Overhanging vegetation

Private vegetation overhanging the highway

Under the Highways Act (1980 and as amended) you are responsible for maintaining trees, hedges and shrubs within your own property that adjoin onto the public highway. You must make sure that the vegetation from your property does not:

  • overhang the pavement/road so as to obstruct pedestrians or vehicles
  • pose an unreasonable health and safety risk to pedestrians or vehicles
  • block traffic signals or road signs
  • block drivers' sightlines

We only recommend the use of fully qualified and insured contractors to undertake any necessary work to manage your vegetation. A list of approved contractors can be found on the Arboricultural Association website.

If overhanging vegetation is found to be obstructing the highway from a private or commercial property, we can issue an enforcement notice on the landowner. These notices give the landowner 14 days to carry out necessary works, after which time we may do the work and recharge the landowner fully for all costs incurred.

Vegetation overhanging your property

There is no legal obligation to prune or reduce foliage from vegetation on your property if it overhangs onto a neighbouring property. However, if overhanging vegetation is causing damage to a neighbouring property it can be deemed a legal nuisance.

In the case of legal nuisance the vegetation owner would be obliged to abate the nuisance. The same principle applies to any council owned or managed tree.

If a landowner is unwilling or unable to reduce or remove overhanging material, then an affected landowner can exercise their 'common law' rights. This empowers the affected landowner to cut the material back to the boundary.

However, if this action is to be undertaken the following important considerations need to be taken into account:

  • The cost of any actions must be met by the affected landowner wishing to undertake the work; it cannot be recharged against the tree owner.
  • The work must be completed from within the affected property, accessing the property or the tree from elsewhere could be taken as trespass.
  • If as a result of the works the tree dies or falls over then the person(s) undertaking the work could be held legally responsible for both the damage to the tree and/or any surrounding property.
  • If a tree/shrub is pruned beyond the boundary line you may be prosecuted for criminal damage.
  • Any removed material remains the property of the vegetation owner, and technically should be "offered back" to the owner (this does not mean that you throw it over their fence!!). However, the owner is not obliged to accept it - therefore leaving you responsible for its safe and legal disposal. If any material is removed in this way from council managed trees, you must dispose of it yourself in a responsible manner at your own cost.
  • If the tree is within a Conservation Area or covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) then an application must be submitted to the council's Planning Division seeking approval to undertake any work.
  • If the works that are undertaken lead to the tree dying or needing further remedial works then the landowner may look to claim for damages to the tree and/or prosecute for criminal damage.

If you are unsure about how to proceed regarding any of the above issues, then we strongly recommend that you seek professional advice before undertaking any works.

The Arboricultural Association is widely recognised within the UK as the leading body concerning caring for trees and most of the issues affecting them and people living close by. A list of approved contractors can be found on their website.