NEWTOWNABBEY residents will have to pay to complain about their neighbours’ nuisance hedges under plans approved by the council.
At the Environment Committee meeting on March 8, councillors approved a fee of £360 per complaint - the maximum possible - for residents who want the council to step in to resolve problems with hedges and trees that block out light.
However, should the complaint prove valid under the terms of the legislation which comes into effect on April 1, the fee will be transferred to the landowner responsible for the high hedge or tree.
Or if the matter is resolved before the council issues a notice, the money could be refunded.
Under the new legislation residents who are affected by a row of certain trees or high hedges blocking out natural light or disrupting their visual amenity can ask the council to start proceedings against the relevant landowner to trim the offending plant.
The council will however, only step in if the person making the complaint can demonstrate they have made efforts to resolve the matter with their neighbour.
Alderman John Blair said the £360 fee would make it difficult for residents who wished to make a complaint.
He said: “There are many weaknesses to this piece of legislation and the biggest problem is the fee that people have to pay before the council will act.
“That will be a big barrier and I am disappointed the fee is so high.”
Councillor Lynn Frazer urged the council to reconsider the fee, adding: “This is a significant chunk of money to ask people to pay to make a complaint and some will find they may not be able to come to the council for help.”
Read the full story in this week’s Times...