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Tree management and maintenance

Maintenance of Council owned trees

Trees and woodlands in the urban areas of South Ayrshire are a key environmental asset and provide significant social and environmental benefit. These trees are an integral feature of our landscape and local ecology and provide an important local amenity for residents and visitors alike. They do, however, need to be monitored, managed and maintained to ensure that the Council discharges its duty of care and that the public continues to enjoy and value these assets.

Who should I contact about a tree problem?

South Ayrshire Council has two separate sections dedicated to the management of trees and woodland within the district.

  • The Planning Service provides guidance concerning trees on private land in relation to:
    Tree preservation Orders (TPO’s)
    Trees protected by Conservation Areas
    High Hedge Regulations
  • Neighbourhood Services deals with maintenance and management of:
    Trees and woodlands on public land

When is a tree defined as “dangerous”?

Descriptions such as “dangerous” and “safe” are relative – there is no single definition. We will refer to a tree as “dangerous” when there is judged to be an “unacceptable” risk that the tree or branch will fail and cause significant harm to people or property.

When we receive a report of a “dangerous tree” our Tree Officer looks at a number of things when determining the level of risk, such as the consequences if the tree fails – who or what will it hit, and the likelihood of it happening – a dead, diseased or decaying tree or branch is more likely to fall than a healthy, live tree.

Who is responsible for dangerous trees?

The owner of the land is responsible for trees growing on their land. If a tree is on the highway verge or Council owned property, please report the details to us by calling 01292 616448.

Only in special cases where a tree on private land is thought to be imminently dangerous and the land owner is not known, then the Council have discretionary powers to intervene.

Does the Council have an obligation to prune a tree or remove it because it blocks out day/sunlight, my view or TV reception?

The Council has no legal obligation to carry out tree surgery to alleviate light restriction or overhang into your garden. However, the Council will consider remedial action should a tree cause significant reduction of light in your house.

A tree is growing too close to my house. Will the Council remove the tree?

We will inspect Council owned trees when these are too close to dwellings in case they show signs of disease or pose a risk to the public or structures.. If branches of an otherwise healthy tree is hitting a dwelling, the Council will arrange to remove this branch. Seasonal inconveniences like shade, leaf fall and sticky honeydew from a tree too close to a dwelling do not justify felling a tree. We have a duty to also consider the amenity value that would be lost.

Before buying or renting a property next to a tree, please think about whether you can live with the tree and the outlook of your property. You may also wish consider repositioning your satellite dish, aerial or use a cable service.

Is the Council responsible for leaves, sap and fruit that fall from its trees and may block private gutters or private paths.

No, in the eyes of the law once a leaf, seed or fruit has left the tree, ownership passes to the owner of the land on which it falls.

Sap is falling on my car, does the Council have to cut back or remove the tree?

No. Sap or, more accurately, honeydew is excreted by insects feeding on leaves in the tree. We do not have any obligation to cut back or remove trees for this reason.

Does the Council have to cut back any branches from its trees that overhang my property?

No. Although, the owner or tenant has a right to enjoy their property without interference, roots and branches are not an infringement of that right. Where it can be shown that encroaching branches may be the cause of damage to property, we will investigate and take the necessary action to prevent further damage. You are entitled to remove any branches overhanging your property.

Can I pay the council to carry out work on my own trees?

Yes, but It is recommended that quotes are also obtained from other contractors. Due to an already heavy workload concerning Council owned trees, our own foresters are not always in the position to carry out work on private trees immediately.

Can the Council force my neighbour to cut their tree down if it affects my property?

We do not get involved in private disputes unless the tree is shown to be of “imminent danger” and the owner is not known.

Will the Council manage trees growing on private land affecting my property where the owner is unknown?

No, unless the trees are an “imminent” danger, we will not intervene.

Will trees cause damage to my drains?

It is very rare for trees to block up or cause damage to drains. Roots may occasionally block drains, but in order for the roots to gain access the drain must already be damaged.

A tree has fungus growing on it. Does this make the tree unsafe?

Not necessarily. There are many types of fungi that live happily on trees without damaging them. However, if the fungal growth is close to the base of the tree or from the stem or branches, this may suggest wood decay. Removing fungal fruiting bodies from trees will not get rid of the fungus since by this stage it is well established. If you believe that a tree on Council owned land is so diseased that it is unsafe, please report this to us on 01292 616448. If the tree is on your own property and you are unsure if its condition is making it unsafe, you are advised to contact a tree surgeon for a professional opinion.

There is a tree outside my property that is tall and moving in the wind. Is it dangerous?

Tall trees are not necessarily dangerous. Healthy trees produce enough wood to remain upright. The action of swaying, allows the tree to withstand normal weather conditions, and even strong winds. If the tree is on Council land and you believe it to be dangerous please report it to us on 01292 616448.

Tree roots are affecting the pavement. Can the Council fix it?

Please contact 01563 503164 – Ayrshire Roads Alliance and request a Roads Inspector to check the pavement. If the inspector feels that further guidance is required, our Tree Officer/foresters will inspect the tree and advise the Roads Inspector.

My neighbour is cutting down/pruning a tree in their garden. Have they got permission?

If the tree is not covered by a TPO and is not in a Conservation Area, permission is not required.

I live in a Council house and would like the tree in my garden felled.

Please contact your local Housing Officer. Tenants are responsible for trees in their own gardens and it is generally accepted that a tree will only be felled when it is considered dangerous.

Tree work the Council will or will not carry out to Council owned trees:

General complaints and requests will be logged on the forestry database held within Neighbourhood Services. If tree surgery/felling is required, it should be noted that this list is extensive and there is usually a 6 – 12 month waiting list unless the tree is in imminent danger of posing a risk to the public or structures. Please call 01292 616448 if you require further information.

Examples of enquiries that will constitute grounds for pruning or felling of trees on Council owned property:

  • Remove dead, dying or dangerous trees
  • Conflict with BT phone lines
  • Interference with terrestrial TV reception only
  • Overhanging obstructing branches affecting target areas e.g. pathways
  • Tree pests, disease or fungi on trees
  • Remove limbs damaging structures
  • Remove limbs which are obscuring highway signs, traffic lights or lamp columns
  • Inspect and if necessary, repair trip hazard caused by Council owned trees
  • Thin groups of trees to improve the form and condition of remaining trees
  • Identifiable Tree pests, disease or fungi on trees that can cause tree failure

Example of enquiries that will NOT constitute grounds for pruning or felling of trees:

  • Cut back branches overhanging private property.
  • Leaf /bud/blossom/needle/fruit from Council owned trees falling on private property
  • 'Top' trees or remove branches to increase daylight or decrease height in relation to property
  • Trees that are tall or have a large spreading crown and would reach your property if they fell unless they pose an unacceptable risk to people or property
  • Trees obstructing views
  • Trees that are affecting solar panels and Satellite TV signals - unless the complainant is willing to pay for the removal and suitable replacement tree- subject to practicability and Council approval?.
  • Remove branches or trees to prevent potential root damage to structures
  • Remove branches nearly touching buildings, walls, roofs, fences etc.
  • Trees casting shade in a garden
  • Trees that are deemed too tall but healthy
  • Trees that host birds, bats or insects which create a nuisance to the surrounding area including guano.
  • The perceived risk it will cause subsidence in the future
  • Trees that have naturally regenerated in suitable areas that add to Council’s tree stocks.

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Last updated: 25 February 2016

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