Trees

Trees - common law rights

The following relates to common laws regarding trees only.

Under common law, a person may cut back any branch (or root) from a neighbour’s tree that overhangs or encroaches onto their property. In cutting back any overhanging branches (or encroaching roots) the following must be observed:

  • you must not trespass onto the land on which the trees are growing

  • branches or roots must not be cut back beyond the boundary in anticipation of them overhanging

  • any branches, fruit or roots that are removed must be carefully returned to the tree owner unless they agree otherwise

  • all work must be carried out carefully. For example you should avoid damaging property or carrying out work that would leave the tree unsafe or dangerous to avoid any comeback against yourself

  • you cannot alter the height of trees or hedges on neighbouring land. While not required under common law, it would be courteous to notify the tree owner of your intentions to help allay any misunderstanding

  • please be aware that your common law rights are intended to allow you to carry out the minimum amount of work

  • if you carry out extensive works and in so doing you make the tree unsafe, the tree owner may have a case against you for criminal damage. You should be especially careful if you are pruning roots. You may wish to obtain qualified arboricultural advice before carrying out any work. If the tree owner agrees to works that are in addition to your common law rights, or if they give you permission to enter their land to undertake the work, it would be prudent to obtain their written consent. If the trees in question are subject to a tree preservation order or are growing in a conservation area then an application (in the case of tree preservation orders) or ‘Notice of Intent’ (in the case of trees growing in a conservation area) may be required and the following points will apply

  • the person intending to submit an application or notice must inform the owner of the land on which the trees are growing that an application or notice is to be made

  • the granting of consent in the case of a tree preservation order or the raising of no objection in the case of trees in a conservation area means that the tree work applied for is acceptable in arboricultural and planning terms only. It does not give the person submitting the application or notice an automatic legal right to carry out the work. The question of ownership is a civil rather than a planning issue and the landowner’s permission must be obtained in addition to any planning approval

  • any application or notice relates to the land and the landowner may also carry out the approved works if they so wish