Below are our most frequently asked questions about trees and their answers. Just click on a question to see the answer.
For more information about trees and planning, please read our permitted development rights and protected trees page.
If you need more information or have a different question to ask, please get in touch - email email@example.com or call 03450 455 215.
No - this is a common misconception. The same rules apply to oak trees as to other tree species.
There are no rules about how high trees are allowed to grow.
However, there is legislation about evergreen hedges such as Leyland Cypress (Leylandii) that reach over two metres high and affect the enjoyment of residential properties.
This legislation does not set a limit on the height of hedges, it is a complaints process administered by us under The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, commonly called the ‘High Hedges Act’.
Using guidance, we decide the appropriate height for a particular hedge and have powers to enforce the cutting of a hedge.
We currently charge £450 to administer a complaint, and will only get involved if you have not to been able to settle the issue informally with your neighbour.
For more information, see our High Hedges web page.
Work can be carried out at any time of year, but you must comply with legislation that protects birds and wildlife
For tree health, work should be avoided when buds are bursting in early spring and in the first few weeks of leaf flush. Different tree species come into leaf at different times, so it is not possible to provide specific dates.
All nesting birds, their nests, eggs and young are protected by law. It is an offence to:
The maximum penalty for a single damaged bird, nest or egg is a fine of up to £5000, six months imprisonment or both.
The law protecting birds and their nests means that work during the breeding season (between late February and late September), must not go ahead if it will damage or destroy a nest. If a nest is discovered while work is being carried out, work must stop and you should seek advice from an ecologist.
It is a criminal offence for any person to:
If a breeding site or resting place is damaged or destroyed, this is treated as an absolute offence - intent or recklessness does not have to be proved in order to establish guilt, only that the damage or destruction has occurred.
If you discover a bat while work is being carried out, all work must stop and you must take advice from Natural England (0300 060 3900). Advice is also available from the Bat Conservation Trust Helpline on 0345 1300 228.
Yes - you can cut back overhanging trees, but the usual rules about obtaining Conservation Area or Tree Preservation Order consent before work begins still apply.
No - unlike high hedges, we do not offer a mediation service for neighbour tree disputes. We can offer general advice on obligations and liabilities about common tree issues that can cause disputes, but we cannot become involved in individual cases.
No, but the law requires that you make an application before work begins.
This is because a conservation area tree work application is a notice of intent to carry out tree work, rather than an application for permission.
The process allows us six weeks to consider whether the proposed works would be harmful to the setting of the conservation area and whether the tree(s) is important enough to warrant a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).
We only issue a TPO in exceptional circumstances and will normally ask the applicant to reconsider proposed works to avoid significant harm, therefore avoid the need for a TPO.
We consult with Parish Councils and sometimes neighbours on this type of application, and value the feedback we receive which helps in the decision process.
Yes, you need permission if:
Work carried out without permission to trees within a Conservation Area or covered by a TPO is a criminal offence. The law allows fines of up to £20,000 for each protected tree if unauthorised work is
You can make make your tree work application online using the Planning Portal.
There's less likely to be any delays over the processing of your application.
Alternatively, you can to apply directly to us by post (we do not accept applications by email).
A full and clear specification (detailed description) of tree works must be provided – we cannot validate unclear applications.
Please download and use this application form and use these guidance notes.
If you are making an application manually, please send it by post to:
Trees and Landscape Officer
South Cambridgeshire Hall
Cambourne Business Park
TPOs are shown as bright blue shapes and Conservation Areas are surrounded by a pink line.
Either side of this pink line will be inside the Conservation Area or outside of it.
Please be sure to check what side of this line the trees are because it can be easy to get this wrong.
TIP – If you untick the ‘applications’ layer it will make the map much clearer by removing all of the planning application red plotting lines.
It depends. The Hedgerows Regulations 1997 protects hedgerows in the countryside.
If a hedge forms a boundary to a residential property then you do not need our permission to remove a hedge - unless it is protected by a planning condition or a legal covenant on your deeds.
We are happy to give you more advice and send you a hedgerow removal notice form by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tree work is often a significant financial investment and in the interest of your trees, your property and health and safety, you owe it to yourself to employ a reputable contractor.
Tree surgery is a dangerous occupation requiring highly trained and skilled operatives. As a general rule, you choose the contractor, they do not choose you. In other words, actively look for your tree surgeon and make sure they have adequate public liability insurance and a licence to carry waste.
So called “tree surgeons” who come knocking on your door or approach you when you're in your garden, 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 flytipped - with the latter potentially landing you with a fine and criminal record.
Certain elements of the unregulated industry are quite unscrupulous and have been known to carry out work to protected trees without permission.
This has lead to enforcement action against tree owners and contractors being untraceable.
The Arboricultural Association operates a list of Registered Contractors that have to comply with strict criteria to be part of the scheme (other industry bodies operate similar schemes).
Concerns about tree safety are often raised because trees are perceived as being ‘too big’. Trees are not naturally dangerous because they are big, but when big trees fall they are more likely to cause damage.
If you are concerned about the safety of your neighbour’s trees, you are entitled to approach your neighbour to discuss your concerns:
If trees have been felled against planning conditions, this is a breach of planning control and we have powers to enforce against this.
Unlike tree work in conservation areas or to trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders, felling against planning conditions is not a criminal offence.
However, it is not something that we take lightly., and we can order work on site to stop or that replacement planting takes place.
Trees and shrubs blocking visibility on roads is a common problem and can lead to accidents.
The owner of trees or shrubs is responsible for maintaining growth and keeping the highway clear.
You can report the problem to Cambridgeshire County Council who have powers to enforce vegetation clearance.
When it comes to trees, there is no legal right to light, a view or television reception.
This has become a more frequent cause of dispute with the rise of satellite dishes requiring a line of sight to the sky.
If trees are on neighbouring property you can only appeal to the tree owner about the problem. We cannot become involved in these disputes.
Anyone can request a tree preservation order by emailing email@example.com
However it is down to us as an authority to determine whether the tree(s) have the attributes for a preservation order being the amenity value and whether they are in a good physical condition.
It is natural to assume that such trees are the responsibility of the Council, which is true in most cases, however it is important to know which Council is responsible for the trees.
For example, trees might be the responsibility of Cambridgeshire County Council (the local highway authority) or the local Parish Council or South Cambs District Council.
Addressing your concerns to the appropriate authority in the first place will surely result in a better result for you.
We only hold information regarding the land we own ourselves (like any landowner would) so we cannot tell you who owns land that doesn't belong to us.
So how does this help you?
You can find out who is responsible for trees on public land in most cases by looking at the maps provided on the Cambridgeshire County Council website. This will usually tell you if a piece of land or highway verge is maintained by Cambridgeshire County Council or your local Parish Council.
If you are sure that the trees you are referring to are our responsibility, it is almost certain that the trees will be the responsibility of the Council's Housing Department.
Because the Housing team is divided into geographical areas of responsibility, the staff you need to contact will depend upon where you live.
The best way to contact us about trees in our ownership is by emailing the housing team.
We consult with Parish Councils about tree work applications but, as a rule, only consult neighbours if:
We are not legally obliged to consult anybody on tree work applications so use our discretion when deciding on who to inform.
Trees are frequently implicated in damage to buildings and other structures.
There are two main causes:
Whether tree roots can damage your foundations is dependent upon numerous factors specific to each site.
Media attempts to provide ‘rules of thumb’ for certain species of tree, and the minimum distance these should be from buildings, are over-simplified and misleading.
Only detailed site inspections, soil tests and the input of structural engineers can find out if trees are causing clay shrinkage subsidence.
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