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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10728
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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Our neighbours' trees are 80 - 90 feet high, sloping

Customer Question

Our neighbours' trees are 80 - 90 feet high, sloping downwards towards us, and exposed to severe and frequent easterly gales. We are in their direct line when they eventually fall. We are afraid to sleep in our bedroom as the trees are only 30 - 40 feet from our house - so we sleep in our armchairs when easterly gales are forecast.
The tree owner says they are healthy trees. We argue the gales can still bring them down. We have notified the owners, the parish council, the county council / tree preservation officer, our MP...all say it is a civil matter.
We are in our 80s and partially disabled/ heart problems etc. We want the height of these trees to be reduced by 50% so that if/when they fall they will not kill us. What action can be taken on safety grounds and binding on the tree owners ?
Mary Hunkin
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

Hello - are these evergreen trees? fir type?

how long have you been in your property and how long your neighbours?

what reason do you suspect for their reluctance to reduce the heights?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Dear Mr. Smith
Four trees are elms/deciduous, and the rest norway spruce. We have lived here 18 years and the tree owners much longer than that - we believe from the 1960s. The owner is a widow/elderly and quote :" I want to turn the copse into a nature reserve" . There may also be an issue of money to finance a tree surgeon but this is probably unlikely. The lady is interested in nature / environment issues. We suspect she may have a mild form of dementia - if this develops, who takes responsibility for the situation ?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

This is a very common question. A person cannot make an adjoining property owner cut the trees per se but please see my later comments about trespass and nuisance.

Consent is needed to trim deciduous trees which are protected by a Tree Preservation Order and a licence may be needed to fell trees which are not protected by a TPO.

Evergreens cannot usually have a TPO.

Regarding evergreens, a complaint can be made to the council and they will deal with them under the nuisance tree legislation but only with regard to the height. They want £300 fee to start the process and if they find that the trees are a nuisance, they can compel a tree owner to cut them down to 2 m high.

With regard to branches and roots growing boundary,(evergreen or deciduous) these are nuisance and trespass. The overhanging pieces can be chopped off as can roots growing underground but they do not belong to anyone other than the tree owner, so the pieces should be given back although if they are unceremoniously dumped over their hedge without warning, it is not good for already fraught neighbour relations.

If you are not capable of doing this yourself or do not want to do it yourself, you can charge the neighbour for the cost of doing the work provided you give the neighbour noticed that if they don’t trim it, you will have to get someone in to do it.

You are not allowed to kill the tree or cut the routes back so far that you destabilise it.

The following are links will give you some reading with regard to high hedges and nuisance trees. Don't worry about where the sites are geographically because the rules apply nationwide.

http://www.richmond.gov.uk/home/environment/planning/high_hedges/high_hedges_frequently_asked_questions.htm

http://www.tameside.gov.uk/planning/highhedges

http://www.gardenlaw.co.uk/trees.html

To get the height of the trees reduced if the trees are deciduous, you are going to need some evidence from Ann Arbor culture wrist or tree surgeon which confirms that although the trees may be healthy (we are assuming they are) they need considerable maintenance and potentially felling as they could be dangerous in a gale.

However if even the threat of court proceedings for a civil injunction to get the trees cut down fails to have an effect on the neighbour, you cannot beat her with a stick until such time as she capitulates and allows the trees to be cut down or orders them to be cut down and your only remedy is then to take them to court.

If she has no mental capacity, she doesn’t escape liability because she will still have assets that could be used to pay for any litigation or damage.

What you may find is cheaper is to offer to pay all or part of the cost of reducing the height of the trees although if she is a naturalist/environmental enthusiast, she may think that the bigger the trees, the better. That is of course until such time as it falls down, causes damage and she loses everything she has to pay for the cost of the damage.

To avoid her claiming that the trees could not be reasonably foreseen to fall down, you need that specialist report to confirm that this is reasonably foreseeable and to put her on notice of the same.

Apart from any evergreen trees which the local authority can deal with, the deciduous trees are indeed a civil issue.

Check your house insurance to see if you have legal expenses cover that would cover the cost of the litigation.

I know this doesn’t give you a magic answer to the problem and the reason is quite simply that there is not one. The question is surprisingly common.

Can I clarify anything else for you?

I’m happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

Please take a moment to look at the top right hand corner of the page and rate my service by clicking one of the stars at the top of the screen. It’s important you use the rating service because that gives me credit. It doesn’t just give me a pat on the head! (Although there is an incentive scheme where the more five-star ratings I get, I do actually get a pat on the head! :-)) All you need to do is press Submit. Thank you.

If you still need any point clarifying, I will still reply because the thread does not close.

Best wishes.

FES.