Neighbour row plunges retired librarian into darkness

One woman has to have the lights on all day because her neighbour's trees are so overgrown

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Man Peering Through Garden Hedge

Carole Howell, a 75-year-old retired BBC librarian living in Solihull, says she has to keep her lights on, even during the sunniest of summer days, because her neighbour's conifer trees have grown so enormous that they are blocking out the light.

The Daily Mail reported that the trees (not the ones pictured) were planted in the 1980s, and are now 50 feet tall. They run the length of the border between her house and the one next door. She said she had repeatedly asked her neighbours to trim the trees over the past 30 years, but they had refused, and that her retirement was being blighted by the problem.

Howell does have some rights, because in 2005 rules were introduced regarding the height of hedges and lines of trees. Evergreens planted like this, and more than 6 and a half feet tall, are subject to the rules. However, Howell says she cannot afford to pursue her neighbours using this legislation, because the local authority charges £500 to inspect the hedge.

She's not alone

Howell is unlikely to be particularly comforted by the fact rows over trees are surprisingly common, and even when they end up in court, they can rumble on to become stressful and expensive.

We reported in August 2013 on the neighbours who had spent 17 years arguing over a row of conifer trees. The affected neighbours wrote to the tree owners in 2005 quoting the High Hedges Act, and asking them to cut the trees back. In 2011they took legal action, and finally in 2013 the council insisted that the trees be cut.

Even celebrities are not immune from tree-related rows. In May last year we reported that Fiona Fullerton had been given permission to chop down two huge Cypress trees in the garden of her new house in Cheltenham. She explained that she was taking the step because the trees had become dangerous - and she was planting new ones that would be in keeping with the area, but the neighbours told the papers that they felt it was an act of vandalism.

Another expensive tree row took off in November 2012, when one man was fined £125,000 for chopping a neighbour's tree down. The tree was blocking the view from his new hot tub and sun deck, and while his neighbour was away on his honeymoon, the tree was mysteriously chopped down. The courts found him guilty, and he was ordered to pay the court £125,000 - to account for the increase in the value of his property from his illegal act.

But perhaps the most extreme example went to court in 2002, when a couple trimmed a hedge beside their property. It had been the subject of a long-running dispute, and the couple had received a court order stopping them from trimming it. So when they broke the court order, they were jailed for 28 days. They were in court again the following year, after having done it again, but the judge decided not to jail them a second time.

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