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Trees frequently asked questions

A tree or hedge is shading my garden, do I have a right to light?

A 'Right of light' could be shown only after proof of 20 years of uninterrupted light access prior to the offending tree blocking that light. A right of light right can only be enjoyed in relation to a specific opening (such as a window); it must therefore be associated with a building, even if only a greenhouse; thus, there can be 'no right to light' in connection with open land, such as a garden. The right of light cannot be transferred with the property, therefore only the current householder can claim a right of light.

I am a Council tenant and I would like some trees pruned in my garden. Who do I contact?

You will need to contact your local Neighbourhood Officer for your ward on 0300 123 6633, where you need to complete a Tree Works Request Form1.27MB. The housing staff will complete one for you over the phone if required.

The Tree Team will then process the form and carry out an inspection of the tree(s) in question. Any work required will be categorised into High, Medium and Low priorities depending upon a range of issues such as whether the tree(s) are healthy, obstructing pathways or access to the house or the tree is diseased or is dead.

High priority work may be completed the same day or within five days depending upon the urgency. Medium and Low priority work could take considerably longer with Low priorities perhaps taking up to two years to complete.

The reasons for this are that there is a limited budget and obviously dead, diseased or imminently dangerous tree must be worked upon before those of a lower priority.

Is there a law to stop people growing their trees to enormous size?

Yes, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003) Part 8 High Hedges, was enabled in June 2005 and is now law. Part 8 defines high hedges as 'formed wholly or predominantly by a line of two or more evergreens, and rises to a height of more than two metres above ground level.'

The Act does not include single trees and is specifically designed for hedgerows of evergreen trees or large shrubs. Where a neighbours' hedge falls within the above designation you can apply to the Council to intervene on your behalf provided that you have made all reasonable efforts to resolve the situation with your neighbours first.

If the tree that you are concerned about is not within a hedgerow, or if it is not evergreen (loses its leaves each Autumn) then there is no law currently that determines its potential size and therefore there is no legal requirement on a tree owner to reduce the height of their tree.

For more information visit GOV.UK: High hedges

My property is covered in leaves from a tree that doesn't belong to me. What can I do?

The legal view is that once a leaf falls from a tree it belongs to no one as you cannot determine its flight path, due mainly to the vagaries of the wind and weather.

The law also has determined that it is not unreasonable to expect you to clear up leaves, if you live in an area where there are trees.

Trees shedding fruit, berries, seeds, leaves, bark, twigs, honeydew from greenfly on cars / paths

All trees shed small parts, flowers, fruit, twigs and leaves at various times of the year. Residents should expect this if they live near trees. Certain species of trees are hosts to pests such as greenfly, and during the summer their presence can be a nuisance.

Under exceptional circumstances where a problem is so severe as to be unreasonable, the tree may be pruned in order to reduce the problem, but only where there is a major infestation or acute problem causing a risk to the residents' health, will the removal of the tree be considered.

Where a tree is removed under such circumstances, a replacement tree will be planted in a nearby location during the following planting season.

Overhanging branches on footpaths and roads

Through our maintenance programme of pro-active pruning, this should reduce the impact of the crown and branches of the tree causing obstructions and shading. All pruning will be in accordance with current British Standards and Best Practice with an average pruning cycle of 5-7 years, although stem growth (epicormic shoots) may require annual pruning.

Trees blocking views, TV / satellite reception

Where TV reception is a problem we will ask the resident to move their equipment. We will not specifically prune trees for satellite / TV reception as this is impractical and could potentially involve great expense. 

No-one has a right to a view in law and unless it would be reasonable to do so, the Council would not under normal circumstances remove trees to improve an individuals' view. 

Tree roots, damage by roots at the base of a tree to footpaths, walls and buildings

In these cases, we will ask the Authority's Highways Engineers to carry out an investigation of the actual causes and take their advice regarding remedial action. 

Sometimes it will be reasonable to remove a particular root however, where this could lead to instability of the tree, this would create an increased risk and therefore alternative actions would be required. Where a tree is a particularly valuable asset, it may be that the Council will pay for repairs to the damaged structure and retain the tree. In circumstances where such a repair is impossible without the removal of the tree in the view of the engineers, then the tree may be removed.

Where a tree is removed under such circumstances, a replacement tree will be planted in a nearby location during the following planting season.

Regarding claims involving alleged moisture depletion induced subsidence, evidence in the form of soil analysis, level and crack width monitoring and engineers' reports will be required as a standard and we will investigate each individual claim thoroughly to determine the validity of the claim and will report its findings to our insurers.

There is a tree in my garden that I do not like. Can I simply cut it down?

If the tree is in your garden then as a general rule you may do with it as you wish, however, there are certain exceptions.

If your tree is protected by a "Tree Preservation Order", or is located within a designated "Conservation Area" or has other forms of restriction placed upon it you must seek written permission from the Council PRIOR to undertaking any work on the tree. The law is quite strict on this and ignorance of a protection order is not seen as a defence. Therefore you should always check with the Tree Team before you do anything.

You should ensure that whoever is undertaking the work; is suitably experienced, qualified and fully insured. A list of suitable firms can be provided upon request. Felling trees is a highly specialised and potentially very dangerous business and should always be carried out by competent professionals.

For more information visit Tree preservation order guidance

Why does the Council not prune their trees more often?

Most trees do not take kindly to heavy pruning and the Council's Tree Policy follows the current British Standards for tree works and Best Practice.

Highway trees are pruned on average every five to seven years. To prune more often can stress the trees and leave them susceptible to disease or can trigger off the growth of bushy shoots all over the stem and branches which will increase the trees density, shade area and possibly reduce visibility on roads.

Other problems

Where there is a particular problem expressed by a resident regarding a particular tree or group of trees, we will inspect the tree and assess the situation in association with the relevant Council officers together with the residents' representatives where appropriate, in order for a reasoned and objective determination of the correct course of action to be followed.

Where a tree is removed under such circumstances, a replacement tree will be planted in a nearby location during the following planting season.

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