Tree management

Council-owned trees

Requests for work to council-owned trees are assessed by our tree officers.

Work we carry out

In general, we carry out work to our trees:

  • Where the trees are touching buildings
  • Where the trees are blocking the road
  • Where the trees are at imminent risk of causing harm to people or property
  • To ensure clear passage along public rights of way or highways
  • To maintain clear sight lines at junctions
  • To ensure streetlights and road signs are not obstructed
  • Where the trees have caused proven damage to property

We are not obliged to cut or remove our trees:

  • For reasons of loss of light
  • For reasons of loss of view
  • For reasons of loss or interference of television or radio service (contact your supplier for advice)
  • To remove overhanging branches (you have rights to cut back overhanging trees if they encroach on your property). See overhanging trees below
  • Where they encroach on utility cables or wires (contact your supplier for advice)
  • To allow building works to proceed (regardless of whether permission has been granted or where building works are permitted development)
  • To reduce or remove the source of sap (honeydew)
  • To reduce or remove a source of pollen (eg for allergy sufferers)
  • To remove ivy (other than to allow for inspection or to reduce the additional wind sail which ivy can create)
  • We are not obliged to remove blossom, leaves, fruit, nuts or seeds that have fallen from our trees

Please contact us to check if a tree is council-owned.

Roadside trees - report a problem

Most roadside trees are the responsibility of Bucks County Council. You can report a road problem on their website.

Report a dangerous tree

Where one of our trees is causing a serious obstruction or is at imminent risk of causing harm to people or property, please report it to us.

During office hours: 01494 461000 | trees@wycombe.gov.uk
Out of hours: 01494 463890

Tree-related subsidence

  • If you suspect that a council-owned tree has caused damage to your property, you will need to contact your insurance company and arrange a survey
  • Where a claim is made against us we will tell you what evidence we need so we can investigate.

Tree-related damage to drains

We will only consider undertaking tree works where sufficient evidence has been provided to demonstrate that roots from a council-owned tree have caused damage to drains.

  • Where a claim is made against us we will tell you what evidence we need so we can investigate.
  • If you are concerned about the condition of your drains, contact a drainage specialist (for drains inside your property boundary) or your water company (for shared sewers or drains outside your property boundary).

Overhanging trees - what you can do

Under common law, you can cut back any branch or root from a tree that comes onto your property. You must do this at your own expense and follow these criteria:

  • You must not trespass onto the land on which the trees are growing. We do not permit the use of chainsaws, pruning saws or similar tools on our land unless the work is being carried for us by an approved contractor.
  • Branches or roots must not be cut back beyond the boundary.
  • You must dispose of any material responsibly and at your own expense. Dumping rubbish is illegal. Anyone caught dumping rubbish could face legal action. See fly tipping
  • All work must be carried out carefully. You must avoid damaging property or carrying out work that would leave the tree unsafe or dangerous.
  • You cannot alter the height of trees or hedges.

Before doing any work to trees:

  • Check that the trees are not in a conservation area or subject to a Tree Preservation Order. Find out if a tree is protected
  • It is advisable (although not required) to notify the tree owner of your intentions.

Right to light

Shade cast by trees is legally not an actionable nuisance as it does not cause actual damage or harm.

  • In law there is no automatic right to light. A right to light can be established under the Prescription Act 1832 if the light entering a building has been uninterrupted for at least 20 years.
  • An established right to light only refers to buildings and light, not to gardens and sunlight.

Trees disputes

We do not intervene in disputes about trees on private property. If your dispute is about high hedges, you may be able to make a complaint. See high hedges

Dangerous trees on private property

Landowners have a legal duty of care to ensure their trees are maintained in a safe condition. If you suspect a tree to be unsafe, the first step is to contact the owner and tell them your concerns.

Where owners do not make dangerous trees safe, the affected person can contact us in writing. We may be able to use our discretionary powers under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 section 23 and 24. The act is intended for use only where there is imminent danger or an unreasonably high risk to persons or property.

Anyone making a formal written request will be asked to explain how circumstances have changed to lead to there being an imminent danger.

If we consider a tree to be dangerous, we will serve a notice on the land owner/occupier giving a period of time (not less than 21 days), along with a level of works necessary to make the tree safe. If the works are not completed within the time period (and no appeal has been made) we can enter the land to carry out the works and recover all reasonable costs.

We do not have responsibility for trees that we do not own. We have no legal obligation to take action and are not liable for any damage caused.

Tall trees

Large trees are not necessarily dangerous. Trees will grow as large as its species type and surrounding environment will permit.

Leaning trees

Leaning trees are not necessarily dangerous as the tree will put on additional growth on one side of the trunk to stabilize itself. A tree growing in competition with neighbouring trees may naturally develop a lean over time as it grows towards the light.

If a tree suddenly develops a lean there is likely to be an underlying problem which requires further investigation.

Swaying trees

Swaying in the wind does not necessarily mean that a tree is dangerous. Trees will naturally bend and sway. The flexibility of branches acts as a natural mechanism to prevent the tree from breaking.

Hollow trees

Hollow trees are not necessarily dangerous. Strength depends on the percentage of healthy to unhealthy tissue. Hollowing usually occurs over a number of years. While the heart of the tree may become hollow, the tree will continue to lay down wood around its trunk every year. For peace of mind you may wish to consult an independent arboricultural consultant (see).

Advice about privately owned trees

For more advice about privately owned trees, you can contact an independent tree professional by visiting the Arboricultural Association website. We do not undertake tree inspections to provide advice to private tree owners.

Contact information

Contact the tree officer by webform.

Email: trees@wycombe.gov.uk

  • Telephone: 01494 461 000