THERE'S no sitting on the fence anymore as Fife Council have decided to draw up a policy on garden boundaries.

And they've been told not to bet on hedging, they've also suggested bamboo screens and recycled plastic panels, as one councillor described them as "an absolute nightmare" for tenants.

Last week's community and housing services sub-committee was told the council don't have a garden fencing policy for their homes and steps are being taken to address this.

Councillor Fiona Grant labelled this omission as "a bit embarrassing" and members were told the inconsistent approach had led to "dissatisfaction amongst tenants".

Service manager Mark McCall admitted: "There's a lack of clarity about what happens when there is a request from a tenant for garden fencing.

"That's a consequence of not having a clear policy position.

"The guidance is not as comprehensive as we would like it to be and currently leaves room for a high degree of interpretation from officers."

Head of housing John Mills said hedges and new trees could help with "greening our estates" and stated: "We've probably lost the art of growing good hedging and that's something we're looking to explore again."

However, he added this was "only an option" after concern from committee members.

Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay councillor Alice McGarry said: "I've spent quite a bit of time arguing with the local office to take hedges out so that folk are not burdened with the maintenance as some hedges have been allowed to grow to 50- to 60-feet high and it's an absolute nightmare.

"One side of the hedge can be maintained and there can be an absolute riot. I don't think more hedges are an option."

It was acknowledged that broken and dilapidated fences had "a negative impact" on how tenants perceived the look of their neighbourhood and while repairs can be requested by housing management officers, customer service advisers or by local offices, there's a "lack of transparency in decision-making" and "some ambiguity" about which service pays for it.

There was also "additional complexity" in trying to establish the ownership of fences where a council property shares a boundary with an owner-occupied property.

In the South West Fife area in 2019-20, there were 60 repairs completed at a cost of £39,885 and 191 in Dunfermline, which came in at £40,598.

For new and replacement fencing, there were 22 jobs completed in South West Fife and 10 in Dunfermline, at a cost of £26,877 and £17,660 respectively.

Under the proposed policy, to be discussed with Fife Tenants Forum, where a garden fence or shed existed when the tenant signed up, this should be maintained and replaced as part of the tenancy agreement.

Fencing would be provided for a property where there's no clearly-defined garden space and they'll look to use sustainable wood, with various types of hedging, bamboo and recycled plastic under consideration as alternatives.

To help formulate a policy, officers will undertake a 'test of change' project in an as yet unspecified area to look at the quality and condition of fences, the challenges in mixed tenure estates, the potential demand from tenants who "do not currently have clearly-defensible space" and replacement, maintenance and fitting costs.

Proposals will be presented to the sub-committee in February.