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Trees on private land

Trees on private land are the responsibility of the landowner or occupier. If you are unsure if you are the owner, check your property deeds or contact Land Registry.

What landowners are expected to do

You are responsible for maintaining and inspecting your own trees regularly.

Trees which are adjacent to the highway should not be allowed to interfere with the passage or pedestrians. Landowners and occupiers are required by law to trim any tree next to the public highway where the growth is preventing the passage, or affecting the safety; of the highway user.

The Highway Act 1980 Section 154 states:

“…Where a hedge, tree or shrub overhangs a highway or any other road or footpath to which the public has access so as to endanger or obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians, or obstructs or interferes with the view of drivers of vehicles or the light from a public lamp, a competent authority may, by notice either to the owner of the hedge, tree or shrub or to the occupier of the land on which it is growing, require him… …to lop or cut it as to remove the cause of the danger, obstruction or interference…”

Check trees on your land bordering the highway regularly and cut them back if they’re obstructing visibility or the passage of vehicles or pedestrians. Also check vegetation is not obscuring signs or streetlights.

We suggest using  a professional tree expert to inspect your trees and to particularly check for trees which:

  • risk falling onto the road or footway
  • obstruct road signs or street lighting
  • hang low and prevent safe passage for vehicles, including high-sided vehicles
  • prevent safe passage for pedestrians and cyclists on footways
  • have damage, ill-health or disease.

Things to look out for in an unsafe tree

Damage:

  • Splits or cracks in the trunk or branches.
  • Branches that are broken or hanging.
  • Sections of bark damaged or stripped to show the wood beneath – some trees such as Plane or Eucalyptus naturally shed their bark.
  • Soil movement around the base of the tree in strong winds.

Disease or ill health:

  • Sections showing signs of rotting.
  • Growth of fungi on the bark, wood or around the base of the tree.
  • Foliage dying back or going brown for no apparent reason on evergreen trees, or out of season for deciduous trees.

Carrying out work on your tree

It is good practice to employ a specialist qualified contractor to carry out the work. Work on the highway should be carried out safely and by surgeons qualified to work in accordance with the recommendations in Chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual. The person responsible for the work, or their contractor, should have Public Liability Insurance cover for working on the highway for a value of £5 million.

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