers that such a submission would effectively show that there is no clear legislation in mind and reduce still further any chance of Planning Bill amendment.

    It is also apparent that it comes as a surprise to some MSPs that Jim Wallace, then Minister for Justice gave an Executive commitment to legislation in 2001 and that there was a Public Consultancy which induced this commitment.


    WE ARE IN FOR A BUSY RECESS

    6/07/06


    As the Summer Recess gets underway, there becomes available a most important few weeks when the legislative juices cease to run bringing the opportunity to make preparations for September and the next meetings of the Communities Committee.

    It is clear that the two approaches are open to us:

    1)We can seek an improved Westminster revision

    2)We can seek an entirely different and more all embracing Scottish Solution.

    Both these paths are open to us through the multiple paths which are now presented following the demise of the Scott Barrie initiative.

    Whilst we have been greatly frustrated by the Scott Barrie failures, I know that Scott understood our problems well and his committment to us was honest and generous, but ultimately it is not gifted to MSPs any guarantee of success and this certainly did not come Scott's way. He is now to the best of my knowledge out of the game, but retrospectively I can certainly, personlly,thank him for the attempt.

    The JHR amendment appears to follow the historic and narrow High Hedges path which might be all we are offered by the Executive. However we have in progress a much more suitable and wider ranging legislation in mind, to be drafted by another MSP which may also be presented to the Communities Committee.

    In the short term it is sensible to maintain the confidence of this MSP until such time that the negotiations are somewhat further advanced.

    In concept the Scothedge approach is to seek a more graded involvement of the Local Authorities to provide guidance from the start of a hedge or tree problem so that statutory arbitration comes much further down the line than is the case in England. The process will be based upon statutory guidelines so that the parties become fully aware of what is expected of them and should the hedge or tree owner fail to act sensibly, then arbitration can be implemented for failure to behave in accordance with the guidelines, rather than a personal request by a neighbour. Ultimately the arbitration fee should be paid not by the victim but the party who fails at arbitration. Specifically if there is seen to be an abusive or vindictive element, then the penalty might be an ASBO.

    It has to be stressed that none of this may be offered to us but it is constructive that we should clarify that the seriously flawed Westminster High Hedges Bill is not what we want or need in Scotland.

    It is only now that we are freed from the one MSP road block that much more is possible. It is in the recess that the drafting of an amendment more in keeping with our guidelines and perceptions is going on.



    WE NEED A BETTER BILL THAN THE 2003 ASBB AMENDMENT

    2/07/06


    We are grateful to East Lothian MSP John Home Robertson for taking the initiative and lodging his High Hedges Amendment to the Planning Etc.(Scotland) Bill.

    This has yet to be accepted by the Communities Committee and assessed by the Executive as being within their "policy" requirements for legislation.

    With the 2nd Stage of the Planning Bill set to close in early October and the Summer Recess already underway, there appears little opportunity for the legislation proposal to go to Consultancy or indeed to be considered in depth by the Communities Committee, who are the Lead Committee responsible for the Planning Etc.(Scotland)Bill.

    The Westminster legislation is seriously in need of revision because of serious inadequacies. It only charges the complainant, it cannot issue remedial orders if they might kill a hedge and the impact of single trees falls outwith the Bill. The specification of a hedge only includes evergreen and semi-evergreen trees where deciduous hedges also cause problems. As one of our committee members ably put it,"It begs the question ....... why are deciduous trees seen as being always good whilst evergreens are seen as being generally bad? There are no good guns and bad guns if they are all used to kill!!". It is to be hoped that the JHR amendment is light years better than the Westminster effort.

    It will be a problem if the last ditch boarding of the Planning Etc.(Scotland) Bus disenfranchises those who have the greatest experience in boundary high hedge and tree problems by blocking off the Public Consultancy opportunity to assess the legislation.

    The Planning Bill amendment was first suggested as early as February of this year and there was plenty of time for a formal 3 month Public Consultancy.

    The John Home Robertson amendment shows that MSPs are trying to bring closure to the historic failure to start legislation but it is to be hoped that this will not result in legislation not greatly improved from the last rush English Bill. Otherwise we might just as well have implemented the English Bill in 2003 and suffered the same inadequate legislation.

    This page will now be generally assigned to the nature of the proposed legislation as the much appreciated JHR amendment clarifies and the legislative options are explored.



    To support the campaign join Scothedge. E-Mail a request for an application form and strengthen our cause at Holyrood !

    E-Mail Scothedge
    Dr. Colin Watson Ph.D.
    Edinburgh
    28/06/06