PEOPLE blighted by high hedges could face a £320 bill.
From June 1, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 will allow council planning officers to order owners of high hedges such as leylandii to cut them to two metres high if they are a nuisance to neighbours.
But the Act also allows councils to charge people complaining about over-high hedges - and Kirklees plans to do this. Officials have recommended a £320 fee.
But lobby group Hedgeline - which has campaigned for laws against high hedge since 1998 - says that is too much.
Jackie Donlon, Hedgeline's Huddersfield co-ordinator, said: "Getting this law was fantastic - but it has been blighted by these excessive fees.
"This new high hedges law was intended to be a deterrent and the fee was intended to discourage frivolous complaints.
"It seems that some councils - including Kirklees - are likely to charge enormous amounts.
"If this happens the problem will not diminish. Many, many people will have to go on suffering as overly excessive fees will not allow people on low incomes to use this law."
Mrs Donlon said no other aspect of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act required complainants to pay a fee.
She added: "This is clear discrimination against people wishing to use the high hedges section.
"Many victims of over-high hedges have been totally helpless up to this time in the face of their neighbours' abuse. A high hedge can really ruin someone's life and is not a trivial matter.
"I had a complaint recently from an elderly lady who has to keep her lights on all the time because her house is in darkness from a hedge.
"She will not be able to afford a complaint."
Mrs Donlon urged people who are unhappy about the fee to contact their councillors before the Kirklees Cabinet meets on Wednesday May 25 to discuss the fee.
Jim McDonald, tree officer at Kirklees planning department, said the £320 fee was only a recommendation.
He said: "Officers are obliged to recommend to members a realistic figure to cover costs.
"The elected members will then debate the issue and take into account things that Hedgeline are saying. If they say we should do it free, we will.
"Central Government offer no funding whatsoever for this. It has to be self-funding and we have to pay for it out of our own budget.
"Some people might say why should council tax payers have their money spent on settling neighbours" disputes."
Mr McDonald added that the council did feel high hedges were an important issue.
He said: "We all want to see an end to the nuisance of high hedges.
"People have been killed in disputes over hedges. They are a big issue.
"We believe it is important and we expect to be inundated with complaints from June 1."