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Tree Maintenance

Trees are the responsibility of the person or organisation who owns the land on which the main stem (trunk) is situated.

Is this tree the responsibility of the Council?

The Council have only responsibility for trees on land they actually own. We no longer have responsibility for land owned and/or managed by Housing Associations. To find out if we have responsibility for the land on which a tree is situated, please carry out a map search of the "assets" layer on our interactive mapping. Once you have opened the link, follow the instructions which you can download below:

Interactive Mapping - Instructions (PDF) [443KB] (opens new window)

In what circumstances will the Council carry out works to trees in its ownership?

The Council will carry out works to trees in our ownership where the condition of the tree presents a risk to people or property.

The Council will not carry out works to our trees in the following circumstances:

  • to prevent interference with transmitted signals, e.g. telephone, internet or satellite
  • to remove or reduce leaf, seed or fruit fall from private property
  • to remove or reduce honeydew or any other sticky substance
  • to remove or reduce bird droppings from trees - neither will we remove bird droppings from private land
  • because a tree is considered to be 'too big' or 'too tall'
  • to reduce drain blockage on private land

I am a tenant. How do I find out who is responsible for the trees affecting my property?

If you are a private or housing association tenant, you will need to contact your landlord or letting agent in the first instance. Housing associations are now separate private companies. The Council have no legal responsibilities for property owned and/or managed by housing associations.

Do I have a right to light? Do I have a right to a view?

No. There is no right to light or right to a view either in statutory law or at common law. We will not carry out works to Council-owned trees to increase light to a property or improve the outlook from a property.

N.B. In circumstances where the presence and stature of trees in our ownership is having an extreme, detrimental effect on the physical and/or mental health of a resident, such situations will be assessed individually. We will need written evidence from an appropriately qualified medical professional. This should declare that the trees themselves are a significant contributor to the cause of the individual's suffering.

How do I find out who is responsible for land on which a tree is situated?

If the land does not show on our interactive mapping as being Council-owned ('Assets') land, we are unable to assist you with tree ownership or maintenance enquiries. We do not hold land ownership details.

You will need to carry out a search via the Land Registry and contact the landowner direct.

Trees on private land are causing a nuisance. Who do I report this to?

This is a civil matter and the Council cannot assist. You will need to contact the landowner. We are unable to provide land ownership information. You can find land ownership details via the Land Registry (please see the link in the previous section).

For independent legal advice, most home insurance providers have a legal helpline detailed on your policy documentation. Alternatively, you can contact Citizens' Advice or your solicitor. The Council do not get involved in civil disputes relating to trees on private land.

Can I carry out works to someone else's trees (including council-owned trees)?

Under common law you may prune foliage overhanging your property boundary provided you offer the debris to the tree owner and, if they decline, dispose of the debris in a responsible manner.

You must be able to demonstrate you have contacted the owner or carried out reasonable steps to identify the owner via a Land Registry search prior to carrying out works and keep the search results for your records.

Before you do this, you must check if the tree is protected and if so, make a formal application for consent to carry out the works. When submitting your application you will need to provide information on the ownership of the tree which is available via the Land Registry.

Information on tree protection and obtaining consent is available on our Protected Trees page.

If you need to carry out any tree works, we advise you engage a fully qualified, fully insured tree surgeon/arborist. We are not permitted to recommend contractors. Further information on finding a tree surgeon is available at The Arboricultural Association.

Who is responsible for trees next to roads and footpaths?

Devon County Council Highways are responsible for the overall safety of trees alongside footpaths and highways.  You can report a problem on the Report a Highways Issue page.

Dangerous trees alongside footpaths and highways are generally not within the responsibility of South Hams District or West Devon Borough Councils.

Who is responsible for trees interfering with telephone lines?

If you are concerned trees are interfering with static telephone lines (not including mobile phone signal) you can contact BT Openreach for advice.

Who do I call if a tree is causing problems with a river?

If a tree concerned a tree has fallen into a river or is disrupting the flow of a river, you can contact the Environment Agency.

I have checked the Interactive Mapping and this tree is owned by the Council.

If your query has not been answered and you have identified through our interactive mapping we do own the tree(s), please email with your full postal address, including postcode and contact telephone number, describing the nature of your enquiry.

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