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Neighbouring Open Spaces

Information for landowners with property adjoining one of Cornwall Council’s Open Spaces

There are many benefits living beside a park or open space, from extra greenery and wildlife, to the recreational value it offers. In return, park managers receive useful information from these neighbours on what is going on in the open space and how it might be improved.

The Council receive many enquiries from adjoining landowners on boundary matters and trees. Please see the below information which will help resolve a lot of uncertainty.

Your fence or wall responsibility

There can often be confusion over who handles a wall, hedge or fence that separates private property from a public open space. But, it is usually simple to determine by the purpose for which it was constructed. Like on the highway, barriers in an open space are usually erected to prevent injury or to separate two recreational functions. There isn’t any obligation to mark the ownership boundary with any barrier at all. If a fence or wall provides privacy and security to a private property adjoining the open space, then it belongs to the private landowner. In rare cases the property deeds state otherwise, so, it is best to check your deeds first.

Older boundaries such as banks or hedgerows

It might not be clear in the deeds who owns the legal boundary if it predates the current land uses, for example, a Cornish hedge that once enclosed an agricultural field, or a historic wall.

If the structure holds land at a higher elevation, maintenance usually falls to the higher property. If this is not the case, maintenance is usually shared, with each party pruning and/or rebuilding their side as suits them. So, the liability for trees growing out of the hedgerow is also usually shared. There isn’t an obligation on either neighbour to maintain a shared boundary to the same standard. Any extra measures for security, such as wire or timber, are the private landowners responsibility.

Entering the open space to maintain your boundary

It is usually possible to maintain a fence from your own side. If you require access to the other side, and you can climb over or remove a panel to undertake the work with minimal disruption, this is acceptable. If you’re unsure, or need to enter via the open space, please contact us, providing details on location, method and photos. If you need access for vehicles, heavy machinery or scaffolding you must evidence public safety measures and insurances. So, permission will need a separate licence. Please get in contact at your earliest opportunity to arrange. It can take a few weeks, and an administrative and legal fee will be chargeable.

Cutting vegetation growing along the boundary

Naturalised vegetation is not uncommon to the periphery of public open spaces. It has many benefits, for example screening views, providing security to residents, ball control and biodiversity.

It would be counter-productive to routinely cut an access strip beside every private boundary. So, in general we recommend that residents cut back as much as they can from their own side. Typical plant growth will not damage a well-built fence in good condition. But, if minor trimming could reduce damage a resident can undertake this alongside their fence maintenance (see above).

Where it is possible to remove a fence panel or climb over, clearance should be to the minimum necessary. See above for when permission is needed to enter our land. Please note we are not under any obligation to provide access or help the clearance. You are not permitted to apply herbicides or chemical treatments. You can not leave other garden waste or materials on the council’s land, which could lead to prosecution.

We will investigate:

  • exceptional circumstances or significant risk
  • grounds for a high hedge claim
  • invasive plant such as Japanese Knotweed (see below) or
  • there is a covenant or similar in the deeds placing an obligation upon us to maintain the vegetation.

Japanese Knotweed or invasive plants growing on the open space side.

What the Council will do

Our specialist vegetation officer will assess and establish a treatment programme as appropriate. Please do not attempt to cut or disturb the plant growth. Use: Report Japanese Knotweed on Council land

A tree growing over your boundary

Residents will exercise their common-law right to reasonably cut hedges and trees, over their boundary. Please check the rules with regard to protected trees or trees in Conservation Areas. We will consider removal of branches (or trees) only where there is a significant risk to property or public safety. For further information see Tree and woodland management 

Access to the open space to deliver something to your property

If you are planning work to your property you are not permitted to drive vehicles onto the open space. You can not undertake any activity that might put users of the open space at risk. If you need access for vehicles or heavy machinery you will need to evidence enough public safety measures and insurances. Permission requires a separate licence or permanent access agreement (Right of Way Granted by CC). Please make contact at your earliest opportunity to arrange, as it can take a few weeks, and an administrative and legal fee will be chargeable.

Installing a private gate into the open space

If the entrance is only for maintenance of the boundary, and not to access the wider space this is usually acceptable. We reserve the right to obstruct further access with planting or new features. We discourage new private entrances (as it can cause future problems), unless opening onto an adopted public footway. Permission will be granted, only where an application for a permanent access agreement is successful (Right of Way Granted by CC). If there are reasonable grounds to grant access, contact us for an initial assessment.

Your neighbour is dumping materials on the open space

Please report Fly-tipping providing as much detail as possible.

Your neighbour has extended their garden or property onto the open space.

Please report to us with as much detail on location as possible. We will investigate and where appropriate take action.

Prevent people, pets or vermin from accessing your land from the open space

Privacy and security are down to the private landowner. To report non-emergency crimes or incidents contact the Police 101 service . You can also Report anti-social behaviour.

Where there is some form of food source on the open space that is attracting vermin, we will attempt to resolve this first. An occasional sighting of a pest does not necessarily need a response. Only as a last resort will we instruct professional extermination. This is usually where numbers have got out of hand due to a favourable habitat within the open space.

For maintenance issues please follow: Environmental Management

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