I have a for several years been requesting of the Parish Council that a huge sycamore tree on PC land, but overhanging and totally dominating my property be removed and, if required, replaced with something more appropriate for a housing estate. The tree means we cannot park on our own drive during the summer months without our cars being covered in insect fallout as within two days they are so sticky the windows will not open. The house is also covered in the same way and roots and suckers dominate our front and rear garden. Branches are now so low that delivery vans trying to access two adjoining houses have to park and walk, to say nothing of the obvious danger if a fire engine was ever required. I feel there must also be an adverse impact on the health of myself my wife and our children and a significant loss of light. The last time I raised this at the PC meeting I was told by a Councillor that if I didn't like trees, I should move!! I intend to speak at the next PC meeting and any advice would be much appreciated. Regards XXXXX XXXXX
Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
May I ask if the tree has any form of tree preservation order attached to it please?
I understand from a nieghbour that the PC are saying that the tree did have a TPO on it but this was removed 2 years ago, but dont know why this would have been?
Thanks. The first step would be to ascertain if the tree is protected or not. you can do this by contacting your local council's tree officer who will be able to confirm. Many councils also publish this information on interactive maps. If there is a TPO in place then permission would be required from the local authority to carry out any work whetehr the PC was willing or not.
Providing there is no TPO in place you are able to cut back any branches that overhand your property without the permission of the PC providing you return any material to their land. The same is true of the roots though if cutting the roots back would cause the tree permanent damage or make it dangerous, this should be agreed with the PC first.
The PC is potentially liable for any root damage the tree is causing to your property.
Case law has shown that leaves and other "bits" that fall from trees does not amount to a legal nuisance. In addition it is not generally possible to claim that a tree is an infringement of your right to light except in respect of future growth - e.g. if the tree were to grow higher.
I am aware of my right to cut back overhanging branches, but in reality this is not really an option due to the height, size and weight of these branches and would certainly need to be done by a professional. The report from a tree surgeon comissioned by the PC last time was that this would also leave the tree un-balanced.
Cutting back overhanging branches is likely to improve the position and if the roots are causing damage serviing notice on the PC advising that you require them to remove roots and reserving your right to make a claim for damage caused to your property may persuade them into action if they realise that the tree is going to start costing them real money in terms of maintenance and damage.
You can look to claim the costs of professional removal of the overhanging branches providing they have not been overhanging for more than 20 years because they amount to a trespass.
You can in the same way as roots serve notice on the PC that the overhang and roots amount to a trespass and you are obtaining quotes for their removal and will look to them for the cost of the same
At the same time you can consider continuing negotiations to remove the tree and replace it which unfortunately is not a legal right however a combination of claiming costs for removal of overhang as above and consideration to contributing towards the cost of removal if this is possible can be enough to persuade landowners into action though parish councils can be awkward bodies to deal with.
Is there anything above I can clarify for you?
Unfortunately you have not really given me any 'angle' that I was not already aware of, but maybe that's because there isn't one!
How can I save and print off my question and your answers?
Unfortunately trees as opposed to evergreen shrubs which are provided for under the Anti Social Behaviour Act are very difficult in that there is no absolute or qualified right to demand their removal or even reduction in height unless you can show that the tree is dangerous. This is what leads some people to extreme vigilante action such as poisoning trees and so on which is unlawful.
If you can demonstrate that the tree was a danger this would be a conclusive approach to take however if it is causing nuisance as opposed to actual danger, unfortunately case law has shown that "droppings" are not a nuisance or trespass and ones rights are limited to removing overhang and roots and looking to the owner for costs and seeking to restrict further growth if it causes loss of light which you can prove you have enjoyed for 20 years or more by way of an injunction.
If I can assist any further as the situation develops please do no hesitate to let me know. Would you like me to ask customer services to email you a copy of the above?
yes please, along with my question.
Certainly. I am sorry I have not been able to give you a silver bullet. I hope that you may be able to exploit some of the limited approaches you have available to seek better cooperation from the council.
Certainly I will ask them to do so. If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me and this will save the thread. If there is anything else I can help with though please reply back to me though.
Further to previous correspondence and in anticipation of PC meeting next week, please can you clarify.
The tree trunk sits on land just outside of my boundary on PC land, but therefore half of the tree canopy and roots extend above and below my property.
You say that I can cut these back to the boundary without permission (and return arisings to their land).
In effect, this will leave them with 'half a tree'. Please confirm that I am entitled to do this.