Trees and your property

 

My neighbour's trees encroach over my boundary, can I cut them back?
Your Common Law rights allow you to remove branches overhanging your property back to the boundary without the need to seek your neighbour's permission. Notifying your neighbour of your intentions is always advisable but not required by law. However, you must not cross the boundary to do so; even leaning a ladder over the boundary to rest against the trunk of the tree could be considered as trespassing. Any branches you remove from a neighbour's tree remain the property of the owner of the tree. You should not simply dispose of them over your fence into your neighbour's garden, but instead you must offer them to your neighbour and/or seek permission from your neighbour to dispose of them yourself. If the owner of the tree does not want them or fails to respond to your request to dispose of them within a reasonable time, then it will be your responsibility to dispose of them.

If a tree is protected by a TPO, or is located within a Conservation Area, you must first seek formal consent from/give written notice to the Council before undertaking work to any living parts of the tree. Find out more

My neighbour's trees are blocking my light, what can I do?
Technically your neighbour only has a duty to ensure their trees are safe. There is currently no restriction on the height to which trees may be allowed to grow. The owner of a property cannot be forced to prune a tree that is not unsafe. If you have concerns regarding a tree, ask your neighbour how they intend to maintain it and discuss with them any issues that you may have. You may be able to cut the overhanging branches back to the boundary as discussed above but this may not necessarily create the desired effect. To include some informed opinion in these discussions it is always advisable to employ an approved contractor or consultant. It is however the Council's policy not to recommend individuals or companies. The best place to start is with the Arboricultural Association, who keep a list of approved consultants and contractors. You may also wish to speak to any friends or neighbours who have used a consultant or contractor recently, to find out about their experience.

However, before either you or your neighbour undertakes works to any trees it is essential to check the trees are not covered by a TPO, or located within a Conservation Area otherwise consent/prior written notice must be sought/given. Find out more

My neighbours have a high hedge, what can I do about it?
The high hedges legislation applies to rows of two or more evergreen trees planted as a hedge, which is over 2m high and acts as a barrier to light. The legislation provides for those who feel that a neighbour's hedge is hindering the reasonable enjoyment of their property.

In each case, residents are encouraged to resolve the dispute civilly between themselves and the Council will usually only get involved if it can be proven that there has been a dialogue between the parties.

Further information is available on the Council's website under High hedges

What should I do if I am concerned about the safety of a neighbour's tree?
You are advised to raise your concerns with the owner of the tree as soon as possible. Your neighbour may not have noticed the matters which are giving you concern and indeed may be prepared to take action to resolve it. If it is not clear who the owner of the property is then it may be necessary to contact HM Land Registry to do a search to establish who the owner is. If the trees are by the road side they are probably the responsibility of the Highways Department at the County Council. You are advised to contact them directly by phone on 0845 2302882 or by email at TfB@buckscc.gov.uk

In extreme cases, where you consider that the tree is in such condition that it is likely to cause imminent damage to persons or property then you are advised to contact Planning Administration  by phone on 01895 837210 or 01895 837342 or by email at planning@southbucks.gov.uk, sending photographs if at all possible. The Council's Arboriculturist will then inspect the tree and assess the potential risk it poses. If it is found that there is a very significant risk of the tree causing significant harm then the Council may deal with the tree or instruct the owners to do so under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

I have a big tree near my property, I am worried about the damage the roots may be doing to my house, what should I do?
There are two ways by which tree roots may potentially cause damage to built structures:

  • Direct damage - This is when the physical expansion of tree roots in direct contact with a structure lift paving stones, cracks walls, etc. Only smaller structures such as outbuildings and garden walls are at risk from this form of damage. Due to the physical weight of a house no amount of root expansion will affect it.
  • Indirect damage - Large built structures including houses which are sited on shrinkable clay soils can be affected by a tree removing moisture from the soil. Some clay soils shrink as water is extracted from it and this can lead to subsidence. The risk of such damage may be greater with older properties. Modern building standards mean that the risk to newer buildings is less.

South Bucks has a low incidence of clay soil and the risk of tree-related subsidence is considered to be low. However, direct damage to shallow footed structures may occur whatever the soil type.

If you believe your property has sustained subsidence damage, the presence of trees in the vicinity does not necessarily mean that they are to blame. You are advised to seek the services of Arboricultural Consultants and Structural Engineers to establish the cause of the damage before it is repaired. If protected trees are implicated in the damage you will be required to submit an application proving that the trees are the cause of the damage before consent will be granted for their removal. The level of evidence required to prove a tree is the cause of subsidence damage would include details of:

  • Identification of roots found under/adjacent to the buildings foundations;
  • Soil sampling, including information on the Plasticity Index (PI) of the soil;
  • Possible Heave potential;
  • Foundation types, depth, design;
  • Age of property;
  • History of any additions or renovations to the building;
  • History of any relevant claims;
  • Details of crack monitoring;
  • Details of level monitoring;
  • Drainage surveys;
  • Details of any other significant vegetation;
  • History of vegetation management.

The tree roots are blocking my drains, what can I do?
It is unusual for roots to physically break drains and associated pipe work. However, tree roots are opportunistic and if an old pipe with poor joints is leaking into the surrounding soil this will attract the roots, which may then exploit the existing weakness. The proliferation of a tree's roots, exploiting the favourable conditions often leads to the tree being blamed for the original damage. The repair and/or replacement of faulty drains/pipes with modern materials will usually eliminate the blockage and prevent the problem from recurring whilst allowing the retention of the tree.

A tree is lifting paving slabs/affecting my drive - can I cut the roots of a protected tree?
If a tree is covered by a TPO, or if it stands in a Conservation Area, an application/ written Notice will be required before root pruning can take place. Find out more Cutting the roots of any tree is generally ill-advised as it may affect the tree's health and stability. You are also advised to contact an Arboricultural Consultant if proposing to cut any roots greater than 25mm in diameter to ascertain the likely consequences.

Are there any controls on the type of tree I can plant in my garden?
No, there are no controls on the type or number of tree(s) that can be planted in your garden. However, a number of points are worth considering.

  • How much space is available? Consider the size of the mature tree - it is always best to ensure there is space to accommodate the mature tree.
  • Are there any overhead wires or obstructions? 
  • In what position is the tree in comparison to the property? A new tree to the south or west may block afternoon or evening sun, whereas a tree to the north will not restrict direct light from entering the building.

The tree(s) about which I am concerned are not in my neighbour's property but by the road side, who is responsible for them?
In South Bucks District, the District Council itself has very few of its own trees; all highway trees are the responsibility of the Highways Department at the County Council. You are advised to contact the Highways Department directly by phone on 0845 2302882 or by email on TfB@buckscc.gov.uk