Common tree issues | Oxfordshire County Council

Common tree issues

How to deal with damaged or cut down trees, cutting and pruning and tall conifer hedges.

A damaged tree

Trees damaged or cut down

There are a number of different organisations who deal with tree issues.

See the table below to help point you to the appropriate organisation for a range of circumstances and you can then use our list of tree contacts (pdf format, 15 KB) to get in touch.

Tree felling, pruning in questionable circumstances

Location of tree Contact
Trees in towns, villages or private gardens Contact your district council's tree officer.
Trees in woodlands Contact the Forestry Commision.
Hedges in open countryside. Contact your district council's tree officer.

Trees being damaged by construction work, etc

Issue Contact
General Contact your district council's tree officer.
Trees on construction sites Contact your district council's tree officer.
Trees on county council construction sites Contact Principal Planning & Development Officer and Arboricultural Manager
If trees are rendered dangerous by works Contact the appropriate person (above) and the Health and Safety Executive

There are a number of different organisations who deal with tree issues, and unfortunately no central point of contact. These lists of common tree issues and frequently asked questions point you to the appropriate organisation for a range of circumstances and you can then use our list of tree contacts (pdf format, 15 KB) to get in touch with them.

Cutting or pruning a tree

Advice about permission for pruning trees and protected trees.

Do I need permission?

Yes, if the tree:

  • is one of a number of trees to be felled in the same calendar quarter and the total volume of timber exceeds two cubic metres - a felling licence may be required from the Forestry Commission - see contact details below
  • is covered by a Tree Preservation Order - permission from the district council - contact details below
  • is within a designated Conservation Area - permission from the District Council - See contact details below
  • is on a rented property - permission from the landlord
  • is protected by a legal covenant - permission from the person(s) benefiting from the covenant
  • is within a property, which is part of a relatively new development (up to five years), and may be covered by conditions on the original planning permission.

For further advice on choosing a suitable contractor you can download the industry publication Tree Work, Choosing your Arborist (pdf format, 3.2 MB).

Pruning a protected tree

How to get permission

Applications to fell or prune a protected tree must be made in writing to your district council explaining which tree will be affected, what work you propose to do and why. There may be a special application form to complete. Contact your District Council Tree Officer, using the details below, for advice.

Any permission from your district council will state that the work must be carried out in accordance with British Standard 3998.

Carrying out the work is the responsibility of the applicant.

Who you can get to do it

We cannot recommend suitable contractors because of competition rules, but your district council may have a list of approved contractors. You can find their contact details in the document below.

Tree work contractors advertise in, local newspapers, trade directories, etc.

Advice

Collect several competitive tenders and ask about qualifications, membership of trade associations (eg Arboricultural Association, International Society of Arboriculture) and references from previous jobs. Ask to see similar work they have done locally.

Good contractors should be asking you about Tree Preservation Orders, Conservation Areas and other restrictions - and will usually make the necessary applications for you.

Builders felling or pruning trees

On a nearby building site, the builders are felling / pruning trees, is this permitted?

The development should have planning permission and the issue of trees, their retention, felling, pruning, and replacement, are part of the planning process.

Planning permission may override other legal protection of trees, where this is essential to carry out the proposed development. To check contact the development control planner for the area, at your district council or your district council tree officer, using the details below.

Who to contact

Problem with a neighbour's tree

My neighbours are cutting down/pruning a tree in their garden, do they have permission?

Your neighbour will need written permission in the circumstances set out in "Cutting or Pruning Trees".  If the tree(s) is/are not protected then no permission is required, unless:

  • the tree is on a joint boundary or the workmen require access to an adjoining property to carry out the job, then the permission of the other party is required with respect to civil law; or
  • the tree is so large and mature that the work, particularly felling, poses potential dangers to property and land and therefore would require clearance and guidance under Health and Safety Regulations

Contact your district council tree officer, using the details below, to check or to report possible illegal work.

It has overhanging branches and is blocking light, what can I do?

Subject to the trees not being protected, Common Law generally allows you to remove any overhanging branches that overhang your property back to the actual boundary line, but not beyond. This can technically be done without informing or gaining permission from the neighbour, but it is always much better to at least inform them.

Technically the wood removed is owned by the owner of the tree. Therefore it should be offered or returned to the owner.

If the tree(s) is /are protected by any of the means listed above then the appropriate permission will need to be obtained.

Alleged blocking of light to the house or garden is a separate situation, there are complex legal issues involved and only rarely will the law provide a remedy. If an amicable discussion with your neighbour does not resolve the matter then you may need to consult a solicitor – but bear in mind that this can be expensive.

Who to contact

Tree causing subsidence

When you suspect a tree is damaging your property.

Causes of subsidence

Just because a tree is nearby, it does not necessarily follow that it is the cause of damage to your property. There are many other reasons why property might be damaged.

Trees can cause both direct (contact) and indirect (subsidence) damage to built structures. Direct damage can normally be rectified fairly easily but indirect damage is often a lengthy and costly process.

For subsidence to occur several factors must be present:

  • tree roots within the vicinity of the built structures foundations
  • a shrinkable clay soil and a moisture deficit within the soil.

Trees may not be the only cause of the damage and other issues such a leaking drains must be looked into as they can effectively wash the soil from under the foundations giving a similar appearance of a downward rotational movement that is typically associated with vegetation related damage.

What should I do?

  • Obtain professional advice as soon as you notice any damage to a structure.
  • As a general rule, you should contact your house insurer and /or your mortgage provider as soon as you notice a structural problem with your home.
  • The insurers will normally investigate the matter, its probable cause and will deal with any legal issues arising.
  • If you are a tenant, you should advise your landlord immediately you notice or suspect there is a problem. If you are not insured, it will be your responsibility to prove that your neighbour's tree(s) caused the problem, if you wish to recover the costs.
  • You will need a qualified structural surveyor, to establish the cause of the problem a solicitor and a competent arboriculturist to deal with your claim.

Who to contact

Leylandii and overgrown conifer hedges

The law

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, Section 8, provides remedies for some problems with conifer hedges.

The law will be enforced by your district council and you should contact them for advice (see the document below for contact details).

You can download the government publication High hedges: complaining to the Council (pdf format, 407 KB) if you need further information.

Who to contact

Last reviewed
15 February 2015
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