General Enquiries 


I want to cut down/prune a tree in my garden. Do I need permission?


Yes, if the tree :-

  • Is covered by a Tree Preservation
  • Is within a designated Conservation Area
  • The property is rented - permission from the landlord
  • Within a property which is part of a relatively new development (up to 5 years) and may be covered by conditions on the original planning permission

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.

Branches you prune off a neighbour's tree CAN be put back over the fence.

If a tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order, or 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.

Q: 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. Technically, your neighbour only has a duty to ensure their trees are safe. 

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. 

Q: My neighbour has a very large hedge, e.g. Leylandii (cypress conifer) trees along our boundary and will not reduce the height.  What can I do?
A: Please refer to the website where there is a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions on this subject. There are also two information leaflets which can be downloaded: Over the Garden Hedge and Complaining to the Council.
Q: 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?
A: 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.

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.

Q: There is a tree in our street with a broken branch or trunk, or a branch that obstructs path or drive.  Can you help?
A: Trees in the pavement or in parks, playing fields or managed grass areas, are the responsibility of Operational Services who can be contacted on 0115 907 2244.
Q: The tree roots are blocking my drains. What can I do?
A: 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.
Q: A tree is lifting paving slabs/ affecting my drive. Can I cut the roots of a protected tree?
A: 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.  
Q: 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.


Caring for your Trees

Q: 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 meters 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 30%. The tree will remain the same size but the canopy will be thinner, allowing more light to penetrate. Such work will encourage 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.

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.  

Further advice can be taken from experienced and qualified tree surgeons. Contact the Arboricultural Association for more information.

Q: When should I prune my trees?
A: 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.  
Q: Can you recommend a tree surgeon or tree consultant?
A: Details of tree contractors or tree consultants are available from the Arboricultural Association.
Q: How can I tell if my tree is safe?
A: Such assessments are best made by qualified experts.  Details of tree consultants are available from the Arboricultural Association.
Q: My tree doesn't look very healthy.  Can the Council advise me? If not, where else can I seek advice?
A: 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.
Q: My tree has a fungus growing on it.  Does this make the tree unsafe?
A: 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. A full list of Arboricultural Consultants is available from the Arboricultural Association.
Q: My tree drops a sticky substance.  What can I do about it?
A: 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.
Q: I am interested in planting a tree.  Can you offer any advice?
A: Our staff can offer only general advice about species, size, site or when to plant.  Further advice can be obtained from the Arboricultural Association.


Protected Trees


How can I get a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order?


The Council will only apply a Tree Preservation Order if it can be demonstrated that the tree is under threat.  If this is the case and the tree looks healthy and stable, is visible from a public place and its removal would significantly harm the appearance of the area.

Please email us at providing the following details:

  • location of the tree(s) you would like us to protect
  • species of the tree(s) you would like us to protect
  • details of the reasons you believe the tree(s) to be worthy of protection
We will then look at the tree to see if it is worthy of protection and advise you accordingly.
Q: I have a tree that is protected and I want to do some work to it.  How do I get permission. How do I go about it?
A: Applications to fell or prune a protected tree must be made to the Council explaining which tree, what work and why.

Forms are also available online.

There is no charge for making a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area Application.  Appeals against decisions made are also free of charge.

Carrying out the work is the responsibility of the applicant.

Check the local newspapers and trade directories.  Collect several competitive tenders and ask about qualifications, membership of trade associations (e.g. Arboricultural Association, International Society of Arboriculture) and references from previous jobs.  Any permission from the Council will state that the work must be carried out in accordance with British Standard 3998.  Ask the prospective contractors what that is!
Q: Can I appeal against the Council's decision if my application to carry out work is refused?
A: Appeals are dealt with independently by the Planning Inspectorate. The Council will prepare a report outlining its case for refusal. The appellant also makes written representations outlining the reasons for wanting to undertake the work.  The information is then assessed and an independently appointed tree expert visits the site. They undertake their own inspection, a decision is then made and the appellant and Council informed of the outcome.  There is no stipulated time frame for such an appeal process.  There is no charge for this service.
For more information please see the Planning Portal.
Q: Will the Council pay for my protected tree to be pruned?

The Council will not pay for works to protected trees.  All landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe and any pruning work required will be at the landowner's expense.

Q: Am I able to claim compensation from the Council if a protected tree causes damage?
A: All landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe regardless of whether they are covered by a Tree Preservation Order or not.  Healthy trees do sometimes fall down and it is worth checking your household insurance and/or having an independent report done on the risk they might present to property.  Such a report can be compiled by an Arboricultural Consultant.  A full list is available from the Arboricultural Association. 
Q: Will the Council accept responsibility for my tree if I am not allowed to cut it down and then it causes damage to my neighbour's property?

If the Council refuses permission to fell a protected tree, it has been assessed and deemed safe at the time of application.  However, trees do change over time and they remain the responsibility of the landowner regardless of any Tree Preservation Order.  If you are worried about the condition of your tree and feel it poses a risk, contact a tree consultant.  They will advise you on what you may remove from the tree in order to make it safe.

Q: I think my tree is dead. Can I remove it?

You cannot remove 'dying' protected trees without permission. If you plan to remove such a tree, you are required to submit five days notice. 

We will then make a site visit to check that the tree is dead, dying or dangerous and if this is the case, it can be removed. The legislation requires any tree identified as dead, dying or dangerous be replaced with a tree of similar species and potential stature.

Q: What is a felling licence, and when do I need to apply for one?

The Forestry Commission controls the quantity of timber that can be felled at any time, by issuing felling licences.  However, trees in private gardens are exempt from this control.  A felling licence is required for the felling of relatively small volumes of wood (5 cubic metres may be felled in any calendar quarter without a licence, as long as no more than 2 m3 are sold).  Application forms for felling licences are available from the Forestry Commission.

Q: Can protected trees be felled to enable development to take place?

If trees are not the subject of a Tree Preservation Order or do not exist within a Conservation Area, they may be removed without the Council's permission.  However, if an application is received to develop on land affected by a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area, the impact on the trees will be part of a whole assessment of the proposal.  We will take into account details such as the proximity of the proposed buildings, the health and stability of the trees, their contribution to the character of the area and the value in retaining them.  If a site is not the subject of a Tree Preservation Order and a development looks likely to threaten healthy, stable and visually significant trees, the Council may consider creating a Tree Preservation Order in order to safeguard the trees.


What do I do if I think someone has damaged or felled a protected tree?


Contact us.  We can check to see if they are undertaking permitted work.  If we have no record of work taking place and the trees appear to be protected, we will try to inspect them within 24 hours of the initial enquiry and often much sooner.

Q: My neighbour is cutting down/pruning a tree in his garden.  Has he permission?

If it does not come under any protection cover, then no permission is required, unless:

  • The tree is on a joint boundary or the workmen require access to adjoining property to carry out the job, then the permission of the other party is required with respect to civil law.
  • The tree is so large and mature that the work, particularly felling, poses potential dangers to property and land and therefore would require clearance and guidance under Health and Safety Regulations.
Q: On a nearby building site, the builders are felling/pruning trees.  Is this permitted?
A: The development should have planning permission and the issue of trees, their retention, felling, pruning, and replacement are part of the deliberation process. Planning permission overrides legal protection of trees. 

Erewash Borough Council

Erewash Borough Council, Town Hall, Wharncliffe Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, DE7 5RP 0115 907 2244