Shrubs and hedges

Milton Keynes City Council is responsible for some of the landscaping of public areas and we spend around £880,000 on winter pruning and maintenance. Landscape plantings are planted to soften the built environment, and are not designed to act as a security or privacy barrier. Due to a lengthening growing season (4 weeks longer since 1990) and a maturing landscape, there has been an increase in the need for pruning work in order to maintain shrubs and hedges. 

The main pruning period is between November and March - issues that are reported at other times of the year will be scheduled into this work and areas will be prioritised according to need.

We do not carry out specialist tree works where a “tree surgeon” is required to climb one or more trees.

The schedule of work shows the estates we maintain and when we expect to conduct the work. Please note that the schedule can change because:

  • some areas take longer or shorter than planned
  • weather conditions, such as snow, intense or prolonged rain and high winds may suspend the operation while we deal with emergencies such as clearing snowfall or removing broken branches and fallen trees
  • hedgerow maintenance is restricted by the law during nesting season - if a hedge is believed to be the home to nesting birds, we will be unable to carry out works until the birds have vacated

Not all trees, shrubs and hedges require an annual prune - some operations, such as coppicing, where the planting is cut back for horticultural purposes (to allow the planting to regenerate and make new growth) may be many years apart.

Areas responsible for their own hedge and shrub maintenance are listed on the Devolved Parishes page.

Private hedges and neighbour disputes

A hedge cannot be defined as a "nuisance" or "illegal" unless it is named in a complaint as such. Before making a complaint, you must attempt to settle the matter amicably - this may include use of a mediation service. In the rare instances that the mediation service does not resolve the matter the next stage would be to liaise with us.

For a complaint to be investigated the hedge must:

  • comprise wholly or predominantly of a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs
  • be over 2 metres high.
  • act, to some degree, as a barrier to light or access.
  • adversely affect the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of their domestic property (their home or garden)

Make a complaint - a fee of £570 must also be enclosed with the application to cover the cost of investigation and administration. 

After a complaint is made, the hedge owner will be officially notified by the council.  Following the decision, both the complainant and the hedge owner have a right to appeal to the planning inspectorate.

Failure to comply with a notice to reduce a hedge could result in a fine of up to £1,000 - we also have the power to carry out the necessary work and recover costs from the hedge owner.

Please note that the height of hedges is not automatically limited and legislation only exists so that the local authority can act if a dispute cannot be settled amicably. 

Obstructing roads footpaths and pavements

The owner of each hedge is responsible for keeping the hedge clear of roads footpaths and pavements and street lights. The city council has produced a leaflet explaining your responsibilities when trees, hedges and shrubs overhang on the highway which you can read here.