Tree Questions

Page last updated at 08 June 2015 at 11:30

Council and Private Trees

General Council Tree Enquiries

My neighbour's trees encroach over my boundary.  Can I cut them back?
 Civil law allows you to remove any overhanging branches that overhang your property back to the actual boundary line, i.e. projected up into the airspace over the line.  This can technically be done without informing or gaining permission from the neighbour, but it is always much better to at least inform them.  However, you must not cross the boundary to do so.  For example, leaning a ladder over the boundary to rest against the trunk of the tree could be classed as trespass.  You should not dispose of the branches or any other waste material from the tree over your fence into your neighbour's garden, but first ask your neighbour if they wish to have the material returned to them.  If they don't want it, it will be your responsibility to dispose of it.  If a tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order, or because it is located within a Conservation Area, the Common Law right is removed and you will need to seek formal permission from the Council before undertaking work to living parts of the tree.
I am having problems with a tree in my neighbour's garden blocking light.  What can I do?
Alleged blocking of light to the house or garden involves complex legal issues and there is no legal right to light.  The council will not generally prune healthy trees to allow greater access for light. Technically, your neighbour only has a duty to ensure their trees are safe.  There is currently no height restriction on trees and hedges.  If you have concerns regarding a hedge or tree, ask your neighbour how they intend to maintain it.  You may be able to cut the overhanging branches back to the boundary.  However, before either you or your neighbour undertakes works to any trees, it is important to check the trees are not covered by a Tree Preservation Order or located within a Conservation Area.

I have a big tree near my property.  I am worried about the damage the roots may be doing to my house.  What should I do?
Tree roots may potentially cause damage to built structures in two ways, direct damage and indirect damage.
Direct Damage - This is when the physical expansion of tree roots lifts paving stones, cracks walls etc.  Due to the weight of a house, no amount of physical expansion will affect it but garden walls and small structures such as garages or outbuildings may be at risk.
Indirect Damage - Houses which are sited on shrinkable clay soils can be affected by the natural shrinkage of the soil.  This in turn can be exaggerated by tree root extraction of moisture.  Clay soil shrinks as water is extracted from it and this can lead to subsidence.  This action rarely results in significant damage and it is very rare for remedial action not to solve the problem.  If you suspect subsidence is occurring in your property e.g. cracks appearing that open in late summer and close over the winter period, then contact your house insurer.  An investigation will then be initiated and the exact nature of the damage can be ascertained and further action proposed.
Eastleigh Borough Council will not allow works to protected trees to be undertaken if you believe a tree has the potential to cause damage.  If the tree is implicated in the damage then suitable works can be agreed.
Heave -  Heave is a rare occurrence that generally only happens if the tree implicated in the damage is significantly older than the property.  In this case the property may have been built on a clay soil in an already shrunken state due to the action of the tree (in many ways like a pump) on the soil.  If this tree is then removed, the soils will re-wet to their original state and cause the opposite of subsidence heave.  Eastleigh has a low incidence of clay soil and the risk of tree related subsidence or heave is low.  However, direct damage to shallow footed structures may occur whatever the soil type.
There is a tree in our street with a broken branch or trunk, or a branch that obstructs path or drive.  Can you help? 
Trees in the pavement or in parks, playing fields or managed grass areas, are the responsibility of the Tree Section in the Countryside and Recreation Department.  Therefore, any problem with such trees should be reported to them using the contact details above.
The tree roots are blocking my drains.  What can I do?
It is very unusual for roots to physically break drains and associated pipe work.  However, tree roots are opportunistic and if an old pipe with poor joints is leaking into the surrounding soil, this will attract the roots that may then exploit the existing weakness.  Then, when repairs are required, a proliferation of tree roots often leads to the blame being placed with a nearby tree.  However, replacement of faulty drains/pipes with modern materials will usually eliminate the leak and stop problems from reoccurring.
A tree is lifting paving slabs / affecting my drive.  Can I cut the roots of a protected tree?
Cutting the roots of any tree is generally ill-advised as it may affect the tree's health and stability.  If a tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, or if it stands in a Conservation Area, an application will be required before root pruning can take place.  Contact the Council's Tree Officer for advice and application forms.
Are there any controls on the type of tree I can plant in my garden?
There are no controls on the type of tree that can be planted in your garden.  However, a number of points are worth considering.
· How much space is available?  It is always best to ensure the space is sufficient to accommodate the future growth of the tree.
· What is the expected mature size, both in height and spread, of the tree?
· Are there any overhead wires or obstructions?
· In what position is the tree in comparison to the property?
· A new tree to the south or west may block afternoon or evening sun, while a tree to the north will not restrict direct light from entering the building.

I am worried that my oak tree is infested by the Oak Processionary Moth. What do I need to do?

There are no recorded cases of this moth in Hampshire. If you have concerns or require the most up to date information please use the link below where you can find maps of the latest outbreaks and how to report suspected cases.

Caring for your Trees

My tree needs to be pruned.  What should I do?
In many cases the best form of tree management is not to prune at all.  Pruning disrupts the natural state of the tree and also creates opportunities for decay fungi to enter the tree.  If you feel you must prune your tree, it is best to mimic nature.  Crown reduction (i.e. making a tree smaller in size by overall pruning) is generally a bad form of tree management, as it is very unnatural for the tree and often stimulates vigorous re-growth.  If you feel you must prune your tree, then decide what you want to achieve first and only carry out work that will do this.  Such work should normally take the form of:

  • Crown Lifting - The removal of branches from ground level to a specified height, usually expressed in metres and ultimately producing a clear stem.  It is important that no branches bigger than 1/3rd the size of the associated tree stem are removed, as such wounds can create a weakness on the tree.
  • Crown Thinning - This is the thinning of the overall canopy of the tree usually by no more than 20%. The tree will remain the same size but the canopy will be thinner, allowing more light to penetrate. Such work is unlikely to stimulate vigorous regrowth.
  • Deadwooding - Removing the deadwood from a tree is generally beneficial.  However, in certain cases, such as trees in woodlands or veteran trees, it may be better to leave the deadwood as a habitat providing it does not pose a safety risk.

Further advice can be taken from experienced and qualified tree surgeons. Contact the Arboricultural Association (01242 522152). 

Before undertaking any work, it is worth checking to see if the tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order or stands in a Conservation Area.  For further information you can contact the Tree Section.
When should I prune my trees?
Ideally, trees should be pruned when dormant (Nov-Feb).  However, certain species should be pruned in the summer, such as cherry trees for example.  Avoid the period when the tree is coming out of the dormant period.  Incorrect pruning during late March, April and May can induce 'bleeding' where the rising sap weeps from the tree.  This can severely stress the tree, disrupting its natural balance at a very important time.  If you have concerns about the work you intend to do, consult a professional tree surgeon.  It is also important not to disturb nesting birds or roosting/hibernating bats.  If you have any queries concerning wildlife, contact the Tree Section on 02380 688422 or email
Can you recommend a tree surgeon or tree consultant?
Details of tree contractors or tree consultants are available from the Arboricultural Association on 01242 522152.  We can supply a list of tree contractors whom we know are currently insured and have seen the quality of their work. This is not an approved or recommended list.
How can I tell if my tree is safe?
Such assessments are best made by qualified experts.  Details of tree consultants are available from the Arboricultural Association on 01242 522152

My tree doesn't look very healthy.  Can the Council advise me? If not, where else can I seek advice?
 If your tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order or you live in a Conservation Area, the Council will be able to advise regarding the health of your tree.  Otherwise, if you are concerned about the health of your tree, you should contact an Arboricultural Consultant.  A full list is available from the Arboricultural Association on 01242 522152.
My tree has a fungus growing on it.  Does this make the tree unsafe?
There are many types of fungi that affect wood.  They are often indicative of a wider problem and are a valuable tool in diagnosing what may be wrong with your tree.  Removing fungal fruiting bodies from trees will not get rid of the fungus since it is usually by this stage well established within the tree.  If you find fungi growing on your tree call an expert to help identify the potential problem.  If you are worried about your children coming into contact with the fungus contact the Council to arrange a site visit.  A full list of Arboricultural Consultants is available from the Arboricultural Association, telephone 01242 522152

My tree drops a sticky substance.  What can I do about it?
 Certain species of trees are susceptible to aphids that feed on the sap through veins on the leaves. Because the sap has a very low nutritional content the aphids must feed on a very high volume and they discharge the excess as a sticky sugar solution while they are feeding.  There is very little that can be done to resolve the problem.  Spraying is often not practicable.  Fortunately, the sugar solution is only a mild one and should not affect paintwork on cars if the car is washed at regular intervals. Regular washing will also help to prevent a growth of sooty mould on the sugar solution deposits which can develop over time.
I am interested in planting a tree.  Can you offer any advice?
Our staff can offer only general advice about species, size, site or when to plant.  Further advice can be obtained from the Arboricultural Association