Storm Damage and Trees Advice and Guidance

My tree has been damaged in the storms. What can I do?

Often storm damage will affect weak points on the tree. Such damage is likely to leave large and unsightly wounds. Whilst the tree may remain structurally safe for some years following the damage, decay may develop as a result of the wound and the tree may become unsafe, ultimately requiring its removal. Tree owners and managers are advised to seek the guidance of a reputable tree specialist who will assess the stability of the tree and recommend any remedial works. Protected trees may require the consent of the Council for any non-urgent tree works and the contractor will usually deal with these matters.

What can I do about fallen branches in my garden?

Even if fallen branches are from a protected tree, you are entitled to clear any that have fallen or are hanging from a tree. The removal of such branches is deemed to be an "exception" in the Regulations. If a protected tree has fallen entirely in high winds then this may also be cleared under the same "exception". However, you should provide the Council with five days written notice of its removal.

Do not be tempted to use a chainsaw to fell or cut up tree damage unless you are qualified to do so and have the appropriate protective clothing. Approximately 20 people a year are killed and 500 people are seriously injured using chainsaws. These are almost always amateurs in their gardens. Even cutting up fallen small branches with a chainsaw is dangerous and tree owners are advised to use professionally qualified and insured tree surgeons in all cases.

My trees are swaying alarmingly in the wind and may be leaning. Are they unsafe?

Swaying is not necessarily abnormal; and some trees may even appear to sway alarmingly. However, trees are "self-optimising structures" and respond to external forces like wind and a leaning form, and lay down adaptive growth to compensate for such movement. A stable but flexible structure is often far more resistant to wind damage than a solid rigid structure. Coniferous trees appear to move in high winds more than deciduous trees, but this alone does not imply the tree is going to fall.

Even if a tree appears not to have moved you may wish to inspect the immediate base of the tree. If there are cracks in the soil radiating away from the base of the trunk, the tree will require a more thorough inspection by a competent Arborist. If you have any doubt whether a tree has become unstable or has moved by high winds, you are advised to obtain specialist tree advice.

My protected tree has been damaged by high winds. What should I do?

If a tree that is protected by TPO or in a Conservation Area and suffers storm damage, you may arrange to carry out whatever work is necessary to make it safe. The work must be the minimum required to make it safe and any additional work will require a prior application/notice to the Council. You must inform the Council at the first opportunity, regarding the works that have been carried out to the protected tree.

If a protected tree has been blown down in the storm or has been damaged in such a way that in the interests of safety it should be felled, then you may be required to replace it during the next planting season.

It is important to remember that it is your responsibility to prove that any work you have carried out on a protected tree was essential to make the tree safe. Therefore, it is good practice to make a good photographic record of storm damage to protected trees and to contact the Council prior to felling or removing them.

Who do I contact if there are other trees which are damaged or dangerous?

Parks and Open Spaces within Surrey Heath

  • Out of hours duty: 07867 656423
  • Office hours duty: 01276 707100
  • Trees on or adjacent the highway: 0300 200 1003
  • Protected Trees (Arboricultural Officer) 07769 300035