In general, these are the timings for pruning hedges:
Deciduous hedges - formative pruning in winter after planting and for the first two years after planting, maintenance pruning each summer
Evergreen hedges - formative pruning in the spring after planting and for the first two years after planting, maintenance pruning each summer
Q. What maintenance is an owner required to carry out?
A land owner is charged with the responsibility of maintaining all trees on his land in a safe condition.
Q. How will I know if my tree is safe?
Responsible tree owners can have their trees inspected on an annual basis by a qualified and experienced arboriculturalist. The arborist will consider the size, condition and species of tree, as well as its position in relation to buildings, footpaths and highways. From this the surveyor will make recommendations for the necessary works to be undertaken. You should check that your arboricultural consultant carries professional indemnity insurance.
Q. My tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order; does this mean I can do no work to it?
No, but it does mean that the consent of the Local Planning Authority is required before any work can take place.
Q. How do I get the District Council's consent?
An application has to be made to the Local Planning Authority. There is no cost for the application, which usually takes between 6 and 8 weeks to process. The necessary forms are available from the LPA. You must not undertake any work until you have their consent.
Q. Are there any exemptions from a Tree Preservation Order?
Yes, if the tree is dead, dying or dangerous. Even in this case, the Local Planning Authority requires 5 days' notice in writing before any work commences on such a tree. This gives them an opportunity for the tree to be inspected. If an emergency situation arises, the District Council should be notified at once and photographs taken of the tree before any emergency action is taken. All timber should be retained for inspection. You will be required to plant a replacement tree if the tree is felled.
Q. What are the fines for contravention of a Tree Preservation Order?
If the case is taken to a Magistrates Court then the fines are up to a maximum of £20,000 per offence.
If the District Council decides to take the matter to a Crown Court then the fines are unlimited and are often related to the amount of money the offender stands to gain as a result of the contravention.
Q. Is it true that I have the right to prune back my neighbour's tree to my boundary?
Yes, you have a common law right to prune back both branches and roots to your boundary. However, you must take care not to render the tree dangerous. All cuttings must be given back to the owner of the tree, or at least offered back.
Q. Can this right to prune my neighbour's tree be removed?
Yes, if a tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order or stands within a Conservation Area then this Common Law right is lost. The advice and consent of the Local Planning Authority should then be sought in order to carry out work to the tree. See the following sections on Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas.
Q. The tree outside my house blocks the light in my garden; do I have a right to light?
No, only if you can prove that you have the right to ancient light, e.g., you can prove that you have had the uninterrupted use of that light for a period greater than 20 years; do you have any right to light. This however, only applies to the windows of your property.
Q. How can I avoid liabilities for damage caused by my trees?
There is no avoiding these liabilities, particularly where it can be shown that a tree owner has been negligent. The situation should not arise if regular inspections are carried out by a qualified and experienced arborist, as described earlier.
Q. Can I fell any trees without a Felling Licence?
Yes, up to 5 cubic metres (m3) of timber can be felled in a calendar quarter if the timber is for your own use. This figure drops to 2m3 if the timber is to be sold.
Q. Does this apply to trees in my garden?
No, a Felling Licence is not required if a tree can be described as being in a private garden or orchard. In these cases, however, the consent of the District Council may still be required if the tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order or stands within a Conservation Area.
Q. Who administers Felling Licences, and where can I get further information about them?
The Forestry Commission administers Felling Licences. You con contact them at:
South East and London Area Office
Bucks Horn Oak
Q. Are all trees within a Conservation Area protected and, if so, does this differ from Tree Preservation Order legislation?
All trees within a Conservation Area with a stem diameter greater than 75mm are protected. The difference from a TPO is that rather than obtaining consent of the District Council before carrying out work you are only required to give 6 weeks written notification of your intention to carry out work to the tree. This gives the Council the opportunity to inspect the tree/trees concerned and decide if it needs to be protected by a Tree Preservation Order.
Q. Are the fines the same as those for Tree Preservation order contraventions?
Yes up to £20,000 in the Magistrates Court and unlimited fines if the case goes to the Crown Court.