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East Devon is known for its rich and diverse natural beauty. Trees are a vital component of this landscape and provide a wide range of benefits, not just by improving the way an area looks but also by providing a range of health, environmental, and economic benefits.

East Devon is also lucky in having a large population of historically and ecologically valuable large veteran trees throughout the district which contribute hugely to the area.

Prioritisation of tree work

East Devon District Council is currently in the process of carrying out a large scale tree condition survey of all council owned trees as part of the council tree management policy. The council is responsible for managing a wide range of areas, all of which have trees, large or small which will form part of the tree survey. The information gathered will be used as part of risk assessing the council trees stock and therefore allow appropriate arboricultural  management to take place with the aim of ‘Championing, Protecting, Managing and Valuing our Trees of East Devon’.

Currently there are approximately 2000 trees on the council’s tree database but this is just a small proportion of the trees owned and managed by the council. Due to budgetary constraints work has to be prioritized to ensure that the council meets its legal responsibilities. The public should be aware that the council is not required to prune trees unless they are considered to be dangerous, or are directly touching a building. Therefore, work to reduce or remove health and safety issues as defined by the Arboricultural Officer will take priority including:

  •  unsafe trees
  • diseased and damaged trees
  • trees touching or damaging buildings
  • trees obstructing footpaths, street lamps or road signs.

Other requests by members of the public shall be considered on a priority rating. Work not considered a health and safety risk is not guaranteed to be carried out, including:

  • work to reduce shading and to improve natural light
  • work to reduce a tree because it is considered too big or too tall
  • work to allow for the installation of solar panels or to improve light level to existing solar panels
  • work to improve television reception
  • work to remove overhanging branches
  • work to reduce bird droppings, honey dew or aphid damage
  • work to reduce leaf litter
  • work to improve the view from a private property
  • work to remove or reduce the incidence of bees or wasps 
  • work to manage a tree due to medical conditions (allergies)
  • work to manage a tree due to a concerns regarding poisoning
  • work to manage or remove roots from a garden

Where trees are found to be dangerous, are damaging structures or are part of EDDC long term tree management policy, East Devon District Council will pay for work. In other circumstances where work is not considered essential, residents may be required to pay for the cost of the work. The work will be carried out by EDDC contractors or grounds staff. For further information, please see the Tree Complaints Guidance:

Long-term management of council owned trees

Long-term management of council owned trees is essential to prevent problems occurring in the future and to ensure that East Devon District Council maintains its character. Therefore work will also take place to trees in which:

  • the removal or pruning of trees will help improve the structure or form of the trees.
  •  the removal of potential issues which would cause significant problems from occurring in   the future (inappropriately planted trees).
  • the removal of trees that are likely to cause damage or excessive nuisance, as defined by   the Tree Officer.

Tree Inspections

When carrying out a tree inspection following an enquiry from a resident or as part of the councils tree condition survey, safety and therefore the condition of the tree is always the most important factor.  A Visual Tree Assessment is carried out which aims to identify any hazards that would require management before the next inspection is due.  Some of the issues checked for include:

  • Disease
  • Structural weaknesses
  • Maintenance issues
  • Habitat potential

Long-term management of trees will also takes into account of the right tree for the right location. Therefore, species, tree height, canopy spread, and form will also be taken into consideration. Council owned trees are inspected  on a cyclical basis between one to five years depending on the public usage in the immediate vicinity of the tree.

Time frame for dealing with requests

Every effort will be made to deal with customer enquiries and concerns as soon as possible. Normally a site inspection will be able to take place within 2 weeks  though depending on the issues raised this will effect the response. Where a tree has been recently inspected, and there has been no significant change, then a re-inspection of the tree is unlikely to take place. It is desirable to gain as much information as possible which will help the arboriculture office assess the situation so that resources are used as effectively as possible. The following table outlines time frame with dealing with customer requests.

Priority Response Details Example Response Likelihood
Emergency Trees which are considered dangerous in which the size and location and issue and therefore risk is significant for immediate action. Large tree in high target area which has suffered severe storm damage / potential failure of whole tree / large section of tree which overhangs an A road, building or high target area. Onsite inspection within 1 hour or barriered off until resources available. Extremely rare
 Priority  Trees which are considered to pose a threat or to be potentially dangerous. There is no immediate threat. Large tree containing large amount of deadwood / has declined  / has died in high to medium target area. Tree which has fallen where this is no damage or risk of harm. 7 to 10 days to inspect tree.  Unlikely
 Routine  Trees which require general maintenance.  A tree touching a building or obstructing a footpath. Up to 40 days to inspect trees.  Most likely

Tree work standards

All tree work carried out by the council’s tree contractors is in accordance with British Standards and accepted arboricultural practice. Therefore, lopping and topping will not be carried out and pollarding of mature trees will only take place in the interest of long term management of the tree.

Wildlife

Under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2001, it is an offence to deliberately or recklessly disturb bats and birds or damage their roosts or habitat. Therefore before any work takes place to a tree, each tree is always assessed for signs of wildlife to minimise any disturbance. Where possible, work will take place at certain times of the year to avoid nesting seasons which is normally considered to be between March to September. If during a tree inspection protected species are found, the relevant authorities will be contacted and advice and permissions sort.  Work will only then take place once permission has been granted. Relevant websites:

Replacement planting

Replacement planting shall take place where trees have been felled and where is reasonably practical. Species chosen shall be predominately of local providence and will be appropriate for the given area. Due to climate change, it is anticipated that a wider range of species will need to be planted to cope with the changing conditions forecast.  Areas which are of low tree density will be prioritized for replacement planting.

Legal Rights

Where a branch overhangs your boundary whether from council land of from a neighbours, you have a Common Law right to legally prune the tree back to the boundary line. It is advised that you contact the owner to inform them of your intentions out of politeness. It is recommended that you use a competent tree surgeon and the work should meet appropriate arboricultural standards as set out per British Standard document BS 3998:2010, Tree Work Recommendation.

Any waste material will need to dispose of by you. Waste must not be left or dumped on council land or from land where the trees grows on. If access to the tree is required via council land, please contact the council for permission. You have no legal rights to cut or remove any part of the tree which does not overhang your property. Any unauthorised work which takes place to trees or the dumping of arising on council land may result in prosecution.

Private trees

The council is unable to help in dealing with complaints regarding trees on private property as the council does not have responsibility for them.  This is a civil matter which would need to be solved between the complainants and owner of the tree. Advice can be sort from a suitably qualified arboriculturalist. Tree-related subsidence If you are concerned that your property is suffering from subsidence damage due to the influence of council-owned or managed vegetation, you are advised to contact your property insurer for advice. All cases of tree related subsidence shall be considered based on the provision of sufficient detailed evidence as set out in The Joint Mitigation Protocol. http://www.ltoa.org.uk

Tree Complaints Guidance

Most complaints regarding trees are referred to below and the council’s tree management response is outlined. Some people may refer to a tree being a nuisance or inconvenience though it always should be considered that often others will consider the same tree to be an asset. The council recognises that there needs to be a balance between preserving the current tree population whilst also recognising that tree management is sometime necessary due to sound arboricultural reasons. EDDC will take each enquiry or complaint about a tree and assess each situation on its own individual basis:

Unsafe trees, diseased and damaged trees

Where concern has been raised about the safety or condition of a tree, the council will ensure that the tree is inspected as part of its duty of care of which all land owners have responsibility. Resident’s are likely to be asked a few key questions to help the council establish a response time to enable resources to be effectively used.  Often, trees which may be considered dangerous are often not the case.  Trees have evolved to be able to cope with strong winds by being flexible which helps dissipate the winds energy and can respond to changes in their condition and environment by putting on adaptive growth. Research has suggested that trees are thought to be at least 4.5 times stronger than they need to be. 

Council tree management response:  

  • Tree work will only be carried out where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer

Trees touching or damaging buildings

Where trees are touching a building the council will aim to achieve a clearance where possible of at least 1.5m. It maybe necessary to remove the tree if it is considered to be in an inappropriate location.

Council tree management response: 

  • Tree work will only be carried out where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer and where work is considered not to be to the detrimental of the local area or health of the tree. 
  • Tree work will only be carried out where trees are considered too close to a property or unsuitable for the location.

Trees obstructing footpaths, street lamps or road signs

Where a council tree is causing an obstruction to roads, right of way, signs or lampposts, the council will carry out appropriate pruning to ensure clearance. Over roads, this will ensure clearance to 5.2m and footpaths to 2.4m.

Council tree management response:

  • Tree work will only be carried out where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer and where work is considered not to be to the detrimental of the local area or health of the tree.

Shading - 'the tree is too large’

It is often the case that residents expect the trees and hedges next to their property to be maintained and pruned by the council as a matter of course. However, as often misquoted, there is no right to light in a garden. The law in relation to the right to light refers to where it can be established that there has been 20 years of uninterrupted enjoyment of light which applies to a window or opening within a building. Just because a tree is large, it does not mean that a tree is dangerous.  Where concern is raise about the safety of a tree, the council will inspect the tree. See Tree Inspection.

Council tree management response:

  • Tree work will only be carried where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer and where work is considered not to be to the detrimental of the local area or health of the tree.
  •  Where trees are considered too close to a property or unsuitable for the location.
  •  Where there are specific individual circumstances where an individuals quality of life is being seriously effected; for instance for someone who maybe housebound or visually impaired,

Solar panels

Residents should understand that shading will effect the efficiency of solar panels and therefore the effects of any trees nearby which may cause shading should be considered by residents. Whilst the council recognises the importance of renewable energy resources, trees are also important in tackling climate change.

Council tree management response:

  • Tree work is unlikely to take place to unless in exceptional circumstances.

Television reception

As with the right to light, there is no right to television reception.  Trees can cause interference with TV reception especially during periods of exceptional weather.  The effects of nearby trees on reception should be considered if installing satellite television. Often, relocating an aerial will improve receptions. Customers are recommended to contact their provider regarding any issues with reception to ask for advice. It is the responsibility of the provider to ensure that they can provide you with reception.

Council tree management response:

  • Tree work is unlikely to take place to unless in exceptional circumstances.

Overhanging branches

There is no legal requirement for owners of trees to prune overhanging branches back to the boundary. Residents can legally prune overhanging branches back to boundary but no further.  (It is recommended that residents check before carrying out any work that the trees are not protected).

Council tree management response:

  • Tree work will only be carried where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer and where work is considered not to be to the detrimental of the local area or health of the tree.
  • Where trees are touching a residents house or garage.
  • Where trees are considered too close to a property or unsuitable for the location.
  • Where there are specific individual circumstances where an individuals quality of life is being seriously effected; for instance for someone who maybe housebound or visually impaired

Leaf litter, bird droppings, honey dew, aphid damage

These are all natural occurrences which typically occur at certain times of the year and in the majority of cases, the benefits of the trees are considered to outweigh these short term annoyances. Unfortunately the wind does not take any notice of property boundaries and it should be expected that the wind will blow leaves around. The clearance of leaves from gutters and pathways , and removal of self setting seeds such as Sycamores seeds are considered to be part of a normal routine general maintenance which is expected to be carried out by property owners. Honeydew is caused by aphids which excrete a sugary sap. Some species of Lime tree are particularly prune to aphids and these species are avoided when replanting.  Pruning is not considered to be an effective way of helping to control any of these issues.

Council tree management response:

  • Tree work will only be carried where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer and where work is considered not to be to the detrimental of the local area or health of the tree.
  • Where there are specific individual circumstances where an individuals quality of life is being seriously effected; for instance for someone who maybe housebound or visually impaired. ? Warm soapy water will remove Honeydew particularly if washed as soon as possible.
  • Alternative solutions would be expected to be considered such as the use of car covers.

View from a private property

There is no right to a view and residents should take note of any trees on public land near to their property prior to purchasing as trees over time will grow.

Council tree management response:

  • The council will not carry out work to a tree to improve or maintain a view.

Medical conditions (allergies), bees or wasps

Trees can in the case of pollen and hay fever can have a detrimental impact on the health of an individual. However, due to the nature of windborne pollen, pollen can travel considerable distances.

Council tree management policy:

  • The council is unlikely to carry out work to a tree which is implicated in causing health issues unless:
  • There are specific individual circumstances where an individuals quality of life is being seriously effected.
  • It can be proved that the tree is causing serious health issues.
  • Removal of the tree will significantly improve the situation. ? A doctors certificate may be required to confirm that the tree is causing the health problem.
  • That other factors to relieve the situation cannot be reasonably carried out to improve the situation.

Poisonous berries

It is well know that some trees bear berries or foliage that is poisonous. Thankfully, the incidents of poisoning is very rare and a realistic approach is considered to be an appropriate response to be taken by both the council and member of the public. 

Council tree management policy:

  • The council is unlikely to carry out any work to a tree over concerns of potential poisoning unless there is likely to be unsupervised young children. Each case will be dealt with on a individual basis.

Roots

Unfortunately roots like branches, do not take into account property boundaries.  Roots growing into neighbouring properties is a natural occurrence and only in very rare circumstances will tree roots cause damage. A common misconception is that roots will crush or break underground pipes.  If roots have entered a pipe, this will be due to a fault within the pipe which the root has then taken advantage of. Replacing the broken pipe will be necessary. Residents can legally prune roots back to the boundary provided the tree is not protected by a TPO. However this is not recommended and advice from a suitably qualified arboricultural expert should be sort before any pruning takes place.  Where a tree has grown or a building or property has been located in close proximity to a tree, direct damage can be caused, usually in the form of a root pushing up and lifting surfaces or lightweight structure. Often the damage can easily be repaired without the need for pruning.  Each enquiry relating to root damage shall be dealt with on an individual basis.

Council tree management policy: 

  • Tree work will only be carried where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer and where work is considered not to be to the detrimental of the local area or health of the tree.
  • Tree work will only take place where it has been proved that roots are causing damage. This  may involve residents providing sufficient conclusive evidence from either structural engineers or drainage specialists where necessary.

Tree-related subsidence

If you are concerned that your property is suffering from subsidence damage due to the influence of council-owned or managed vegetation, you are advised to contact your property insurer for advice. All cases of tree related subsidence shall be considered based on the provision of sufficient detailed evidence as set out in The Joint Mitigation Protocol. http://www.ltoa.org.uk

Council tree management policy:

  • Tree work will only be carried where it is considered necessary as defined by the arboricultural officer and where work is considered not to be to the detrimental of the local area or health of the tree.
  • Where sufficient evidence  as set out in The Joint Mitigation Protocol has been provided to substantiate that the tree has caused subsidence.

Why has a tree been felled or pruned?

In certain circumstances it maybe necessary to fell or prune a tree as set out within the long term management of council owned trees or to remove a health and safety issue. Some trees will require maintenance due to poor form or structure or it may be necessary to remove them if they are dangerous, to benefit other trees in the surrounding area or sometimes it may simply be the wrong tree in the wrong  location. Where possible and if necessary, local resident would be informed of significant tree removal. If trees are small or immediately dangerous then residents may not be notified.

Trees owned and managed by East Devon District Council

If you have any concerns regarding trees owned and managed by East Devon District Council - often land in public open spaces and parks - please contact Customer Services who will firstly confirm whether the land is indeed managed by the council - Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm. Phone: 01395 571710 Email: csc@eastdevon.gov.uk Post: Trees Team, Countryside & Leisure, East Devon District Council, Knowle, Sidmouth, EX10 8HL.

Trees next to the public highway or footpaths

Trees situated next to the public highways or public footpaths are generally managed by Devon County Council who can be contacted on 0345 155 1004 or 0845 155 1004, Email: customer@devon.gov.uk . Unsafe or fallen trees can be reported on the DCC website.  

Devon County Council Highway Management, PO Box 494, Newton Abbot, TQ12 9GL.

Is my tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order or is it in a Conservation Area?

Before carrying out any work to trees, you should find if any of the trees are covered by a Tree Preservation Orders or are located within a Conservation Areas. You can be fined up to £20,000 for unauthorised works carried out to any protected trees. Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm Phone: 01395 571710. Email: csc@eastdevon.gov.uk  Post: Trees Team, Countryside & Leisure, East Devon District Council Knowle SIDMOUTH EX10 8HL