The owner of a hedge which has grown as high as 15 metres in places over 30 years has lost his fight to win more time to cut it back.

Harry Melrose appealed to Scottish ministers after he was issued with a high hedge notice by East Lothian Council calling for part of the hedge to be cut down to just 2.5 metres in three months and the rest brought down to six metres in 18 months.

In his appeal, Melrose claimed the council had initially agreed to a five-year plan to stagger the chop amid concern that taking too much off at once would cause terminal damage.

However, following a site visit by a Scottish Government Reporter, the issue which requires part of the hedge to be reduced to 2.5 metres by the end of October and reduce the rest by February 2025, has been backed.

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East Lothian planners issued a High Hedge Notice on its owner in May after neighbours failed to reach agreement about its height.

They also revealed that the issue had been going on for more than 20 years involving "letters, emails and discussions with East Lothian Council's mediation service".

Melrose said the hedge acts as a windbreak and barrier for his rural hilltop cottage at West Morham, near Haddington – but his neighbours claimed it blocked light from their home and garden and needed to be cut down. 

Melrose previously pointed out that he had already cut the hedge back after it reached nearly 4 metres during the noughties.

He said thenotice was "unreasonable".

Following a site visit to the cottages the Scottish Government Reporter ruled that the high hedge, which he said was made up by a row of Leylandi trees, was impacting on the neighbours’ enjoyment of their home.

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And he said that despite the cottages being surrounded by woodlands the impact of the line of Leylandi was too dominant.

He said: “While I note that the properties are in a rural location which is characterised by areas of woodland, I nevertheless found that the trees are a dominant feature of the rear space.

“I consider that this could have an adverse effect on the enjoyment of the eastern part of the garden ground of (the neighbours’) cottage.”

The Reporter backed the High Hedge notice issued by the council.

The hedge will have to be reduced to 2.5 metres by the end of October.