Belfast City Council residents now won’t have to overpay when it comes to making a high hedges complaint, after Alliance Councillor Ross McMullan ensured the cost was brought into line with elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
Previously bringing a motion to Council, Ross said it was “absolutely appalling” Belfast residents faced payments around £350 to make the same complaint – five times more expensive than other areas.
From this week the cost has been reduced to £50.
Ross added: “I’m delighted that the new £50 fee for making a formal high hedge complaint is now something residents in Belfast can avail of.
“High hedges can be a source of nuisance, frustration, stress and anxiety for many residents, and is a common issue dealt with by councillors across the city. I’m glad I was able to secure cross party support in making it easier for residents to resolve high hedge concerns.
“The higher fee of £350 was originally set to avoid malicious complaints, but what resulted was that it discouraged genuine cases because people simple couldn’t afford it. The result of this high fee meant there was greater ability for hedge owners to be non-compliant with the rules and more stress and anxiety for those affected priced out of resolving their situation via the formal complaints process.
“Of course contact and mediation between neighbours is the all important first step for residents and council officers provide useful advice on how to manage this. However if that fails, then those affected should have the ability to make a formal complaint. That ability should not be based on affordability but on the merit of the case.
‘The success of this new reduced fee will not be in the number of people who make applications for official complaints, but actually in a decrease in complaints in the long-term as a result of better compliance by high hedge owners to ensure their hedges don’t cause issues in the first place.”