JOIN SCOTHEDGE TODAY TO DEMAND END OF HIGH HEDGE TYRANNY
Dr Colin Watson
E Mail email@example.com
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.
Scott Barrie lost his West Dunfermline seat in May 2007 without lodging any Bill.WESTMINSTER LEGISLATED SEPTEMBER 2003.
Scottish Government assigns Fergus Ewing to High Hedge Dispute legislation.
July 2008 Scottish Government consults Scothedge Team over legislation options.
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 !!
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
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 !
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
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..
RESPONSE TO THE APPROACHING PUBLIC CONSULTANCY IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org<
HIGH HEDGES CONSULTANCY PROGRESSES TO PLAN
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
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
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 ?
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:
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
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
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?
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
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
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)
THE TIME HAS COME ---
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
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
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
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
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:-
THINK ABOUT IT !
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
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
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
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
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 !
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
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
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.
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 !!
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
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 ?
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 email@example.com
NOW MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD !
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
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 ?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
|Dr. Colin Watson Ph.D.|