Trees add immeasurably to our quality of life and contribute multiple benefits to the urban environment, where so many of us live and work. However, they have some characteristics that can often be viewed as an inconvenience and occasionally give rise to more serious concerns about enjoying our property. Such circumstances can give rise to disputes where the tree concerned is not in the ownership of the person affected.
Your common law rights allow you to remove branches that cross over your boundary without the need to seek your neighbour's permission. However, it is always advisable to let your neighbour know of your intentions before cutting any branches. When you prune back trees from neighbouring land you must not cross the boundary or enter the land to do so. For example, leaning a ladder over the boundary to rest against the trunk of the tree could be classed as trespass. You should not dispose of the branches or any other waste material from the tree over your fence into your neighbour's garden but first ask your neighbour if they wish the material returned to them. If they don't want it, it will be your responsibility to dispose of it. If a tree is protected by a TPO or is in a conservation order, the common law right is removed and you will need to seek formal permission from us before undertaking work to living parts of the tree.
Technically your neighbour only has a duty to ensure their trees are maintained in a sound and healthy condition to minimise risks to people and property affected by them. There is no restriction governing the height to which trees are allowed to grow. If you have concerns about a tree ask your neighbour how they intend to maintain it: you may be able to cut the overhanging branches back to the boundary. However, before either you or your neighbour undertake work to any tree it is important to check they are not covered by a TPO or in a conservation order. For more information, contact us on 01329 236100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The high hedges legislation was introduced on 1 June 2005 under part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and applies to evergreen and semi-evergreen hedges of over 2m in height. The legislation provides for people who feel a neighbour's hedge is hindering reasonable enjoyment of their property to the extent that they submit a formal complaint to us. We will investigate the matter and may, if appropriate, serve a notice on the hedge owner requiring them to reduce the hedge in height. The fee for dealing with a high hedges complaint at Fareham Borough Council is £150. In most cases, it is possible for neighbours to agree on a course of action between them without a formal complaint. This is certainly a preferred approach for everyone.
Further guidance can be found in this document produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister – High hedges: complaining to the Council .
Tree roots may potentially cause damage to built structures in two ways:
Direct damage - damage can be caused by tree branches moving in the wind. This type of damage is generally minor – dislodged roof tiles or possibly broken windows. The remedy is usually a straightforward matter of keeping the tree cut back from the building. Damage can also happen when a tree is in constant physical contact with a building or structure by the gradual growth of the tree pushing against it. The most common manifestation of this type of damage is lifting of flagstones and tarmac by tree roots. Fences and walls can also be damaged. Damage cannot be caused to substantial buildings in this way because forces involved are not strong enough. The greatest risk of direct damage is close to the tree from the incremental growth of the main stem and secondary thickening of the roots and diminishes rapidly with distance.
Indirect damage - forces involved where trees cause subsidence by water abstraction are much greater and there can be significant damage to buildings. This damage only occurs on clay soils. When water is removed from clay the spaces between the soil particles close and the material shrinks. This affects support for building foundations. Whether a building is affected by a tree in this way is impossible to predict. It depends on the interactions between a number of factors, including shrinkability of the soil, the construction and depth of foundations, the size, species, vigour and rooting pattern of the tree, effects of other vegetation and any surface treatment, drainage and local weather conditions. Some trees can cause subsidence damage to buildings at considerable distance, while others can grow very close without causing any damage. Current building standards require that the presence of trees is taken into consideration when specifying foundations for new buildings and foundations can be specified that will not subside. Sometimes structural problems are caused when buildings are constructed on ground already dried by tree root action if the tree is removed and the soil consequently re-wets and swells. This is the converse of tree-related subsidence, and is known as heave. It is not a common phenomenon, and it does not occur where the building is older than the tree.
It is very unusual for roots to physically break drains and pipe work. However, tree roots are opportunistic and if an old pipe with poor joints is leaking into the surrounding soil this will attract the roots that may then exploit the existing weakness. When repairs are required, a proliferation of tree roots often leads to blame being placed with a nearby tree. However replacement of faulty drains/pipes with modern materials will usually eliminate the leak and stop problems from reoccurring.
Cutting the roots of any tree is generally ill-advised as it may affect the tree's health and stability. If a tree is covered by a TPO or if it is in a conservation area you will need to make an application to us before root pruning can take place.
There are no controls on the type of tree that can be planted in your garden. However, there are a number of points are worth considering.
This webpage is a reasonable summary of the legislation affecting protected trees but the information given is brief, limited and offered for guidance only.