Trees and your property

My neighbour's trees encroach over my boundary, can I cut them back?

Your Common Law rights allow you to remove branches that cross over your boundary without the need to seek your neighbour's permission. Notifying your neighbour of your intentions is always advisable. However, you must not cross the boundary to do so, e.g. 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 do not 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.

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My neighbour's trees are blocking my light, what can I do?

Technically your neighbour only has a duty to ensure their trees are safe. There is currently no height restriction on trees. If you have concerns regarding a 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.

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My neighbours have a high hedge, what can I do about it?

The high hedges legislation applies to evergreen and semi-evergreen hedges over 2m high. The legislation provides for those who feel that a neighbour's hedge is hindering the reasonable enjoyment of their property to submit a formal complaint (with a fee) to the Council. The Council will then investigate the matter and may, if considered appropriate, serve a notice on the hedge owner requiring them to reduce the hedge in height. For further information see the "High hedges: complaining to the council" leaflet.

In most cases, it is possible for neighbours to agree upon a course of action between them without a formal complaint being necessary. This is certainly the preferable approach for all concerned. If you are unable to reach agreement with your neighbours, try contacting Woking Community Mediation Service.

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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: 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: Large built structures including houses which are sited on clay soils can be affected by a tree's removal of moisture. Clay soil shrinks as water is extracted from it and this can lead to subsidence. If a building has been built on clay soil near an existing tree, and that tree is then removed, the soil may expand which can cause heave. The risk of such damage may be greater with older properties. Modern building standards mean that the risk to newer buildings is less.

Tree-related subsidence is usually seasonal, with cracks appearing in the summer months as the tree uses the water, and then closing in the winter months as rain wets the soil. Woking has a low incidence of clay soil and the risk of tree related subsidence/heave is low. However, direct damage to shallow footed structures may occur whatever the soil type.

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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.

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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.

The forms can be completed online. Alternatively use the link below to download the form:

Application form
Tree works: works to trees subject to a tree preservation order (TPO) and/or notification of proposed works to trees in a conservation area Advice

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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 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.