Help! We are trying to tidy our garden, but the task is being made much more difficult by all the vegetation spreading across from next door.
With the combination of sun and rain we have been experiencing over recent weeks, everybody’s gardens have been growing like topsy – so you are probably by no means alone in facing this problem at the moment!
That said, the issue of vegetation spreading across boundary lines is actually pretty commonplace, whatever the state of the weather.
The short answer to you question is that by law, you are entirely within your rights to trim the offending trees, shrubs or whatever back to the centre-line of the boundary. However, even though they are encroaching on your space, the cuttings themselves remain the property of your neighbour. Therefore, not only are you again entirely within your rights to chuck everything back over the fence, but strictly speaking, you are legally bound to do so! (Interestingly, for some reason, the opposite is true of overhanging fruit or veg. When it comes to anything edible, the law is clear - if it’s on your side of the boundary line, then it’s yours!)
Now, obviously, I’m not advocating that you handle this matter in quite the cavalier way that the law appears to allow. Indeed, you might be surprised how often really serious disputes can arise from something as simple as cutting down a few branches. So, unless you’re already in a state of open warfare with your neighbours, I would advise you to exercise a degree of caution and diplomacy, and at the very least let them know what you’re planning to do, before you get the shears out. Besides, bear in mind that in the case of trees, some of them may be protected – for example, if you live in a conservation area, or if they have a preservation order on them. So, best to check first!
One more point worth mentioning – although not strictly to do with your question. Most local authorities have restrictions on vegetation overhanging the pavement or the public highway. How strictly they enforce this will vary, but they are perfectly within their rights to demand that householders cut back the offending plants. If they don’t, then council workers may do it themselves – and they may be none too careful about it!