Category Archives: Legal

Excessive Work Sees Tree Surgeon Fined

If you are a tree surgeon or you have an interest in the industry, you know the importance of Tree Preservation Orders, or TPOs. However, it appears many professionals in the industry don’t pay attention to these orders or decide against following correct procedure. This can be seen in the continual fines and penalties imposed on tree surgeons who carry out work that is opposed by a TPO.

There are times when the work that has been carried out is completely against a TPO. There are also times when the work that has been carried out is deemed to be excessive. This was the story in Chelmsford Magistrates Court recently when two men were found guilty of “causing or permitting works to the two trees” without proper authorisation. The work has carried out in Abridge back in June of 2017 and there had been no authorisation provided by Epping Forest District Council.

The local council has problems with work carried out

While permission had been granted for a limited amount of work to be carried out, an investigation by inspectors found that the branches on the two trees had been cut back excessively. A statement provided by the local council said; “This ultimately caused serious damage to both trees and increases the risk of decay. No consent would have been given for the extent of the work carried out.”

There was a fine of £440 for each tree for March Wright and Danny Swift was fined £660 for each tree. Both men involved were ordered to make a contribution towards the prosecution costs incurred by the council, with this amounting to £600.

Tree surgeons often have different opinions

There will likely be a difference of opinion about the outcome of this case. After all, if the order was that no work should be carried out on the tree and work was carried out, this is a clear breach and there isn’t much if an argument to put forward by the accused parties. However, when it comes to an order when work is permitted, you can see why some people would struggle to know where to stop.

It may be that there was a clear definition of what work could and couldn’t be carried out, and if there was, it would be a simple case. However, these rulings are often quite vague and what one tree surgeon defines as being necessary, another tree surgeon may find to be excessive. A lot of tree surgeons have different opinions on the level of work that needs to be carried out to resolve a matter, and this is another cause for confusion and uncertainty.

There may be some people saying that the sums involved with the fine aren’t that high, and could have been worse, but for professionals, any fine can be harmful. This is certainly a sum of money that could cause major problems for a tree surgeon, and it should act as another reminder of the importance of having permission before carrying out work.

Fines After Protected Trees Cut Down

While you would think that tree surgeons and professionals in this sector would know the risks of cutting down protected trees, there doesn’t appear to be any change in behaviour. 2018 has started in the same manner as 2017 and previous years had continued with a company director and a tree surgeon receiving a fine after a protected sycamore had been pared back without the appropriate permission.

John McAllister and Helen Kelly-Howe were ordered to pay a fine in excess of £2,000. This was in relation to the unauthorised work which had taken place in High Street in Roydon. This dates back to June of 2017 when Epping Forest Council officers received notification that the branches of a tree located within one property had been cut back. These branches had been overhanging into land owned by a neighbour.

A council investigation took place

The council started an investigation and it was found that Kelly-Howe, a director for the company which owned the property, instructed John McAllister, the tree surgeon, to pare the branches back. This was done so to the level of the boundary of the property.

It transpires that no checks were carried out to determine if the tree was a protected tree. There was also no attempt to obtain consent for the work that would be carried out. The property is located in a conservation area in Roydon which means that a six week notice period has to be provided for any work on the trees. If this notice period had been followed through, it would have revealed that the tree was protected and that work should not have been carried out, and that consent for this work would not have been given.

Major fines were handed out to all parties involved

Kelly-Howe issued a plea of guilty to “causing or permitting unauthorised work to a tree in a conservation area”. The Magistrates believed that Kelly-Howe had a major role to play in this incident and she was fined a total of £1,000 while also being required to pay a sum of £750 towards the prosecution costs of the council and to the victim surcharge fund.

McAllister also received a fine, of £300, while he was ordered to pay £250 to the prosecution costs of the council and a further £30 as a victim surcharge. There may well be some surprise at the fact that the tree surgeon has received the smaller fine of the two people involved with this incident. All tree surgeons should be aware of the importance of consent for work like this and the fact that proper procedures have to be followed when it comes to removing branches or paring trees back.

This is a costly reminder that there are strict rules and regulations in place when it comes to protected trees and that people cannot just do as they feel or like.

Fine For Tree Surgeon After Working On Protected Trees

A professional tree surgeon should be well aware of the fact that some trees are protected, which means that they cannot undertake some work on them. However, with so many stories of tree surgeons working on protected trees, you wonder if many professionals are ignorant of the law or are unaware of what trees are actually impacted or affected by these regulations.

The latest reminder that a tree surgeon faces the risk of prosecution if they undertake work on a protected tree has come from Leicester Magistrates Court. This is because Thomas Bale, from Longfield Tree and Hedge Care, has been fined for unauthorised work which was carried out on two trees located in Littlethorpe. These trees had tree preservation orders on them, and have done since 2011.

The restrictions of the protection order meant that the trees couldn’t be felled or even reduced in size without having permission from the local council. This protection was put in place due to the role the trees played in creating the style and identity of the local area. In many parts of the country, trees have a huge role to play in creating a mood and atmosphere, which many people love, and which local councils and authorities seek to reserve.

A request was made to the local council

The work was undertaken in April of 2017 and the trees were horse chestnut and lime trees. In this specific case, a request was made to Blaby District Council for permission and the response was to allow for certain work to be carried out. This included the removal of a small amount of deadwood, to sever ivy and to remove small branches which were located on the lower limbs of the tree.

However, an investigation by the planning enforcement team of the local council deemed that the work that had been carried out was “far in excess of the consented works”. The imposed fine was £569. The total level of fine which can be imposed on tree surgeons in this manner amounts to £20,000. Mr Bale submitted a plea of guilty in breaching the Tree Preservation Order, with the fine being broken down into an actual fine of £440 with costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £44.

Councillor Sheila Scott, who is the portfolio holder for the Disctrict Council in Blaby, said; “I hope that this prosecution highlights to residents that we will not accept the bludgeoning of protected trees in the district. Both trees have become unsightly for residents, with the lime tree looking like a tall bare stick. Tree Preservation Orders are in place to protect trees for the public’s enjoyment, and we will not hesitate to prosecute if such orders are ignored.”

The local council has also called on local residents to familiarise themselves with Tree Preservation Orders and to be aware of any suspicious work taking place in the local area. A lot of the investigation work undertaken by the council on this matter comes from tip-offs or recommendations from local people.

High Hedge Disputes: The Current Position

Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which gives local authorities powers to deal with complaints about high hedges will come into operation in England on 1 June 2005.


From 1 June 2005, provided they have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving their hedge dispute, people will be able to take their complaint about a neighbour’s evergreen hedge to their local authority – your district or borough Council.

The role of the local authority is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to adjudicate on whether – in the words of the Act – the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of their property. In doing so, the authority must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.

If they consider the circumstances justify it, the local authority will issue a formal notice to the hedge owner which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem, and when by. Failure to carry out the works required by the authority is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.

The Facts:

  • The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2 metres
  • You do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above 2 metres
  • When a hedge grows over 2 metres the local authority does not automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint is made
  • If you complain to your local authority, it does not follow automatically that they will order your neighbour to reduce the height of their hedge. They have to weigh up all the issues and consider each case on its merits
  • The legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees
  • The local authority cannot require the hedge to be removed
  • The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light
  • There is no provision to serve an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) in respect of high hedge complaints.