Since you are on this page, it is safe to assume that you need your council to cut down a tree or permit you to do it yourself. Maybe the tree is on public land or another person’s land, or in your garden but protected by a TPO.
Whatever the situation is, this article will show you how to get the council to cut down, prune or retrain any tree. Or permit you to do it yourself.
Before we get started, I need to explain why the government would get involved in tree management matters, listen to your request and potentially act on it.
You can scroll down to the “How to” section if you already understand this and don’t see the need to go through it again. However, I don’t recommend skipping this part of our conversation. It won’t take long, and it may help you understand the process better.
So, here we go.
Your local council and tree management
Each council has a tree maintenance programme that plants trees on council-owned land, designates certain areas as conservation areas, and creates departments and laws that protect and ensure proper management of trees.
Here is a brief breakdown:
- A tree planted on council/public land is protected by virtue of being public property.
- A tree in a conservation area is protected because it is illegal to remove or modify any feature and structure (natural or artificial) in the area without permission.
- The council’s tree team/department protects trees by issuing decrees, and handling tree management and removal requests like yours.
- Finally, an example of a tree protection law is the Tree Preservation Order (TPO), which prohibits and restricts actions that endanger a protected tree.
If you remove trees protected by any of these measures without permission, you could be penalised. These penalties included tree replacement notices, monetary fines (reaching £20,000), and potentially prosecution.
Why do you need to contact your council about tree removal?
I have already mentioned tree protection laws and how they work. However, I haven’t mentioned that these laws can be confusing. Therefore, it is possible to break them without knowing.
There are three primary reasons for this.
Reason number one
Each council makes their own tree management and protection rules. So what applies to one council may not apply to another. Therefore, the only way to determine the protection status of a tree is to contact the local council.
Reason number two
They can issue these laws (such as the TPO) for any tree, regardless of age, size, species or endangered status.
Reason number three
The protection laws cover every tree within the locality, regardless of whether it is on public or private land. That makes the local council responsible for every tree, including those on private property like yours or your neighbours’.
So, even if the tree is in your garden and therefore yours, if it is protected by a TPO, you can’t undertake work on it without the council’s permission.
Contacting the local council for matters of pruning and felling trees does three things:
- It allows you to get authorisation to remove a protected tree on your property.
- It informs the council to remove a council-owned tree
- It informs the council to intervene regarding an offending tree on a neighbouring property.
Reasons that can make the local council authorise tree removal
Each council’s tree management program is created to protect trees. Therefore, removal is usually the last option they want to explore. They have to review your request, conduct investigations and make a judgment. However, they may authorise tree retraining or pruning instead of removal.
There aren’t specific complaints that guarantee the council accepts your request for tree removal. But, there are ways to present your request to increase the odds. Here are some examples.
If the tree is a nuisance
- If it is casting excess shade, thus shading solar panels, views and sunlight
- If overhanging branches are blocking pathways
- If the tree is encroaching from another property (public or private)
- If fallen fruit and leaves are becoming a nuisance or fire hazard
If the tree is a danger to life and property
- If the branches are overhanging power lines
- If the root is blocking drains
- If the roots is causing (or about to cause) structural damage to buildings, driveways, etc
If the tree is fallen, dead or diseased
- A fallen tree can be either a nuisance or a danger
- A dead tree can fall anytime, posing a great danger to life and property
- A diseased tree can endanger other trees and plants within the area
How to contact your local council to cut a tree
Now that you understand the rules and factors that could influence the council’s decisions, it is time to talk about making an official complaint. The process may vary from one council to another, but it will mostly involve two steps: submitting your request and tree inspection.
Step 1: Submit your request
You can contact the council through telephone, email, their website or by visiting the office in person. When you contact them, they will explain their location specific process for submitting a request.
In most cases, you will have to fill out a form. In this form, you will probably have to provide your name, contact information, and then the details and location of the tree. Then the council will review your request and commission professional tree surgeons (arborists) to conduct an inspection.
Step 2: Tree inspection
The tree surgeon will inspect the tree, collecting information like its size, health, specie, etc. Then they will recommend a course of action to the council.
Remember that the council’s primary aim is to protect trees. Therefore, they might first consider other solutions before sanctioning removal.
What happens after the council has sanctioned your request for tree removal?
The next course of action is to hire a qualified arborist to remove the tree. But the big question is, who will foot the bill? The answer depends on the property on which the tree is located. So, let’s talk about that.
If the tree is located on public land
The council will cover the cost of removal. However, this only applies if the tree is entirely on public land. If the council tree is halfway on both public and private land (i.e. your land), the property owner (i.e. you) may be asked to cover half or all of the removal cost.
Also, if the council doesn’t sanction removal but allows you to prune the branches overhanging your property, it will probably ask you to cover the cost.
If the tree is on your property
It is all on you. You will have to arrange and bear the cost of removal. I recommend reading up on “tree removal costs” and “tips for finding a qualified tree surgeon”.
If the tree is on a neighbour’s property
In this situation, the council’s primary aim is to mediate a resolution beneficial to all parties, including humans and trees. But if the council sanctions removal, it won’t pay to remove a tree on private property. That’s up to the owner of the property.
Like earlier, if the tree is halfway on your property and halfway on the other person’s property, you will both likely bear the expenses.
Now that you know how to get a council to cut trees, it is time to tell you to use this power responsibly. Trees play a crucial role in reducing the amount of carbon monoxide in the air, thus protecting our climate. So, for every tree you cut down, plant three in its stead.
Until then, remember to keep in touch with your local council for all tree matters. Tree preservation orders can cover trees of all sizes, ages, statuses and species, and it doesn’t matter whether they (the trees) are on private or public land.
Editors Note: If you don’t have the space to plant three trees, we love Ecologi and you can always plant through their services.
Will I need the permission of my local council to remove my tree?
It depends on whether the tree is protected by a tree preservation order (TPO).
If it’s not, you don’t need anyone’s permission to cut it down. However, it is still important to contact the council before falling a tree. You never know which trees are protected.
Will the council cover the cost of removing a tree on private property?
No, it is up to the property owner. The council will only remove trees on public land.
Will my insurance company cover the cost of falling my tree?
No, they won’t. However, they may cover the cost of disposing of a fallen tree.
But I don’t recommend waiting for a damaged, diseased or dead tree to fall by itself, just so your insurance company can pay for removal. That is a dangerous game. You never can tell when and on what or who the tree will fall.
How do I find out if a tree has a TPO?
You can do this by:
- Asking the tree team or officer at your local council. This is the best option.
- Checking tree maps like the Magic Map or other appropriate maps created by local authorities or NGOs
- Checking tree inventories like the Ancient Tree Inventory (ATI) or Ancient Wooland Inventory (AWI)
Note that the TPO is not the only form of tree protection orders. So watch out for the others, like environmental conservation laws or planning policies.