As summer comes to an end, many of us are in our gardens preparing them for winter. One of the tasks at hand may the erection of new fencing, particularly if those al fresco BBQs over the summer months were spoiled by a lack of privacy. If you’d like to increase the height of your garden fence to achieve more privacy, it is important to know your rights before making any changes. Altering boundary features, such as the height of garden fencing, can be a cause of conflict between you and your neighbour. Elliott Brookes from B P Collins’ property disputes team explores what you can do without incurring next door’s wrath.
Is the fence mine?
It is a common misconception that each homeowner is responsible for the right-hand side fence. The first port of call when trying to establish who owns a fence, and has responsibility for its maintenance, is the property’s title register – a copy can be downloaded from HM Land Registry. The title register may clearly state who owns the fence, but if not, it is best to seek legal advice before undertaking any works. Your neighbour may believe that the fence belongs to them and undertaking works without permission or, without the evidence to demonstrate you own the fence, could lead to an unsavoury dispute.
In some cases, the fence is a party structure, meaning you both have ownership and responsibility for the fence. If that is the case, it is even more important to liaise with your neighbour before carrying out any works.
Wooden fences are not party fence walls and therefore, not subject to the provisions of the Party Wall Act 1996 – a common misconception.
How high can a garden fence be?
In most situations, garden fences can be erected under permitted development, so without needing express planning permission from the Local Planning Authority (LPA). However, these works are subject to a number of limitations.
As a general rule, if the fence in your front garden is next to the road or footpath, it can only be one metre (3.2 feet) in height. Fencing in your back garden that separates your garden from your neighbour’s can be a maximum of two metres (6.5 feet) in height – this includes any trellis topper.
The measurement is calculated from ground level, and this is why most fencing contractors supply fencing panels that do not exceed the two metre height limit as it prevents people from getting caught out and being in breach of planning legislation.
How can I get around fence height restrictions?
You will have to apply for planning permission from the LPA, if you wish to erect a fence that is higher than the above restrictions. It would also be advisable to speak to your neighbour before applying for planning permission, seeking their support for the application or, at the very least, confirmation that they won’t object.
If you have not obtained planning permission and you erect a fence that is higher than these restrictions, your neighbours could make a referral to the LPA. LPAs have responsibility for taking whatever enforcement action may be necessary in the public interest as individuals don’t have a private right to enforce breaches of planning. If the LPA was to issue an enforcement notice, you could be required to take down the fence immediately and all the hard work erecting the fence and the cost would be wasted.
Please note your fence upgrade may require other approvals in addition to just regular planning permission, with some works also requiring satisfaction of building regulations. Other approvals may also be required if you live in a listed building or, if you’re a tenant or leaseholder, you will also need to obtain permission from the homeowner or landowner.