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Dangerous and Nuisance Trees

A picture of a fallen treeUnder the Occupiers Liability Act (57 & 84) a tree owner has a Duty of Care to make sure he/she has taken reasonable steps to ensure the safety of his/her tree. If you suspect a tree is unsafe, contact the owner and inform them of your concerns. Normally an inspection by a competent tree surgeon can ascertain if a tree is safe or not, however for insurance purposes the tree may need to be inspected by a person with Professional Indemnity Insurance such as an arboricultural consultant. The Council provides a |list of tree contractors and a |list of arboricultural consultants who work in the Elmbridge area and a |checklist to help you choose a tree contractor. Please note that the Council cannot carry out safety surveys for privately owned trees even where they are protected by the Council

If the trees is deemed to be an imminent danger and it is protected by the Council then please contact the tree team in the Planning department on 01372 474474 as soon as possible. You will need to arrange a tree surgeon to make the tree safe. Works to make an imminently dangerous tree safe do not require an application, however you are expected to give the Council 5 days notice if safe to do so. Please note that there is an automatic duty placed on the landowner to replace any protected trees removed because they are dangerous. This duty transfers to successive land owners.

There is however no legislation to prevent the planting of trees or to control the height of trees and there is no 'right to light' to prevent shading from trees. If you suffer from these issues then you may wish to consider if the trees could be classified as a 'High Hedge' for which there is information below.

To ensure the Council meets its Duty of Care to the public, Council owned trees in well-used areas such as parks, open spaces, and car parks are surveyed cyclically to ensure they meet reasonable safety criteria. All surveys are logged and any actions prioritised as part of a continuous programme. This is part of the Council's Corporate Tree Risk programme, which encompasses all the tree stock within the Council's ownership.

Depending on the outcome of these inspections the Council will consider how any dangerous trees can be made safe for the public. This may involve preventing access to the area around the tree, pruning, or where no other option is available, tree removal. When trees are removed replacement planting is often carried out to help ensure that future generations can safely enjoy the Borough's natural landscape. In addition an annual review is carried out by the Parks & Recreation Section to see which green spaces would benefit from new or additional planting to improve the green areas within the local communities.

Links to Topics on This Page:
|Veteran and Ancient trees
|Protected trees
|Trees by roads and rivers
|Trees in public parks and common land
|Tree roots and drains
|High hedges
|FAQs (overhanging trees, tree roots, dead trees)

Information for contractors on |Oak Processionary Moth

|Veteran and Ancient trees

Veteran and Ancient trees often have characteristics that appear dangerous to the lay person. Unnecessary tree surgery could irreparably damage these important trees. If you are concerned about a veteran or ancient tree the |VETree website has information on what to look out for and how to manage the risks. It is particular worth looking at the free training videos.

|Protected trees

Dead or Dangerous protected trees can be removed after giving the Council five days' notice and without submitting an application. However this exemption only applies if the tree is in imminent danger of failure, the onus of proof that removal was necessary rests with the owner of the tree and it is best to seek professional advice first. If urgent work needs to be carried out to ensure that a tree is safe (e.g. after storm damage) then the minimum amount of work should be carried out to ensure the tree's safety and the Council should be informed as soon as convenient. You should note that there is an automatic duty to replant a tree at the same place unless the Council agree that such a replacement is not required. You should contact the Council for advice about this issue.


If you are having problems communicating with your neighbour regarding trees, there is a free mediation service available to Elmbridge residents which can help resolve disagreements. |Find out more about the mediation service.

|Trees by Roads and Rivers

Most trees by roads and on verges are owned and managed by Surrey County Council. Further information can be found on the |Surrey County Council website.

To report fallen trees blocking rivers please call the Environment Agency on their incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 (24 hour service).


Occasionally houses built on certain types of clay soils can suffer from subsidence. This may be caused by vegetation such as trees and hedges removing water from the soil and causing the clay to shrink, however it can also be caused by many other factors such as low rainfall or cracked drains. It is important to contact your insurance company who can investigate further. Elmbridge Borough Council is a signatory of the Joint Mitigation Protocol which is a framework developed by the insurance industry and local government for tree related subsidence claims.

|Trees in Public Parks and Common Land

Most trees in public parks are owned or managed by Elmbridge Borough Council. You can |contact the Green Spaces Team.

|Tree Roots and Drains

Tree roots do not have the ability to break into well maintained drains however they often grow in profusion around underground pipework where condensation naturally occurs. However if a drain is cracked or ill-fitting roots can penetrate the system which can ultimately cause blockages. It is important to note that any woody plant can invade a broken drain in this way. Should the drains not be repaired blockages will continue periodically. It is often the cheaper option to repair drains than remove large trees.

|High Hedges

Information about high hedge legislation and the Councils role in disputes is |available on the High Hedges webpage.


My neighbours trees overhang my garden. Am I allowed to cut it/them back?

It will always be best to discuss any tree problems with your neighbour first. If this is not possible, you will need in any case to check whether the tree falls under one of the protection categories listed above. If it is protected you are entitled to apply for work to be carried out on your side of the boundary and your neighbour will be contacted as part of the application process. However, any authorisation from the Council does not give you the right of access to your neighbour's property. If the tree is not protected then you are entitled under common law to cut back branches to your joint boundary. Again, this does not give you the right to enter your neighbour's property or to cut branches on their side of the boundary. Any removed fruit or wood belong to the tree owner and should be offered back but the owner DOES NOT have to accept it. For anything other than minor works you should consider employing a qualified tree contractor to carry out the work for you since any damage to the tree may result in a compensation claim from your neighbour and tree work requires a high level of skill and competence to be carried out safely.

The roots of my neighbours trees are encroaching into my garden. Am I permitted to cut them?

As above, you are within your rights under common law to cut back encroaching roots provided the tree is not protected. However, the cutting of tree roots is not generally advisable since the health or stability of the tree may be adversely affected and this may also result in a compensation claim from your neighbour, should damage to persons or property result from this action. If the tree is protected then you will need to make an application or give notice to the Council (see above).

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