Since 2003, I share a hedge with a neighbouring site, which is 0.6 hectares and which has been subject to multiple unsuccessful planning applications. The developers who own the site have changed over time and do not live on the site. I have never met or spoken to the owners.
Since I moved to this location in 2003, I have maintained the hedge. In order to do so, because of height and width, I needed to cut the hedge from both sides. I have been able to access the other side through a gap in the hedge and have cut both sides of the hedge uninterrupted several times a year since 2003. The owners of the site have never carried out any work on the hedge.
There is a new planning application in for the site, consisting of some 20-25 units. If the application is successful and the site is developed I may have one or multiple owners on the other side and may not be able to access the other side to continue to maintain the hedge. Can you advise if I have any right to continue to access the other side so as to continue to maintain the hedge?
You are right to be concerned about sharing this 50m hedge with several neighbours who will likely have varying views about its growth, etc.
The Land Conveyancing and Law Reform Act 2009, Sections 43-47, provides for a mechanism to obtain a works order to access adjoining properties, if necessary, for boundary maintenance purposes if permission is refused by the respective landowners.
The Act provides for a wide interpretation of boundary related situations. It may not be feasible however, or practical in the circumstances you describe, in particular when dealing with several properties.
A claim for adverse possession or easement over the space occupied by the hedge or used in its maintenance outside your boundary, because you have exclusively used/maintained it for 12 years, would be a complex process. Legal advice is recommended. An alternative approach is based on the location of your legal boundary line which is likely to run within, or close to what is a very wide hedge.
You should determine it by obtaining your deed map, which should have dimensions. If the line on which the hedge was originally planted, (tree trunks/stems), is on your side of the legal boundary then the hedge is entirely your property.
If it’s planted on or outside the legal boundary, the situation becomes complex. You may then need to discuss boundary proposals with the developers. They may require a more secure physical boundary on their development perimeter and may be open to suggestions.
If the hedge is within your legal boundary you should consider substantially reducing its width but ensure that there is a permanent fence such as a strong post and wire fence defining the legal boundary. This may facilitate ease of maintenance.
If it is a leylandii hedge consider getting rid of it, and replace it with a more manageable species which could be maintained to a 0.5m width within the existing hedge width with space between it and the fence for trimming.
This is initially a costly option but may be worth considering in view of pending developments and for ease of long term maintenance. Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.