Trees Frequently Asked Questions

What can be done about High Hedges?

The right hedge can be an ideal garden boundary but the wrong hedge may bring problems, especially if it is allowed to grow unchecked.  When considering whether a particular hedge can be the subject of a complaint under the Act, people should ask themselves the following:

  • Is the hedge - or portion that is causing problems - made up of a line of two or more trees or shrubs?
  • Is it mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen?
  • Is it more than 2 metres above ground level?
  • Even though there are gaps in the foliage or between the trees, is the hedge still capable of obstructing light or views?

If the answer to all of these questions is 'yes', then it is likely to be a high hedge for the purpose of the Act. There are other factors that need to be taken into consideration and the following leaflets explain why:

How do I report illegal work to protected trees or there are trees which you think should be protected?

Call the Council's Contact Centre 01276 707100 and a customer service adviser will take the details and pass them to the Arboricultural Officer or Enforcement Officer. Or email trees@surreyheath.gov.uk

Who is responsible for the maintenance of Trees subject to TPO?

The owner of a tree subject to TPO is responsible for its maintenance, as is the case if a tree is not subject to TPO.

How do I find out who owns a tree?

The owner of the land on which a tree is rooted is the owner of that tree. If a tree is on the boundary of two properties the deeds to those properties should be referenced to establish the property boundaries. The tree is within the property which contains the majority of the stump. If the tree is on land of unknown ownership, it may be necessary to consult the Land Registry which is the government department that keeps records of land ownership www.landreg.gov.uk

My neighbour's tree is overhanging my garden, can I prune it?

If the tree is subject to a TPO, in a conservation area or subject of a restrictive planning condition you will need to follow the procedures listed above to obtain the consent of the Council to prune any part of the tree, overhanging or not. Pruning of overhanging branches only, which would render the tree one sided or unbalanced, would not be agreed.

If the tree is not subject to any restrictions imposed by the council you have a Common Law right to prune overhanging branches back to the boundary only of your property but not beyond and may not enter adjacent land to carry out the work. It is always advisable to be polite and to inform your neighbour of your intention to prune their trees and to agree the method of disposal of the prunings which remain the property of the tree owner. Note: The tree owner is not obliged to pay for, or undertake the pruning of limbs overhanging a third party property.

I think my tree is dead/dangerous - can I remove it?

Any protected tree that is dead and /or assessed by a specialist to be imminently dangerous can be removed without the need to submit an application to gain consent of the Council. If a part of a tree poses an imminent danger i.e. split or hanging limb, that part which poses the danger may be pruned without an application to gain consent. However, the onus of proof that a tree was dead or imminently dangerous rests with the tree owner and the advice and guidance and written opinion of a qualified Arboricultural specialist is needed. It is often difficult to tell if a tree was dead or dangerous from the stump remaining after felling. If you plan to remove a tree without an application, and if safe to do so, it is advisable to give the Council five day's notice in writing and marked for the urgent attention of the Arboricultural Officer. This will give the officer an opportunity to make a site visit to check that the tree is dead or imminently dangerous and confirm that it can be removed without consent. If the Tree Officer has not visited the site prior to a trees removal it is a good idea to take photographs of the tree which clearly shows its condition. Note: Protected trees removed by way of exemption [dead] or five days notice may need to be replaced and the Council will issue a Tree Replacement Notice, which is a legally binding Condition.

Can I search online to see if my property has a TPO?

Yes: Protected Trees in Surrey Heath Map

Please note: The information provided by the website is for general guidance only. Whilst every care has been taken in compilation of information, Surrey Heath Borough Council or its employees cannot guarantee its accuracy and will not be liable for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of using these pages. 

How do I get a copy of a TPO?

A copy of a TPO can be obtained from The Land Charges Department of Surrey Heath Borough Council. The request for a copy of a TPO must be in writing and accompanied by a fee of £40 (inclusive of VAT).

Will the council inspect/prune my tree?

The council does not conduct inspections of trees for private residents or supply a tree pruning service. The Council has lists of specialist Arboricultural Contractors and professionally qualified Arboricultural Consultants who can assist you with advice and guidance and professional support.

Accordingly, the Council now operate a list of Contractors which is updated regularly. They must provide a copy of their current Public Liability insurance certificate together with their H & S policy and a review date. The recommendation is to seek a minimum of three competitive quotes from the list and request a copy of their current Insurance Certificate should you need further reassurance.

The Council also operate a similar list of Arboricultural Consultants that operate within the Borough and have provided proof of their current Professional Indemnity Insurance.