Trees and hedges provide a valuable amenity for the public and wildlife but they can become a serious hazard for highway users if they become unstable or decay, or if they encroach on to pavements, roads or visibility splays.
In urban areas, trees may outgrow their location if left unchecked, giving rise to structural damage to roads, pavements or drainage systems or to adjacent property. Maintenance will be required from time to time to prevent the adverse effects of trees or to maintain the condition of a tree. A qualified arboriculturist may be used to inspect trees of specific concern. Work is only undertaken after informing/consulting with local councils and adjacent property owners, unless it is very urgent. Work on trees in Conservation Areas and trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders require the authorisation of the relevant district or borough council.
When a tree on private land is considered to present a risk to the safety of highway users, we will contact the owner of the land to agree the work that is required to be undertaken at the owner's expense.
Almost all hedges are owned by the adjacent property owner. Where a problem is identified the property owner will be contacted and asked to cut back branches which are overgrowing the public highway. (The public highway consists of any verge, pavement, road, bridleway or public footpath whether or not maintained at public expense and over which the public has a right of way). If the owner fails to undertake this work within a reasonable period (usually 21 days), we may require the owner to undertake this work by serving notice in accordance with the provisions of Section 154 of the Highways Act. If this work is not completed within 14 days then we may undertake the work ourselves and seek to recover any costs from the property owner concerned.
It is a legal requirement to avoid disturbance to nesting birds and as far as possible, property owners should plan to cut their trees and hedges to avoid the bird nesting season. As a guide, bird nesting is generally between 1st March to 1st September however each season is different and some birds can nest at any time. We will not normally undertake work on our trees or issue hedge notices during this period, but there may be occasions where a tree or an overgrown hedge is causing a safety problem, requiring urgent action. In these circumstances it will be the property owner's responsibility of whoever is organising the work to check for nesting birds and avoid cutting or trimming in the vicinity of any nests until the fledglings have flown.
If you are undertaking tree or hedge trimming while standing on the public highway, it is your responsibility to ensure that you do not place yourself or road users at risk. If you have concerns, you may need to engage a contractor who is accredited to carry out works within the highway and who will be familiar with the signing arrangements needed in order to undertake the work safely. If you require further advice then please contact us on 0845 606 6171.
Reporting a problem with a tree or hedge affecting the public highway
If you would like to tell us about a problem with a highway tree or a hedge overgrowing the highway, please use our online report, selecting report type grass, hedges, trees and weeds.
If there is a tree or hedge problem on a trunk road (PDF, 89kb), (A11, A12, A14) please contact the Highways Agency Information Line.