Questions & answers about trees & neighbours

Questions and answers about treesI 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.

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.

I want to cut down/prune a tree in my garden, do I need permission?

Yes, if the tree:
• Is covered by a Tree Preservation Order - permission from the Council - See contact details below.
• Is within a designated Conservation Area - permission from the Council - See contact details below.
• 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 by submitting an Application Form. Please remember to sign the Application as not doing so will make the Application void.

What is a tree preservation order?

It is an order made by the Council which in general makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without the planning authority's permission.

What type of trees can be covered by an order?

All types, including hedgerow trees, but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. The order can cover anything from a single tree to woodlands.

Do I need a Forestry Authority felling licence to cut down trees covered by a tree preservation order?

Whether or not a tree preservation order is in force you must apply to the Forestry Authority for a felling licence if you want to cut down more than five cubic metres of timber - or sell more than two cubic metres of the exempt amount - in any order calendar quarter. There are exceptions to this rule which are set out in the Forestry Act 1967 and Regulations.

Where trees are covered by a tree preservation order and a felling licence application contains proposals for replanting the Forestry Authority will pass your application to the local planning authority, together with its comments, for decision under the order.

However if the purpose of the licence application is to discontinue the use of the land as woodland - or the intended use is not stated - the Forestry Authority will consider the application itself. Applicants should note that the Authority does not normally grant licences to change woodland to agricultural use. (Where, exceptionally, it does propose to grant a licence to fell woodland protected by a tree preservation order it will first give notice to the local planning authority. In such cases the planning authority has the right to object to the proposal and if it does so the application will be referred for decision to the Secretary of State.)

What happens if I carry out work on a protected tree without permission?

If you cut down, uproot or wilfully destroy a tree, or wilfully damage, top or lop a tree in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 on a summary conviction, or on indictment be liable to an unlimited fine. In determining the amount of the fine, the court would take into account of the actual, or likely, financial benefit arising from the offence. For other offences you could be fined up to £2,500.

You will normally have to plant a replacement tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.

For more information on the legal issues trees present
homeowners or on proper tree maintenance, visit: