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Tree issues

We understand that sometimes trees can cause issues. This page explains some common issues and what you can or cannot do.

Overhanging branches

Under common law (and if the tree is not protected), you can prune back branches or roots that grow over your boundary from neighbouring property. In doing so make sure you:

  • do not prune branches beyond the boundary
  • do not trespass onto the land on which the trees grow
  • offer to return any parts removed back to the owner, who is under no obligation to accept them - you are not entitled to deposit them on the tree owner’s land without their express permission

Pruning advice

Before pruning a tree, we recommend that you seek advice from a qualified and insured tree surgeon (arborist). Pruning has the potential to be harmful to a tree and you may be liable if the tree is damaged or made unsafe.

Information about how and when to prune trees can be found on the Arboricultural Association’s website.

Blocking light

There is no legal restriction on the size that trees can grow to. Tree owners are not required or obliged to prune the tree for the benefit of their neighbour.

The only exception might be under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act where the trees are assessed and shown to fall within the definition of a high hedge.

For more information please visit GOV.UK - hedge height and light loss.

Complaints about high hedges are dealt with by the Public Protection Partnership.

Damage caused by squirrels

Squirrels are a wild species. They are able to take advantage of their environment and enter gardens and buildings. This is the case even when there are no overhanging trees as they are able to climb walls and other structures.

The council will not fund the pruning or removal of trees because of squirrels. We have no control over wild squirrels. There is no legal or other responsibility for the actions of squirrels, or other wild animals.

If there are squirrels near your property, we recommend that you repair and maintain any buildings in a condition free from holes or other access opportunities.

Trees blocking solar panels

Before installing solar panels, make sure you consider any potential shading issues over their lifetime.

If you already have solar panels, please note that there is no law or regulation that requires a tree owner to remove or prune trees for the benefit of  improving their effectiveness.

If the trees are on adjoining private land, you could ask the tree owner to see if they would undertake the work.

While the council supports solar energy initiatives, it is not our policy to remove or prune trees on council land to avoid shading of solar panels.

Honeydew

Honeydew drip is caused by insect infestations. It can leave a sticky substance on vehicles, glazing and paved surfaces. Often the honeydew becomes mouldy, which causes it to turn black.

Such issues may be avoided by retaining soft ground underneath the tree’s canopy.

You can remove it with warm soapy water.

The pruning of trees affected by insect infestations is not a solution.

Bird mess

Trees provide a wildlife habitat and structure for birds.

If bird mess is an issue, pruning the tree is not a solution. The birds will continue to sit in the pruned tree.

The inconvenience it may cause is not justification to remove or disfigure a tree.

Hayfever and pollen allergies

Trees, shrubs and grass all produce pollen as part of a natural process. Tree pollen is typically released early in the season and for a short period of time. Most sufferers are allergic to grass pollen.

As pollen can be carried on the wind over large distances, local tree removal or pruning is unlikely to reduce the problem.

Unfortunately, there is nothing the council can do to ease the symptoms and effects on residents. If you, or a family member, are suffering from allergies, please refer to advice from the NHS.

Disruption to satellite and TV reception

Pruning a tree is unlikely to provide a solution to signal interference.

Ordinary television transmissions (for example 'Freeview') operate in a way that allows for a degree of variation in the reception and that will still allow a viewable image on the screen.

Satellite television requires the ‘dish’ or 'aerial' to have a clear line of view at the broadcasted signal. Even features such as a single branch of a tree or a high building prevents adequate signal getting through.

You should discuss any problem with the company that installed your TV system. They may be able to investigate other ways of improving the signal.

The council will not remove or prune trees for this specific complaint.

There is no legal requirement for councils (or a tree owner) to remove trees or even prune them for the benefit of a television reception. We do however have a duty to protect trees and maintain them for future generations to enjoy.

More advice is available from:

Council trees and telephone wires

Tree branches growing into contact with phone lines do not generally harm the tree or damage the line.

Long-term contact may eventually damage the outer sleeve of the wire. This can cause a reduction in quality, such as crackling or an intermittent break in service.

If contact with a council tree causes a customer fault, then BT generally prunes the tree to solve the problem. If damage is caused by a council tree to the BT line, then BT repair the issue to restore supply. This is usually within 24 hours.

An obligation to keep all council tree branches free from contact with phone lines would be uneconomical and impractical.

Subsidence and tree root damage

Most trees growing near buildings don’t cause damage. But in some cases, subsidence and structural damage can be linked to tree roots.

Tree roots will grow where the soil conditions allow. They can grow across boundaries, under fences and built structures such as walls.

Subsidence is where the foundations of built structures are damaged by changes in specific types of clay soil.

If you think that your property is experiencing structural damage because of a tree, you must contact your home insurance provider. They will look into your concerns and may want to investigate the damage as part of a claim.

Contact information

Parks and Countryside

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