Trimming your neighbour's bush: are you breaking the law? And other gardening crimes you might be committing...

Garden crime is a lot more common than we think, and even pruning a neighbour's bush can land you in trouble...

mosaic in a mediterranean garden style
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Could you be committing garden crime without knowing? This is top news for gardeners as with many of us green-fingered folk beginning to think about what needs doing in the garden for spring, the laws and regulations around gardening become especially pertinent. 

It's easier than you think to break the law in your garden, particularly when you have neighbours' trees or shrubs hanging over into your green space. It can be tempting to just chop off the branch, since it's technically in your garden, but doing so has potential legal repercussions and your neighbour could even take you to court for criminal damage, you could face a fine, this is pretty scary stuff...

Is Green crime a real crime?

Have a bird's nest in a tree in your garden? Even if you're not a fan of wildlife, don't remove it. Removing any wild bird's nest while it's in use or is being built is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. If found guilty, you could face an unlimited fine or up to six months in prison. Yes, you read that right: six. months. in. prison.

Another common legal transgression is the failure to ask for planning permission for a shed. Up to a quarter of gardeners don't ask for planning permission regardless of the size of their shed, with some assuming that you don't need a planning permission for a building that's not lived in. 

This, of course, is wrong – you do need planning permission if your shed/garden room is over a certain size, and if you erect one without asking for permission, your council could fine you, or worse, serve you with a notice to take down the outbuilding at your own expense. If in doubt, always ask your council first. 

Now you know what you shouldn't do, here's a garden maintenance checklist of tasks you can do to keep your garden in top condition, without breaking the law. 

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.