How to get the council to cut down trees. Find out here

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How to get the council to cut down trees

Did you know that the local Council is in control of all trees on public land as well as private land and so that includes your garden? Trees have top priority status when it comes to protection which is why they feature so prominently in planning applications and are also protected by TPOs or Tree Preservation Orders. By law, a local council is required to manage and undertake work to any tree which constitutes a statutory nuisance and all councils will have a programme of inspection and tree maintenance works to not only protect local residents but to preserve and maintain a healthy tree population.

The UK is full of trees and each local council will have a dedicated section usually attached to the planning department which handles enquiries, problems and disputes surrounding trees. There will also be an active team looking after and managing all the trees on public land in your local area.

There are three main occasions when the local Council will become involved in cutting back trees and these scenarios are:-

  • Resolving a dispute between two neighbours over a tree which could be overgrown and overhanging the garden of another property; in this instance, the Council won’t actually cut the trees but will arbitrate between the parties who are in dispute to try and reach an acceptable compromise
  • Trees on land belonging to the local council which may have become diseased or dangerous and which the council will lop, prune or remove
  • Trees on public land which are causing a nuisance or are a danger

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Council Owned Land

It is possible to contact the local Council and ask them to cut back trees which are on land that they own and which are becoming dangerous. Your request might be that the tree is pruned or that it is cut down in its entirety.


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Public Land

If branches from a council-owned tree are overhanging your land, you are allowed to cut them back to the boundary but no further and you should dispose of the cuttings yourself. If the tree is located on land which is in a conservation area then you will need to speak to the council first. A householder may want a tree cut that is on public land because it is adjacent to and interfering with his property. Here are some of the usual reasons for this request to the local council:-

  • It overhangs the property
  • There is excessive leaf drop or fallen fruit like berries
  • The canopy is shading solar panels on the house which are being used to generate green energy
  • The tree is casting excess shade or shadow over the garden or into the property
  • The root structure is invasive and has grown through drain runs causing blockages or structural damage

Each council differs in how they process an application or formal request to have a tree cut. Usually, the council will employ a qualified arborist to inspect the site and the tree and ask for their professional view based on their inspection and the complaints about the tree. The default position is always to try and retain the tree if at all possible.

Trees in domestic gardens and on private land

The council is not involved in felling trees on private land and so the cost of this will fall to the property owner or householder. The council is involved to the extent that there may be restrictions imposed on whether or not the tree can be cut and if so, how. A local council can also help resolve disputes usually involving boundaries and trees or hedges which are affecting a neighbouring property in some way. The council can act as an arbitrator although there is commonly a fee of several hundred pounds for this service, designed to encourage people to manage issues between themselves if at all possible.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are there particular species of tree which are normally the subject of a Tree Preservation Order?

People often think that TPOs are aimed at certain types or age of tree but this is not the case; any species of tree can be the subject of a TPO and TPOs are often made on very young trees which have been planted alongside new roads or on developments, to ensure they grow to reach maturity.

If I have to pay to have a tree cut, how much will it cost?

It all depends on whether the tree is being pruned, lopped or felled in its entirety. The price will vary depending on the height of the tree and how much work needs doing to it. A professional tree surgeon or a team of men could cost anywhere from several hundred pounds to a few thousand. Read more about hedge cutting prices.

Is the council responsible for trees on public land which are interfering with overhead cables?

Any disruption to cabling by tree branches will usually be managed by UK Power Networks who look after the infrastructure of power lines around the UK; this is distinct from your local power supplier with whom you have a contract for the provision of energy. Branch growth can interfere with power supplies and there are often problems during winter storms and high winds. UK Power Networks will come out and switch off the power and safely remove overhanging branches and foliage which may be interfering with the lines. The council will usually manage the liaison between their tree team and UK Power Networks but you can report the problem to them if it is disrupting the supply of energy to your property.

Will the council cut a tree as professionally as a private contractor?

Because each council has so many trees to manage, they will employ their own teams often sub-contracted to manage the maintenance programme and also urgent or emergencies as they arise. These could well be the tree surgeons you might hire yourself to help you manage a tree in your own garden.

For more information on council tree maintenance, see these articles from Bromley and Kent County Councils.

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