Frequently Asked Questions
I want to cut down/prune a tree in my garden, do I need permission?
Only if the tree:
- Is covered by a Tree Preservation Order – permission from your local Council
- Is within a designated Conservation Area – permission from the Council
- The property is rented – permission from the landlord
- Within a property which is part of a relatively new development (up to 5 years) and maybe covered by conditions on the original planning permission.
Permission is now obtained from your local council by submitting a Application Form. Please remember to sign the Application as not doing so will make the Application void.
How do I find out about Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas?
For further information on contact your local Council Planning Department or contact the Council Tree Officers. We know where these designations apply or know how to find out for you if we are carrying out work for you.
My neighbour is cutting down/pruning a tree in his garden, has he permission?
They would need written permission with respect to the first answer. If it does not come under any protection cover, then no permission is required, unless :-
- The tree is on a joint boundary or the workmen require access to adjoining property to carry out the job, then the permission of the other party is required with respect to civil law.
- The tree is so large and mature that the work, particularly felling, poses potential dangers to property and land and therefore would require clearance and guidance under Health and Safety Regulations.
On a nearby building site, the builders are felling/pruning trees, is this permitted?
The development should have planning permission and the issue of trees, their retention, felling, pruning, and replacement, are part of the deliberation process. Planning permission overrides legal protection of trees. To check contact the Planning Department Development Control section.
I have a tree that is protected and I want to do some work to it, how do I get permission, who can give me some advice, and can you recommend someone to do it?
Applications to fell or prune a protected tree must be made on the mandatory application form. A written decision is provided within 10 working days, inclusive of a site visit that can be used to provide good agricultural advice on best practice tree management.
Carrying out the work is the responsibility of the applicant. Any permission from the Council will state that the work must be carried out in accordance with British Standard 3998. Ask the prospective contractors what that is!?
There is a tree in our street with a (broken branch/trunk), (branch obstructs path/drive), who do I report to?
Inform your Local Council of problems with trees in the pavement or in parks, playing fields or managed grass areas.
I am having problems with a tree in my neighbours garden, overhanging branches/blocking light, what can I do?
Civil law allows you to remove any overhanging branches that overhang your property back to the actual boundary line, ie projected up into the airspace over the line. This can technically be done without informing or gaining permission from the neighbour, but it is always much better to at least inform them. Technically the wood removed is owned by the owner of the tree. Therefore it should be offered or returned to that owner. If the tree is protected by any of the means listed in the first question then the appropriate pre-permission will need to be obtained. Alleged blocking of light to the house or garden is a separate situation and there are complex legal issues involved. Consequently if an amicable discussion or agreement between the parties does not resolve the problem then consult a solicitor.
My neighbour has Leylandii (cypress conifer) trees along our boundary and he/she will not reduce their height, what can I do?
Leylandii is basically not a tree but a hedge and will not be protected. Leylandii will never be covered by a Tree Preservation Order. The rights with reference to overhanging branches will apply, but if you cannot come to an amicable arrangement with the neighbour then the Council cannot help you. There is a national lobby for the introduction of legislative control of Leylandii, who might advise you on the legal opportunities.
I think the tree(s) in my garden/neighbours garden, is causing subsidence/cracks to my house wall(s), what should I do?
You must engage a qualified structural surveyor to carry out a comprehensive survey to provide you with clear evidence and proposals for remediation. There are many other reasons that can cause damage to property other than trees, and an independent appraisal is vital if the end result leads to insurance claims and/or litigation.
If someone is working on protected trees without permission what can be done?
If you see work such as pruning, topping or felling being done to trees you know are protected, you can – approach the owner/operative and politely ask/inform them whether they knew the tree was protected through a TPO or being in a Conservation Area, or had they contacted the local Council to get written permission. If the situation is amicable ask if you could see the written answer from the Council.
If you don’t want to approach the owner/worker direct, or don’t get a satisfactory answer, contact your local council.
If it is out of works hours or at the weekend/holidays etc, then you should report the matter to the Council as soon as possible on a working day, make notes of times, who did what when, better still, dated photographs/video evidence is also useful, as are vehicle numbers and contractors names if relevant, if the Council decides eventually to prosecute. You can also contact the police and ask for a referral to the Wildlife Officer if you think protected species might be in danger or it is the bird nesting season.
Do not take the law into your own hands!
I believe you can get the Council to make your neighbour cut down their overhigh hedges that cause me nuisance?
Please note that new legislation was introduced on the 1st June 2005.
After many years of lobbying, the Government finally passed into law in November 2003, legislation to deal with the problem of excessively high evergreen hedges that have blighted a lot of people’s residential amenity for many years.
Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behavior Act 2003 has been enacted to come into force from the 1st June 2005 by Statutory Instrument No 710 (C.31) 2005. This will be the official start of the new system and the new powers given to Councils.
From this date, provided you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving any hedge dispute, you will be able to forward your complaint to the Council by submitting detailed forms, support evidence and other documentation and a fee which is normally about £350.
The role of the Council is not to mediate or negotiate between you and your neighbour, but to adjudicate as a neutral “third party” on whether – in the words of the Act – the hedge is “adversely affecting the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of their property”. In doing so, the Council must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and the hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If the Council consider the circumstances justify it, we can dismiss the complaint application or issue a formal notice of remediation to the hedge owner, which would set out what they must do to remedy the prescribed problem. In most cases this would amount to a reduction in height to no less than 2 metres (6ft 6ins). The Notice would also set a time limit by when it should be carried out and that the maximum height is maintained thereafter. Failure to carry out the works required by the Council is an offence, which on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1000 and so much per day thereafter. The Council ultimately has the power to carry out the works in default of the hedge owner and recover our costs.
Prior to the Council being involved and formal applications being made, potential complainants need to carry out exhaustive actions themselves, including collecting detailed evidence and in particular attempting to resolve the matter amicably with their neighbours.
It is strongly recommended that everyone contemplating making a formal complaint reads two particular ODPM leaflets before doing anything else:
- Over the Garden Hedge – advice on appropriate hedge boundary treatment and agreement with your neighbour
- High Hedges: complaining to the Council – advice on the various processes and stages that complainants and complainees will have to go through in any eventual dealings with the Council.