‘A neighbour’s tree is overhanging my garden, can I remove the branches that are overhanging my garden?’
Within the rules of common law you can cut back the tree/hedge to the boundaries of your garden. However, this is often to the detriment of the tree. We would strongly recommend consulting with your neighbour and coming to an agreement that would benefit you, your neighbour and the tree alike.
Trees that are regarded as having significant importance by the council will be giving a Tree Protection Order (TPO) by the governing body. . These trees are normally highly visible to the public, and integral to the local environment. For any work to be carried out on these trees requires an application stating the proposed procedure. Trees in a conservation area (the whole of the Peak District is covered by the Peak National Parks Authority) also require a close relationship with the tree officer. If your tree falls under either of these categories we are happy to carry out the process on your behalf and meet up with the tree officer to discuss the best course of action for the tree.
Trees and the Law
Trees are the responsibility of the owner of the land where they are growing. The landowner must take all reasonable action to make sure the tree is safe, thus preventing damage to people or property. If you have any concerns about a tree situated near to your property the best course of action is to be proactive. If a concern has been expressed to the tree owner, they are responsible to heed the concern and take all required action to address liability. Employ a Tree Surveyor to carry out a full, comprehensive tree survey or contact an arborist to carry out a visual inspection and give you his opinion. Failure to act may be regarded as negligence in a court of law should any damage be caused. You are NOT considered liable if tree failure is caused by an ‘act of god’.
- Failure of a tree after a ‘reasonable careful inspection’ and adequate preventative action had been taken.
- Failure of a tree due to infection that would not have been visible after a ‘proper’ inspection.
- Failure after a severe weather system.
In summary, liability is not straight forward and would only be decided by a judge. However, for all concerned it is best to act prior to the involvement of the courts.
‘Is a large tree close to my house going to damage the foundations of the property?’
Although as a nation we are tree lovers, they can at times cause subsidence problems. Trees take up a huge amount of water from the surrounding area and this can cause issues. This is very dependant on the soil type and the species/proximity of the tree. We are happy to discuss your specific case if you are concerned.
‘Is a leaning tree dangerous?’
Trees have the ability to adapt to the environment around them and will strengthen themselves to prevailing weather fronts or competing vegetation. Hence a tree that grows to the light and the environment around them may lead to a lean. This is not necessarily an issue. Trees are incredible organisms that will self-optimise, putting down a dense layer of wood to strengthen against the lean. However changing the local environment around a tree (such as removing a tree adjacent to it) can destabilize the tree and cause it to fail.
‘Is a Tall Tree dangerous?’
Trees will grow to a height the conditions allow, biological (species specific) or environmental (soil, light, water and oxygen). Trees are only too tall to the human perspective.
‘Is a cavity in the trunk dangerous?’
A cavity in a tree is not indicative of a dangerous tree. It takes a number of years for the cavity to form as the heartwood (the older dead wood in the centre of all trees) decays. However, the tree will continue to grow and lay down new healthy wood on the outside of the trunk (sapwood) which is extremely strong. The relative strength/stability of the tree is dependant on the amount of healthy to dead wood in the cylindrical wood surrounding the cavity.
There are many other structural and biological signs that indicate a tree may be dangerous. If you are at all concerned you should get a trained arborist or tree surveyor to inspect and advise on the best course of action for you and the tree.