Your responsibilities for trees on your property

If you own land or property that includes trees that are close to a road or pavement, you must make sure they are safe by arranging for them to be regularly inspected, preferably by a specialist. The Arboricultural Association can help you find a tree care professional.

You must take action if a tree on your land:

  • stops vehicles or pedestrians using the road or pavement safely
  • is dead or might fall down
  • blocks the line of sight at a road junction
  • blocks streetlights, pelican crossings or road signs.

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If a tree on your land overhangs the road

Please trim it back so that there are no low hanging branches. The minimum height allowed for overhanging branches depends on the type of road. The rules are:

  • For A roads - you must prune any overhanging branches lower than 7m above the road
  • For B and C roads - you must prune any overhanging branches lower than 6m above the road
  • For D roads/unclassified - you must prune any overhanging branches lower than 5.4m above the road
  • Over footways, pavements and pathways you must prune any overhanging branches lower than 2.3m.

To find your road type (classification), see the Surrey Interactive Map, select Roads and transport then Road Network from the menu of the right, select street name and type in your road name; refresh the map and select the road to display your road's details, including a number that starts with a letter which is your road's classification.

The image below shows the rules for the minimum height allowed for overhanging branches by road type, as described above. (Please select the image to see a larger version.)

Diagram showing branches of trees overhanging the highway area that would need to be trimmed back

Before you carry out work on your tree

Please contact us if you or your tree specialist intend to carry out work on your trees from the road or pavement. We want to ensure safety measures are in place to protect you, vehicles and pedestrians.

If your tree has a Tree Preservation Order

If your tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order and you want to carry out work on it. You have to tell your local borough or district council about the work.

If we have identified a hazard on your property

If our highway tree inspections were to identify a tree on your property as a hazard, we would send you a letter to let you know about our concern and what you need to do to fix it. We will also send you a some frequently asked questions about resolving tree issues and provides more information about land owner's responsibilities (also available below). Additionally, we will give you a timeframe in which you will need to complete the work to remove the hazard.

Frequently asked questions about resolving tree issues

Why have I received this letter?

Surrey County Council has carried out a specialist survey in your road to identify tree hazards that could threaten the highway. A hazard has been located on land appearing to form part of your property. Our powers as the County Council give us the right to contact you about the hazard and encourage you to take action to remove the threat to the highway.

What tree/s are you referring to?

We are working with a specialist supplier who will help you locate the hazard. Our supplier will contact you in the next few days to arrange a convenient time to visit you, to help locate the tree/s we are concerned with.

The trees are not on my property.

The Council makes all reasonable attempts to locate the correct property owner first time. Sometimes this can prove difficult. If you know who owns the trees, please advise our specialist supplier when they contact you.

What do I need to do about the defects?

The tree defects need to be removed or resolved. Land owners have responsibility for trees on their land. Landowners are required to regularly inspect and take action where hazards are identified. Our specialist supplier will discuss the hazard/s we have identified and offer you a solution. This will be at your cost.

Where can I get advice?

The Council website offers various advice on trees on the following links.

You may seek the advice of the Citizens Advice Bureau. Specialists who are approved contractors of a trade organisation such as the Arboricultural Association. Surrey Trading standards offer a directory of suppliers approved within Traders4u.

Can this letter be ignored?

No, as there is a need to remove the hazard to the highway.

Surrey Highways will pursue this matter until a satisfactory conclusion is reached. Our initial approach is to advise you of the problem and ask that you resolve it.

Our specialist supplier will provide you with a quote and can carry out the work, if you chose to use them. You may also choose to make alternative arrangements. If the hazard is not resolved after the first time we contact you, the specialist supplier will inform the Council.

If the hazard remains, we are entitled to serve Legal Notice under Section 154 of the Highways Act 1980 on property in pursuit of securing safe highway. We will use this option if necessary. The Legal Notice has a right of appeal.

How much is going to cost?

Our specialist supplier will provide a price to remove or resolve the hazard. Their rates are competitive. There is no obligation to accept our suppliers' quote and you may seek quotes from other suppliers.

What if I can't afford it?

Any tree on your property is your responsibility. It is good practice to regularly inspect your trees. If the tree hazard is not removed or resolved by the landowner, the Council can (under Section 154 of the Highways Act 1980) remove or resolve the hazard themselves. In this situation the Council will normally seek to recover the cost of the work. Costs can be recovered directly with the landowner or through placing a land charge on their property.

What will happen if I ignore this letter?

If no action is taken our specialist suppler will report back to the Council. A Legal Notice may be issued.

If no action is taken and an incident affecting the highway occurs, the landowner may be pursued for all reasonable costs relating to the incident.

Is there any financial support?

Unfortunately not. There is no financial assistance available from any known source open to property owners to maintain trees on their land.

How do I contact the Council about this?

If you have difficulties with this request, or wish to seek clarification, please contact us on 0300 200 1003 or see our contact details page.

How do I contact the contractor about this?

Please contact us on 0800 975 4535 or alternatively email info@connicktreecare.co.uk quoting the reference number at the top of your letter.

Who are Connick Tree Care contractors?

The Council work with Connick Tree Care, who are accredited by the Arboricultural Association the national trade association. To be part of such schemes suppliers have to undergo assessment and conduct their business in line with the standards set out by the issuing body. The Council does not employ Connick Tree Care to perform tree survey operations as this would be a conflict of interest.

Can I use my own contractors?

Yes, the choice of contractor remains entirely at the property owner's discretion.

Who inspected my tree and was the inspector qualified?

The Council will only allow qualified people to perform inspections. Qualified people hold a certificate in professional tree inspections which is issued by the industry governing body: LANTRA.

Why was the inspection carried out?

The Council as the Highway Authority has a duty to maintain a safe highway. We regularly inspect all highway assets and trees on land that may affect the highway.

How much of a risk to the highway is the tree?

Our inspectors identify all obvious hazards during our inspections. Their work is focused on locating foreseeable risks that will include the presence of any of the following:

  • A dead tree within falling distance of public highways
  • Dead wood overhanging the public highway
  • Low branches obstructing a public lamp
  • A growth defect which could affect the public highway
  • Part of a fallen tree or branch

My trees are protected by Tree Preservation Order.

Tree Preservation Orders are administered by your District or Borough Council. Permission will normally be granted to remove a hazard from your tree, if it affects the highway. Please contact the Town Planning Team at your local authority for more details on how to make an application to work on a protected tree.

I live in a Conservation Area.

Conservation Areas are administered by your District or Borough Council. Permission will normally be granted to remove a hazard from your tree, if it affects the highway. Please contact the Town Planning Team at your local authority for more details on how to make an application to work on a tree in a conservation area.

My tree is home to nesting birds or roosting bats

Please inform our specialist supplier of this. They will advise you on all legal protection measures about species and disturbance.

Should I inform anybody the defect has been resolved?

Yes, if you use a different specialist supplier, please contact Connick Tree Care on 0800 975 4535 or alternatively through info@connicktreecare.co.uk quoting the reference number at the top of your letter.