Category Archives: Legal

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.

Introduction

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.