Whose tree is it anyway?

Whose tree is it anyway?

September 14, 2015

Trees need a bit of attention from time to time, and there are tens of thousands of them in our area – in your garden, your road, or in your local park.

Did you know Ealing Council is responsible for managing around 27,000 trees on residential streets, and more than 50,000 trees in parks and open spaces around the borough?
The council manages its street trees by carrying out inspections in each of the borough’s 23 electoral wards every three years to check the tree’s health and condition, and identify any work required.
But what about trees on private land? There are rules around what you can do with these – some of them will be protected by law. If you make a rash decision and harm the wrong tree you could be liable to a fine of up to £20,000 or, in serious cases, an unlimited fine.
Conservation areas

Trees and shrubs in a conservation area with a diameter of more than 75mm are automatically protected. You can check if you live in a conservation area.

If you want to carry out any work on it, even just pruning it, you would have to notify the council’s planning services at least six weeks before, to get permission. You can contact the planning team directly (020 8825 6600 or or use an online application form via the Planning Portal.
Tree preservation orders

Some trees on private land are subject to an order made by the council, giving them legal protection. You can see a list. These cannot be cut, trimmed or damaged without the council’s permission. You must apply to carry out works to such a tree – a tree officer may come to inspect it before any decision is made. You can apply online via the Planning Portal.

Overhanging vegetation

Residents are responsible for maintaining trees, hedges and shrubs within their own property next to roads and pavements. You have to make sure it does not cause an obstruction or block sight-lines for traffic.

If the council finds overhanging vegetation obstructing the highway it can issue an enforcement order demanding that it is dealt with within 14 days. A list of approved tree surgeons and other contractors can be found on the Arboricultural Association website.
However, there is no legal obligation on the landowner to prune or reduce foliage from vegetation on their property if it overhangs a neighbour’s property. There is no ‘right-to-light’ or ‘right to a view’ in relation to trees. Although, if overhanging vegetation is causing damage it can be deemed a legal nuisance.
If you are affected by overhanging trees or bushes you do have a legal right to prune to the boundary of your property only. But you must ensure the tree is not protected by planning legislation and discuss your intentions with the tree owner prior to undertaking the work. Even then you should proceed with caution because if things go wrong you could potentially be found legally liable for serious damage to the plants, or for trespass if you go beyond your boundary. Find out more.
Tree planting

The council aims to plant 500-600 new trees a year. Planting takes place between October and March each year, usually in locations where trees have previously been removed. The location may have been left ‘fallow’ for a number of years before replanting takes place. This is to allow previous rooting material to rot down.

Work to replace previously existing trees may take place without residents receiving notification. If you have a reasoned objection you can make it online.
Tree wardens

As we reported recently, the council has set up a tree warden scheme, so you can volunteer to care for the street tree outside your home.

More information

For more detailed information on all of the above, and more, visit the trees pages on the council website.