My neighbours have complained that my hedges are too high, how high is too high?
The term ‘high hedges’ was subjective until it was defined by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003: Part 8 in 2005. This is a summary of what constitutes a high hedge under the law:
- The hedge is more than 2m (approx 6½ft) tall (there is extra guidance for hedge heights on slopes)
- A hedge is defined as a line of two or more trees or shrubs
- The hedge is formed wholly or predominantly of evergreens (these don’t lose their leaves in winter) or semi-evergreen ones (that stay green most of the year)
- Bamboo and ivy are not included
- Where a hedge is predominantly evergreen, the deciduous trees and shrubs within the hedge may be included in the work specified. However, a council can exclude specific trees or require different work
- There is no doubt that when hedges are allowed to get out of control they soon become a nuisance. GTF Tree care can advise you if your hedge is in danger of becoming too high and unlawful. We specialise in extremely high hedge maintenance and control. Hedge cutting is a specialised skill and for your own safety we recommend you call a professional.
What are tree owner’s responsibilities?
The owner of the tree is responsible for maintaining it in good order. In the case of tenants or leaseholders, it is usually the landlord who is responsible unless the tenancy agreement or lease specifically says otherwise. The responsibility for maintaining a tree does not mean you must actively do something to look after it but if someone is injured or property is damaged because you didn’t look after it a liable case could be brought against the owner. This is called negligence.
When it’s obvious where the tree is growing ownership can be assessed easily. However, if a tree is growing adjacent to or spanning boundaries ownership detection can be problematic. To find out who owns the tree you need to establish where the boundary line runs and on which side the tree first grew or was planted. Neither of these are easy to find out especially if the tree is mature. Your property deeds will sometimes say if a tree is on your land but otherwise you may have to come to an amicable agreement with your neighbour. Ultimately, if you are willing to take the matter far enough, a Court would decide for you.
Another thing to remember is that all trees are owned by somebody. There is no such thing as “no man’s land” – all land and therefore all trees are owned by somebody.
My neighbour’s trees are blocking my light, what can I do about it?
Although there is a “right to light” it is not as simple as most people believe. The entitlement to light only applies to daylight in general -there is no right to direct sunlight. There is only a right to a particular level of light which is normally less that most already receive. The law is not very clear as to how trees affect this right. It is complicated by the fact that trees grow over a period of years, and that most trees don’t have leaves for part of the year. There is no right to light in a ”pleasure” garden. If trees obscure a view then you have no right to that view. The same is true if trees are removed and reveal, say, a building or view you’d rather not see.
If your neighbour’s tree is causing problems, the first step is to talk to them. They may not even be aware of your concerns. Give them the chance to put things right and look for a solution everyone will be reasonably happy with. If, for example, you are worried about shading, it may be that the tree can be thinned rather than felled. GTF Tree care are happy to mediate with your neighbour on your behalf to achieve a mutually agreeable solution will almost certainly be preferable to a lengthy, costly and bitter legal battle.
What constitutes a Dangerous Tree?
Common law does not require tree owners to prune or maintain their trees – even if they are dangerous. It just places the liability on them should someone suffer damage if they fail to do so. As a dangerous tree could cause a lot of damage, prevention is better than allocating blame. GTF Tree Care and advice you on the best course of action for your dangerous tree, whether that be a complete fell or maybe a reduction to protect you, the public or property. Some points to look out for;
- Are there large dead branches in the tree?
- Are there detached branches hanging in the tree?
- Does the tree have cavities or rotten wood along the trunk or in major branches?
- Are there cracks or splits in the trunk or where branches are attached?
- Have any branches fallen from the tree?
- Have adjacent trees fallen over or died?
- Has the trunk developed a strong lean?
What is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)?
The law protects certain individual and groups of trees. Those trees that have Tree Preservations Orders (TPO’s) or are within conservation areas are protected under a range of legislation that makes it an offence to carry out any work on those trees without permission from the Local Authority. TPOs can be placed on any tree that has amenity value. Trees that are exempt from TPOs are those that are dead, dying, diseased or dangerous and fruit trees grown for the commercial production of fruit. TPOs can apply to any species and size of tree.TPOs prohibit the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage or wilful destruction of trees without the local authorities consent. The maximum penalty for carrying out works to TPO trees without consent is £20,000. It is an offence to wilfully damage or destroy, uproot, top lop or cut down a tree with a TPO.
If you have a TPO on your tree, there is no need to be concerned. GTF Tree Care will liaise directly with your local authority regarding the work needed and we will complete all the necessary application forms on your behalf.
Who owns the tree on my boundary?
Trees are the property of the owner of the land on which they grow. When it’s obvious where the tree is growing ownership can be assessed easily. However, if a tree is growing adjacent to or spanning boundaries ownership detection can be problematic. To find out who owns the tree you need to establish where the boundary line runs and on which side the tree first grew or was planted. Neither of these are easy to find out especially if the tree is mature. Your property deeds will sometimes say if a tree is on your land but otherwise you may have to come to an amicable agreement with your neighbour. Ultimately, if you are willing to take the matter far enough, a Court would decide for you. Another thing to remember is that all trees are owned by somebody. There is no such thing as “no man’s land” – all land and therefore all trees are owned by somebody.
What is a conservation area?
A conservation area is an ‘area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’ (Section 69 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990). A conservation area may be the historic centre of a town or village, an older unspoilt residential area, or an important country house in large landscaped grounds. The designation of a conservation area introduces special controls, including the requirement of consent from the Council to demolish any building or part of a building or to carry out works on unprotected trees. These restrictions aim to ensure that the special architectural and historic interest of an area is retained for the benefit of local residents, businesses, visitors and future generations. If your property falls within a conservation area and you have a tree that requires work, you will need to check with your local authority before you carry out any work. With your permission GTF Tree care can do this on your behalf.
What are the rights regarding trees overhanging your property?
It is not the responsibility of the tree owner to prevent their trees from overhanging an adjacent property. If branches do overhang your property then you have the right to cut off the branch without the owner’s permission ensuring the work is done to arboriculture standards and does not harm the tree. The branches can only be cut back as far as the boundary and you have no right to cross the boundary to do this. This could be classed as trespass. Any branches you cut off, as well as any fruit, remain the property of the tree owner. You should not use or dispose of the pruning’s or fruit without the owner’s permission. To do so could amount to theft or even criminal damage. However, it is not advisable to just throw the material back over the fence, you could be prosecuted for fly tipping with penalties of up to £50,000 and/or 12mth imprisonment. It is advisable to ask the owner if they require the branches back but if they do not then it is your responsibility to dispose of them. Roots which cross a boundary can be dealt with in the same way as branches but much more caution is needed. If the tree dies back or falls over as a result then the owner might have a claim.
When is the right time to have my trees pruned?
Most trees can be pruned at any time during the year. However, there are a few exceptions such as walnut trees which should only be pruned in full leaf (mid summer – early Autumn) and certain maples can be sensitive to pruning in the spring. The best way of determining time of pruning is to call us and ask.
Can you price tree works over the phone?
No, it is not possible to do this, due to the nature of tree work. Please use our form to contact us, e-mail us or give us a call for some initial advice and we will then carry out a free survey. There are many factors that we have to take into consideration when we price our work. The variables are often very different from job to job which is why it is so difficult to price a job over the phone. At GTF Tree Care will make every attempt to keep our prices competitive and aim to carry out site visit within 24 hours from your first point of contact. We offer a free no obligation written quote which is valid for – months.
Do you take all tree waste away with you and what happens to it?
We remove all tree waste created from your job. It is either chipped or logged into the rear of our vehicle as trees are cut. If you would prefer you can choose to keep your logs and we will be happy to cut them to size. Speak to us before we start your work. All our waste is taken to a local farm where the energy stored in the chippings, sawdust, bark and scrap wood is converted into electricity. This is called biomass fuelling. The electricity created heats the farmers pig pens which reduces the costs of raising livestock and in turn keeps our prices competitive. At GTF Tree care we are passionate about recycling our waste, nothing goes to landfill.
Do I need to be home when you carry out the work?
No, we are happy to carry out the work without the homeowner being present. We just need access to your garden.
Will you need to access my neighbour’s garden?
In 90% of cases we don’t need to access neighbours gardens. However, there are some cases where we do need to; if a tree is on or very close to a boundary or if debris has fallen into neighbouring properties. However, we would always get permission first.
Are you insured?
Yes we have £10 million public liability insurance. We are happy to show you our policy before we start work. We have been operating in this business for over 20 years and to date, we have never needed to make a claim on our insurance so you have peace of mind that your property is in safe hands.
Do you advise stump grinding after felling?
Yes we do where possible. Although often large and heavy, stumps can be removed very easily with the right equipment and technique. Tree stumps can be left in the ground after felling but this can lead to problems with suckering where new shoots arise from the trunk and roots. Completely dead stumps won’t form suckers, but they can play host to root diseases such as honey fungus aren’t worth leaving in and taking the risk. Alternatively you can choose to poison the stump; this prevents any regrowth in almost every case.