Trees on council land

Trees have an intrinsic appeal as landscape and cultural features. They also have a high biological and heritage value.

Under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC Act), Local Authorities have a duty to conserve biodiversity;

'Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity.'

The considerate management of trees plays an important role in delivering this duty.

Objectives when considering tree management

  • Control the risk to people and structures from trees
  • Conserve the biodiversity value that trees provide, including old and decaying trees
  • Avoid unnecessary removal, disfigurement or damage to trees with amenity, landscape or wildlife value
  • Trees and woodland will normally only be felled for purposes of safety, access management, timber production, conservation and heritage preservation

Tree management and course of action

  • Branches obscuring street lighting - where trees are blocking street lights, and jeopardise public safety the council will undertake reasonable work to alleviate the problem while retaining the tree.
  • Dead, dying and dangerous trees - the council will not remove dead trees as a matter of course. These trees are significant habitats and are great for biodiversity.
  • Dying or dangerous branches - where a significantly hazardous branch is identified it will be removed or reduced to a safe point.
  • Falling leaves, debris, bird droppings and aphid problems - the council is not legally responsible for fallen leaves or other tree debris such as cones, seeds, blossom etc. Pruning of trees is not a solution to this occurrence and we would be extremely unlikely to fell a tree as a result of leaf litter etc. The same criterion applies to trees which host birds and aphids.
  • Obstruction of light to houses or gardens - there is no “right to light” within law for adjoining properties. It is usually very difficult to prune a tree in order to give a lasting improvement in light levels to a property. Often the extent of reduction required to alleviate light obstruction can be damaging to the tree or destroy its amenity value, and thick re-growth following reduction can make shading problems worse. The council will therefore resist this course of action except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Overhanging branches - we will cut them back in circumstances where damage is being caused or the tree is proven hazardous. Under common law a property owner has the legal right to cut back overhanging branches to their boundary. Ideally this work should be done to a good standard and by a competent person and with discussion with the landowner. Waste from such works should be disposed of by the resident. Common law does not supersede a tree’s protection by Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area status.
  • Television reception - the council will not carry out works to trees, or remove trees in order to improve television reception.