Trees, woodland and forestry

Tree Management

Tree Management Strategy

The Tree Management Strategy sets out how we will manage our own trees in greenspaces, schools and alongside public roads. It includes a series of policies to support our vision for the management of our trees and woodlands. The Strategy offers advice to the public who own trees or live next to them in relation to protected trees, felling permission and pests and diseases.

Read our tree management strategy

Who is responsible for trees

Landowners are responsible for the care, maintenance and safety of all trees on their land. We are therefore only responsible for trees on Council owned land. We are not able to carry out tree works on land it does not own, with the exception of clearance of trees which have failed across a public road or removal of road-side trees which are in such poor condition that they pose a significant risk to road users.

Trees on Highland Council land

Only we can instruct contractors to undertake tree works on our land.

Our policy is to avoid felling trees unless for sound arboricultural reasons such as:

  • dead, dying or dangerous tree that poses a danger to public safety
  • trees proven to be causing significant structural damage where pruning or structural repair would not provide a solution
  • tree removal is required as part of an agreed tree management programme, or an environmental or community improvement project
  • considered to be an inappropriate species for the location or where the tree is outgrowing its position


  • generally will not undertake the topping, thinning or felling of trees of a council-owned tree simply to allow more light to a property, where there is otherwise no need for any further surgery
  • are not responsible for leaves, seeds and fruit that fall from our trees onto private paths or into private gutters. In the eyes of the law once a leaf, seed or fruit has left the tree, ownership passes to the owner of the land on which it falls. We will not carry out pruning or felling of trees to prevent build-up of leaves, seeds or fruit
  • do not have any obligation to cut back or remove trees where sap falls onto a car. Sap (honeydew) is excreted by insects feeding on leaves in the tree. Where honeydew affects cars, warm soapy water will remove the substance, particularly if the car is washed as soon as possible
  • have no legal obligation to cut back trees on our land to allow light, a view, or TV or satellite reception. Before buying or renting a property next to a tree, you should consider whether you are happy to live with the neighbouring trees and the outlook. You should also consider repositioning your satellite dish, aerial or use a cable service. Before installing solar panels, you should consider whether nearby trees are likely to impact on the future effectiveness of the solar panels
  • do not have to cut back a tree if you perceive it to be too tall. There is no legally defined maximum height for tree growth and tree maintenance does not necessarily mean containing the crown through pruning. Current industry guidelines suggest that topping trees is bad practice as it often leaves large wounds opening the tree to fungal infection and it can cause rapid, dense regrowth with weak unions which need to be continually managed. It must be noted that a tree is not necessarily dangerous just because it is tall

If following professional assessment of the tree, we decide that no works are required, then you will be notified in writing. We will have assessed your request against the list of what we are or are not willing to do in terms of tree works before the decision is made. There is no right of appeal against the decision.

Find out who owns a tree

Trees that are on privately owned land should be maintained by the landowner. To find out who owns a piece of land you should contact Registers of Scotland to make a title search.