Residents who are affected by high hedge disputes look set to get a helping hand from the Northern Ireland Assembly.
A Bill was put forward yesterday in the Assembly by Environment Minister Edwin Poots and passed the first stage.
The legislation could give power to local councils to act in disputes over loss of light to a domestic property due to a neighbouring high hedge.
The Bill will apply to lines of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees and will introduce a system similar to that which has been operating successfully in England and Wales since 2005.
Speaking after introducing the High Hedges Bill in the Assembly, Mr Poots said: “I know very well the distress and inconvenience that can arise for neighbours when high hedges are not maintained and allowed to grow way beyond a reasonable height.
“When I took up office I promised to act quickly to introduce legislation to alleviate the problem. I am very pleased to be introducing the High Hedges Bill, so that it can begin its passage through the Assembly.” Public consultation on a draft High Hedges Bill closed on 1 March 2010 and attracted many responses from all over Northern Ireland.
The minister added: “This indicates clearly the interest in the problem being tackled to help people upset or inconvenienced due to an unreasonably high hedge.
“This legislation will afford people, who have endured being in the shadow of a neighbour’s high hedge, a means of redress.
“I am encouraged by the many positive responses to the public consultation on the draft Bill, and these have been very helpful in contributing to the final version.”
The Bill will now be put on the list of future business until a date for its second stage is determined.