Duty of care
Trees like any living thing can become ill (through disease or infestations) or be injured (through cracking or physical damage).
Most trees will live for a long time and are perfectly healthy with little or no maintenance but others, depending upon their location, may need some attention from time to time.
If a tree is located on your land, you have a duty of care to make sure that your tree(s) are kept in a safe manner.
Things to look out for in an unsafe tree
Damage or injury
- Splits or cracks in the trunk or branches.
- Branches that are broken, hanging or that have dropped.
- Sections of bark damaged or stripped to show the wood beneath (remember that some trees such as Plane or Eucalyptus naturally shed their bark).
- Soil movement around the base of the tree in strong winds.
Ill health, disease or infestation
- Sections showing signs of rotting.
- Growth of fungi on the bark, wood or around the base of the tree.
- Sections of infestations showing holes and damaged material.
- Foliage dying back or going brown for no apparent reason on evergreen trees, or out of season for deciduous trees.
Common factors in tree damage or failure
Weather damage: Trees are sometimes damaged during storms and may be struck by lightning. They can be affected by heavy snowfall in winter and unseasonally strong winds in spring and summer. Therefore, it is good practice to check their structural condition after such events.
Ash dieback disease: Ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. More about the disease - including a video showing how to spot the symptoms - can be found on the Forestry Research website.
Tree pests and tree diseases: Some pests and diseases are notifiable. You can log a report using Tree Alert.
Various fungal diseases of trees: Further information regarding tree diseases and fungal diseases of trees can be found on the Forest Research website.
Choosing an arboricultural contractor/consultant
If you feel that your tree(s) may be unsafe then you should obtain advice from a qualified person. This person must have undertaken relevant arboricultural training that will allow them to identify any defects that may be present in your trees. A list of Chartered Arboriculturists and Chartered Foresters are available from the Institute of Chartered Foresters website.
Tree contractors must also hold appropriate insurance for the works that they are undertaking and you should ask to see this before instructing them to undertake works. If you require further information about choosing an appropriate contractor, contact the Arboricultural Association for a list of approved contractors or consultants.
Who to contact about a dangerous tree
There are a number of different organisations that deal with tree issues.
See the table below to help point you to the appropriate organisation for a range of circumstances.
|Location of tree||Contact|
|Trees fallen onto your property, causing damage or blocking access in or to your property||Contact emergency services for help, if necessary. Contact your own mortgage provider and / or insurer for advice in the first instance.|
|Problems with trees on private property||Contact owner of tree. If this is not known, a Land Registry search may be required.|
|Problems with trees on county council-maintained properties or offices, including schools||Contact the facilities manager. Most properties are under local management.|
|Fallen trees on public highways||Contact our Highways Team and contact the emergency services for additional help, if necessary.|
|Trees on, near or affecting county roads, road verges and surfaced public rights of way.||Contact our Highways Team.|
|Trees on, near or affecting un-surfaced public rights of way.||Contact the Countryside Access Team.|
|Trees on other public property.||Contact head of establishment in the first instance.|
|Trees in public parks or other public open spaces||These are normally be managed by the relevant city, town, parish or district councils. Signs in parks usually indicate who is responsible. Contact the relevant council as appropriate.|
|Trees on other public open spaces.||Contact district council tree officer (unless local signs indicate otherwise).|