Trees, woodland and forestry

Neighbour's 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.

Overhanging branches

A landowner or tenant may legally cut back branches and roots that encroach on their property but only as far as the boundary. However, root pruning is not advisable at all. If the pruning work entails working at height, this work is best carried out by a competent tree surgeon.

You must not enter Council land to carry out any tree work without written permission.

Before cutting back overhanging branches you or your contractor are advised to:

  • check for Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area status. An application and approval will be needed to carry out trees work subject to a TPO or within a Conservation Area and failure to do so can lead to prosecution and fines
  • check if permission is needed to carry the works. The trees may be protected by planning conditions
  • check for bats and nesting birds. You may be committing an offence by disturbing or destroying habitat
  • give us notice of the work. You may need permission to enter Council land if the work cannot safely be undertaken from within the neighbouring property
  • use a qualified, insured and traceable arboricultural contractor
  • follow relevant Health and Safety legislation
  • ensure the tree is not made unstable or dangerous through the works or you could be liable for any subsequent failure of the tree

Private Trees in Garden Ground

No permission is required from us for a tree owner or neighbour to cut a tree in their garden unless the tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, is in a Conservation Area or is protected by planning conditions. If the tree is on a joint boundary or the tree surgeons need to access the adjoining property to carry out the work, then permission will be required from the other party.

Where a privately owned tree affects the occupiers of neighbouring property this is a civil matter between the two parties and we have no authority to intervene. Property owners who have trees growing on their land have similar obligations to us and are responsible for ensuring that their own trees do not pose a danger to their neighbours. In some cases, the 'trees' may fall under the high hedges regulations and we may be able to assist through discussion with one of the Planning Enforcement Officers. More information and the definition of a high hedge can be found on our high hedge webpage.

If you live in a Council property and you believe a tree within your garden or neighbour’s garden requires pruning you should direct your concerns to your local Housing Management Officer or the Service Point 01349 886602.

Damage to property

An owner or tenant has a right to enjoy their property without interference from roots and branches, there is no obligation on the adjacent landowner to cut back. If you believe that trees belonging to us have encroaching roots or branches that may be the cause of damage, then any report will need to be substantiated with appropriate arboricultural evidence. We will investigate and if necessary, take action to prevent further damage. We won't undertake work to our trees on unsubstantiated grounds or to allay fears of possible future damage. If you suspect damage to your property, please contact your insurance company in the first instance.

Dangerous Trees

Just because a tree is tall and is moving in the wind it does not necessarily mean that it is dangerous. Trees moving in the wind is normal and it generally helps them to strengthen roots, stem and branches which helps them withstand future winds.

If you believe that a tree on Council owned land is dangerous, please report it to the Service Point by calling 01349 8866020 and we will ensure the condition of the tree is assessed and remedial works carried out, where necessary.

Tree roots and drains

Tree roots do not generally invade drains that are in good condition and only very rarely would a tree root break a drain. It is however possible for fine roots to enter a drain that is already broken or badly installed. As a general policy, Council owned trees will not be felled or pruned (including the roots) to prevent tree roots entering a drain that is already broken or damaged. Repair of the broken pipe is the best way to prevent future problems as modern materials provide a better seal and are better at preventing roots from getting in.

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.