Trees and hedges


Branches are overhanging my boundary, can I cut them back?
There is no legal requirement for tree/hedge owners to cut back branches which overhang your property. You have the right to cut it back to your boundary if the tree does not have a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

Trees and hedges are blocking my light, what can I do?
Firstly, try to resolve issues by talking to the owner as they are responsible for ensuring that they are safe. For further information about making a high hedge complaint is addressed at the bottom of this page.

Trees and planning permission
Trees within 15 metres of any building proposal should be shown on plans. Foundation design and depth can be affected as the cutting of roots is potentially damaging and requires consent. Small, recently planted trees and hedges should also be marked.

When can works to trees be carried out?
Before commencing any works to trees, please note that, under the provisions of the Wildlife & Countryside Act of 1981, between the months of MARCH to AUGUST, no works should be undertaken to trees which would result in disturbance or loss of habitat of nesting birds. Contravention of the Act is a criminal offence. It should also be noted that bats and their habitats are protected by law and again, NO works should be undertaken to trees without seeking specialist advice.  

Trees and Preservation Orders (TPOs)
TPOs are made by the local planning authority which protect trees of significant importance to an area. This includes:

  • Cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage and destruction of trees

View the TPOs in the borough (pdf)

How to apply for consent to carry out works to a protected tree
Application forms are available from the Council. You can discuss your proposals prior to making an application. It takes six to eight weeks to make a decision. If your application is rejected, you can appeal .

If a protected tree is damaged or destroyed without permission then the owner, contractor or both may be prosecuted. Fines of up to £20,000 could apply.

Tree planting
You are able to plant anything you wish as long as it is within the boundaries of the land that you own.

Trees protected by planning conditions
Many planning permissions for new houses or extensions contain conditions which protect trees and hedges. These may include both the existing vegetation and any new landscaping required by the planning permission. Although the wording may vary, conditions generally require that you obtain the prior approval in writing of the Borough Council for work to trees or hedges. The purpose of such conditions is to ensure that sufficient trees and hedges remain on the site to retain the character of the area during the transitional period while new landscaping is becoming established.

For this reason the more recent conditions only apply for a limited period of 5 years. Earlier conditions may have a 10 year lifespan or may not specify a time limit at all but now the Borough Council would regard such conditions as having expired if the permission was implemented more then five years ago. Nonetheless before starting any work to trees or hedges you are advised to check with the Planning Department whether any form of protection applies.

High Hedges

We have powers to deal with complaints about high hedges once people have exhausted all other avenues for resolving their dispute.

Our role is not to mediate or negotiate, but to make a decision if the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property, including height and light loss.

If appropriate, we will issue a formal notice to the hedge owner, setting out what they must do and by when. Failure to carry out the works could lead to a fine of up to £1,000. Please download a high hedges complaint form.

Cutting the tall stories down to size

  • The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2 metres
  • You do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above 2 metres
  • When a hedge grows over 2 metres we do not automatically take action
  • If you complain, a reduction in the hedge is not automatic
  • The legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees
  • The local authority cannot require the hedge is removed
  • The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light

Frequently asked questions on high hedges

Why should the person who is suffering have to pay the Council to intervene?
The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 states that complainants must pay a fee to the local authority when they submit their hedge complaint. There are several reasons why we think this is fair and reasonable:

  • Payment of a fee will encourage people to try to settle these disputes amicably, making sure that involvement of the local authority really is a last resort
  • A fee will also help to deter frivolous or vexatious complaints

Can I reclaim the fee from the hedge owner?
There is no procedure under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 for the complainant to obtain re-payment of the fee, either from the local authority or from the hedge owner

People could take their neighbour to the small claims court, which is used for most claims up to £5,000. However, issuing a claim at court should be a last resort.

Deciduous Trees and Hedges
Why can't I complain to my local authority about deciduous trees and hedges?
Evidence showed evergreen hedges were a widespread problem and there is no comparable evidence that deciduous hedges were a general problem.