Battle of Buchylvie: 40-foot hedge cut down after three decades

The latest hedge feud resolved by the High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 takes us once again to Stirling where residents in the village of Buchlyvie near the city have won a thirty year battle against a 40-foot monolith and perennial offender – the leylandii.

It is the second high-profile case dispatched by Stirling Council following a 35-year struggle to see the sun in neighbouring Balfron.

Government officials ordered that the excessively tall leylandii hedge in a garden in Buchlyvie be cut down following complaints from locals that it left them in darkness.

Owner of the hedge, Catriona MacGregor, as well as her neighbours, appealed to the government to resolve the dispute using the new act.

Officials issued a 12,500 word ruling stating that the “forest” of trees in the small garden should be drastically reduced because it spoiled the neighbours’ ability to enjoy their homes.

Ms MacGregor planted the hedge in 1983.

At first, she maintained its height at eight feet. However, she stopped trimming it – resulting in about 40 trees growing to 40 feet.

Her neighbours were left in the shade, with one having to turn the lights on in broad daylight.

After a failed attempt at mediation, residents looked to legislation to solve the problem.

Stirling Council issued ten notices requiring the hedge to be scaled back.

Ms MacGregor claimed she suffered from angina and hypertension as a result of worrying about her gigantic hedge and said it was essential for nesting birds; that it afforded her privacy and that it was not in fact a hedge but a bulwark against the wind.

But Scottish government reporter Mike Croft ordered that a section of the hedge to be cut down to about six feet and that the rest should not exceed nine feet – even though this could kill the plants.

A neighbour whose house is beside Ms MacGregor’s said: “It’s been going on for 20 or 30 years, everyone has been up in arms about it, every household was united.

“But until the new act came into force, there was nothing we could do about it. We lose three or four hours of sunlight a day, the ground gets very arid and it grows nothing.

“It’s a bit ridiculous it’s had to come to this, but she’s refused to talk about it. We just hope now that this all has come to an end, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

“There’s no way she’ll pay to have it done, it’ll have to come down to Stirling Council.”

This particular case has accounted for over 25 per cent of all appeals across Scotland made to ministers since the inception of the 2013 act last April.

Mr Croft quashed the council’s previous rulings and described Ms MacGregor’s privacy and wind concerns as “excessive”.

He added: “I am content to impose those cuts even though the effect on the health of the trees may be severe, even to the extent, perhaps, of killing some or all of them. It may be that the hedge owner’s interests will be best served by removing the hedge completely and, if she wishes, planting a replacement hedge that accords with any legal requirements. But I leave that as a matter for her.”

Ms MacGregor must comply with the ruling by October or the council will cut the trees down and issue her with a bill.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said she did could not say how much the case has cost the taxpayer.

She added: “The decision notice for the high-hedge owner relates to ten appeals, and so deals with the council and the high-hedge owner’s response to the appeal, as well as the points made by ten separate high-hedge neighbours, accounting for the 12,000 plus word decision notice.”