Trees believed to be dangerous

    I believe that a tree is dangerous. What can I do?

    Before taking any action you would be advised to contact a specialist tree consultant or contractor.

    Do I need Council permission to cut down a dangerous tree that I own?

    In law you do not need the permission of the Local Planning Authority to cut down a tree that is dead, dying or dangerous. However anyone proposing to cut down a tree included in a Tree Preservation Order or in a Conservation Area because of these reasons is strongly advised to give the Local Planning Authority five days written (or e-mail) notice before carrying out the work, except in an absolute emergency.

    If work is carried out to a protected tree because of these reasons, the owner or agent must be able to prove that the tree was dead, dying or dangerous and, if it came to a prosecution case, to prove this in court. This can be using photographs, keeping sections of decayed wood, and any other relevant evidence.

    Commonly expressed concerns and general advice.

    The tree is too tall, too big, it has a broad crown:
    A tall tree and/or a broad spreading crown does not, of itself, make it a dangerous tree. Trees will grow depending on their type and on the presence of external influences such as adjacent structures, natural competition from other trees, soil type and fertility or microclimate.

    The tree sways when it is windy:
    A tree swaying in the wind does not, of itself, make it a dangerous tree. Trees will naturally bend and sway in the wind, as the pliability in the branches is a natural mechanism that helps prevent fracture.

    The tree has a lean:
    A tree that has grown with a lean does not, of itself, make it a dangerous tree. The tree develops fatter growth rings on one side to make it stable. There is likely be a problem, however, if a previously vertical tree suddenly develops a lean.

    The tree is hollow:
    Some hollow trees may have so little healthy tissue surrounding the hollow area that they must be regarded as dangerous, but this is by no means the norm. Trees do not become hollow overnight - it can take decades - and while the centre of the tree (the heartwood) may be decaying, the tree continues to lay down healthy wood (sapwood) around the outside of its trunk. This results in the formation of a cylinder, the strength of which depends upon the percentage of healthy to unhealthy tissue. Inspection by an expert is recommended.

    How does a dangerous tree differ from a defective tree?

    Most trees have defects, but the vast majority do not render a tree dangerous. Defects may include minor dead wood where squirrels have stripped bark or minor decay pockets where bark has been damaged and the tree has suffered bacterial or fungal infection. It is the type and extent of the defect that is important in determining whether or not a tree is dangerous.

    What should I do if I believe that a tree on land adjoining a highway (road or footpath) is dangerous?

    We advise that you contact the County Council as Highway Authority on 0300 111 8000.

    What should I do if I believe that a tree on land neighbouring my property is dangerous?

    Once you are sure of your facts we suggest that you should notify your neighbour of your concerns by first speaking to them and then following this up in writing (we suggest that you keep a copy of the letter) and ask that he/she address the problem. If he/she does not take appropriate action and damage occurs from negligence then you (or possibly your insurer if you make an insurance claim) may be able to take  action against the tree owner. You may wish seek your own legal/insurance advice in such cases..

    Note:- You should be aware that the Borough Council does not have responsibility for trees which it does not own, has no legal obligation to take action and is not liable for damage caused by trees in others' ownership.

    Other advice

    We publish advice on a range of matters including through Frequently Asked Questions on the following topics:-

    All information contained on this and other pages relating to trees is written for the benefit of tree owners, the general public and amenity groups and answers some of the most common questions relating to trees. It is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligations.

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