Trees in and around my property
Below are our most frequently asked questions about trees in and around gardens. Just click on a question to see the answer.
Who owns trees outside?
Have you checked the title deeds to your property? Occasionally physical property boundaries (fences, walls and hedgerows) are not located on the edge of the legal property boundary – often because the trees are in the way.
The local parish council or Cambridgeshire County Council (the local highway authority) are the most frequent land owners/mangers within residential neighbourhoods. Please look on their websites for more information on how to contact them directly.
We own or manage very little land throughout the villages and we do not keep records on other peoples land ownership. If you need to find out who owns a piece of land please search at the Land Registry.
Our Housing Department own and mange a very small amount of land. If you are confident the tree is on our land you can raise a grounds maintenance issue below.
Can you inspect my trees?
We do not offer a tree inspection service. A pre-application service is available for development control (building) applications but not tree work applications.
If you live in a property rented from us, you will need to contact the housing department directly.
If you don’t have a recommendation of a good tree surgeon you can always search at the Arboricultural Associations website.
For more complex tree issues, sites or woodland you can search for a registered consultant on the Arboricultural Association website, or a chartered forester on the Institute of Chartered Foresters website.
Do I need permission to do tree work?
Can you help me with a dispute I'm having with my neighbor about their trees?
We do not have a service for mediating neighbour disputes in relation to trees. We are unable to become involved. If the complaint is about an evergreen hedge please see our high hedge page.
Can you give me legal advice or tell me about the law and trees?
We are unable to give legal advice about you or your neighbours trees unless this relates to, the planning system, high hedges or protected hedgerows.
The Arboricultural Association provides a helpful website for Tree Owners.
Should you need more specific advice you will need to contact a legal professional. If you do not have one on retention, you could seek advice from the Citizens Advice who gratefully accept donations. They have a number of centres in and around South Cambridgeshire, the search facility is on the web page.
Are there rules about the height that trees are allowed to grow?
There are no rules about how high trees are allowed to grow to.
However, there is legislation about evergreen hedges such as Leyland Cypress (Leylandii) that reach over 2 metres high and affect the enjoyment of residential properties. For more information, see our High Hedges webpage.
Can I cut back my neighbor's overhanging tree(s)?
Yes - you do not require the permission of the tree owner to remove parts of trees overhanging your boundary line. You must not remove any parts further back than the boundary line and cannot enter their land without permission.
In the interests of being a good neighbour it is best to speak to the tree owner before carrying out any work. This may help to avoid conflicts and to agree how any cuttings will be disposed of. Any cuttings you remove remain the property of the tree owner and you may not dispose of them without the owner’s permission. Throwing or placing cuttings over the boundary onto the tree owner’s property can cause disputes so it's always better to talk.
The tree owner is not liable to cover the costs of any work to cut back overhanging tree parts. There is no legal process to compel tree owners to regularly cut back the sides or overhang of their trees.
Anyone trimming a tree or hedgerow has a duty of care to leave the tree in a safe condition and not a danger to people or property.
My neighbours' trees are not maintained. Can you help?
If you believe the trees are hazardous, please see the question below “My neighbour’s trees are dangerous. What can I do?“
If the trees overhang your property, please see the question below “Can I cut back my neighbour’s overhanging tree(s)?”
We do not offer a mediation service for trees. The best approach is to speak to your neighbour informally about your concerns – they may not be aware of your point of view or be aware of an issue from your side of the tree(s).
My neighbours' trees are dangerous. What can I do?
If you are concerned about the safety of your neighbour’s trees, you are entitled to approach your neighbour to discuss your concerns.
If you would like to know more about being a tree owner please see the National Tree Safety Groups free leaflet managing trees for safety.
We are unable to intervene in this kind of dispute. The responsibility for tree safety lies with the owner or occupier of the land that the trees grow on. If you are not satisfied with the response from a tree owner, we would advise you to contact a legal professional.
What about pruning trees and wildlife?
Work can be carried out at any time of year, but you must comply with current legislation that protects wildlife such as birds, bats and badgers.
Birds and bats commonly roost and nest in trees and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. It is a criminal offence to destroy or disturb them or their roosts/nests.
For more information about Trees and Wildlife please go to the Arboricultural Associations website.
If you find nesting birds or bats during tree or hedgerow maintenance you should stop immediately and seek the advice of a suitably qualified professional. Search on the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management website.
If you have witnessed the destruction of a protected species habitat please contact Cambridgeshire Police.
How do I choose a tree surgeon?
Tree work is a financial investment in your property. Just like employing any contractor about your home, you owe it to yourself to employ a reputable contractor.
Tree surgery is a dangerous occupation requiring highly trained and skilled operatives with specialist equipment. You should choose your contractor carefully, please do not use tradespeople who knock on your door without being invited. Ensure contractors have adequate public and employers liability insurance and a licence to carry waste.
Find the right tree surgeon for you through the Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor Directory.
Uninvited tradespeople who call themselves ‘tree surgeons’, rarely offer the required level of skill, insurance or waste licence that you have a right to expect. Without these assurances you may find that work is done badly, items in your garden may be damaged and cuttings may be fly tipped (a criminal offence). No tree surgeon has special permission to prune protected trees without submitting an application or notification. Unapproved tree works can result in enforcement action against the tree owner or individual who engages the tree surgeon.
Can I get a free tree to plant from South Cambs? Can South Cambs plane one for me?
Currently we are not supplying free trees to plant in your own land and we have very little land to plant any trees on your behalf.
Your local parish council may be able to help you plant a tree locally. Please contact them directly.
My question is not here. What do I do?
I want to report some unauthorised tree work or a hedgerow removal
Where can I find more information on tree pests or diseases?
Forest Research (previously a division of the Forestry Commission) has an excellent pest and disease resource page. It includes acute oak decline, bleeding canker of horse chestnut, Chalara ash dieback, chronic oak dieback, Massaria, oak pinhole borer and oak processionary moth.
The Tree Council has a very helpful booklet written for homeowners, Ash Dieback Disease A Guide For Tree Owners.
I want to report wildlife crime
Where can I find more information on orchards?
Cambridgeshire has a long and rich history of fruit growing and orchards. Many parish councils have planted and support community orchards. The locations can often be found on their webpages.
For more general information try: