Replacing or repairing a garden fence may seem like the most mundane task there is – and often it is. The law surrounding boundaries is quite lax, meaning it’s tricky to force a neighbour into taking care of a shared fence or to hand over some money for work done. It’s hardly surprising that so many neighbourly feuds start at the fence.
Image source: Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Wien
Garden fences are also uninspiring in terms of design, with most people driving to the nearest DIY depot to pick up the cheapest option. That’s because any unusual design choices will need to be cleared by two households.
Fencing issues can be a positive experience. They encourage you to foster relationships with neighbours so that bigger issues can be dealt with more easily down the line. With the right neighbours too, there is some fancy fencing to be had while stubborn neighbours can be made to go out of sight, and therefore out of mind.
If you’re wondering whose responsibility it is to replace or repair a fence, then the answer is probably: nobody’s. Some deeds do state that a certain boundary is someone’s responsibility (look for a ‘T’ drawn on your side of the boundary on any plans you might have), but this is rare.
Image source: Pixabay
There is no legal obligation to fence the boundaries of your land in the UK, unless you happen to be one of the very few that lives next to a railway, mine or motorway, or if you hold livestock. Because there is no duty to erect a fence around a boundary, a stubborn neighbour can simply refuse to stump up the cash for a shared fence.
Likewise, there is no common law dictating that the left fence in a garden is your responsibility. This is pure urban myth, though many seem to find it an adequate way of divvying up responsibilities.
But whatever the lax legalities, everyone wants fences, and while there is no duty to have them, there are certainly plenty of rules telling you what you are allowed to erect if you choose to fence your garden.
Image source: pb3131, San Franccisco Fence Installation
Anything higher than two metres will require planning permission. This includes trellises, so for those thinking that they can go taller with thick climbers, think again. However – and quite confusingly – the law doesn’t forbid a plant grown along the top of a fence. Sneaky green fingers can make a difference.
How to resolve boundary quibbles then? Communication. There is no avoiding the fact that any work involving fences means you need to talk to your neighbours. Think of it as a good trust-building exercise for when you inevitably want that party, paintjob or even extension. Be friendly but firm, making sure you’re very clear on height, style and payment before proceeding.
Pushing design boundaries
The garden fence is seldom an exhibition piece but this doesn’t mean you have to erect the most mundane materials you can find.
Grey fencing is particularly popular right now, mirroring the indoor fad for grey being seen in homes. The dark colour works wonderfully with bright green plants, providing a sophisticated backdrop that accentuates natural colour.
Image source: London Garden Design, flowergardengirl
Fencing with spaced panels is also on trend, though gaps in panelling should be dark with an interior piece of wood running inside to block off the view of the other side. Consider changing the direction of your panels at different points so that the fence at the back of your garden runs vertically while your side fences run horizontally. Doing so creates a dramatic effect.
You can also play with fencing by alternating panel width, colour and wood type. Keep the panels relatively consistent though without going too patchwork. A great look is to have the same differing panels for decking, flower boxes, raised vegetables patches and other areas.
If design and price can’t be agreed on, you can resist an unbecoming neighbour by turning your side of a new boring fence into a vertical garden. Plant climbers, creepers and other bushy vegetation. This is a great way to get more greenery into your garden; better yet, plant some tall crops such as tomatoes or beans to run along the length of your fence.