Guide Works to East Devon Trees

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3. Removal and pruning of trees

The following guideline outlines the council's and your position in requesting the removal and pruning of trees.

Trees on council land

For any queries relating to our trees on council land in East Devon please contact our customer service team on 01395 571710 or email

Locations of trees maintained or owned by us in East Devon are:

  • Parks
  • Cemeteries
  • Public open spaces
  • Gardens of council houses and flats
  • Communal areas of council properties, e.g. community centres 

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 resolved with the owner of the tree. Landowners can be identified by using the on-line Land Registry service  and advice can be sort from a suitably qualified arboriculturalist.

Legal rights

Where a branch overhangs your boundary, you have a Common Law right to legally prune the tree back to the boundary line. There is also a contradictory Common Law that you will not cause damage to another person’s property. The courts have never been asked to decide which law takes precedence.

Before carrying out any work it would be polite to contact the owner of the tree to inform them of your intentions. You will also need to offer the pruned material back to them as it remains their property. Work should not be carried out from the neighbouring property nor extend beyond the property boundary without the landowners specific consent.

 In order to avoid claims relating to damage, it is recommended that the work should meet appropriate arboricultural standards as set out in British Standard document BS 3998:2010, Tree Work - Recommendation, and that you use a competent arboriculturist. 

Trees touching or damaging buildings

Direct physical contact between trees and buildings will lead to both being damaged. In order to avoid this situation it is advised that branches are periodically cut back to give a clearance where possible of at least 1.5m. Again, this work should be compliant with BS 3998:2010. The permission of the trees owner may be required to achieve optimum clearance. 


In the case of deciduous trees there is no established legal redress to the right to light. The law in relation to the right to light refers to situations where it can be established that there has been 20 years of uninterrupted enjoyment of light at a window or opening to the main rooms of your house. In the case of evergreen trees, if the crowns of two or more trees have grown together and are casting shade on your garden and/or house then there may be a course of redress through the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (High Hedges).

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 reception. 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. 


Unfortunately roots like branches, do not take into account property boundaries. Roots growing into neighbouring properties is a natural occurrence and only in certain 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 most often be due to a fault within the pipe which the root has then taken advantage of. Replacing the broken pipe will be necessary. 

As in the case of branches you can legally prune roots back to the boundary. The same legal issues relate to roots as they do for branches – See Legal Rights above. It is recommended that advice from a suitably qualified arboricultural expert should be sort before any root pruning takes place. Where a tree has grown close to a building, or a 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. 

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) and Conservation Areas

Where trees are the subject of a TPO, or are growing in a Conservation Area, consent must be obtained from the Council before any work is carried out on them, their roots or their branches.