Tree advice and FAQs

Please take a look at our leaflets below. If you are not able to find the information you need in one of the five leaflets, then take a look at our FAQs. These are not complete answers on questions of civil or criminal law. You may also need to seek independent legal advice.

Tree damage

Tree ownership and responsibilities

Tree protection

Trees and development

Trees and wildlife

Frequently asked questions

How do I find out if my tree is protected?

To check to see if a tree is protected, you can:

On a nearby building site, the builders are felling/pruning trees. Is this permitted?

The development must have planning permission. The issue of trees, their retention, felling, pruning, and replacement are part of the planning application and approval process. Any tree work must agree with plans attached to the planning permission granted. A full planning permission will override the legal protection of trees.

My neighbour is cutting down/pruning a tree in his garden. Does he have permission?

If the tree is not protected by a Tree Preservation Order, or is not in a conservation area, no permission is required from the council. If you are unsure, contact us on 01256 844844.

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

Contact us on 01256 844844. We can check whether they are carrying out permitted work. If we have no record of work taking place, and the trees are protected, we will investigate the unauthorised work.

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

If trees are not subject to a Tree Preservation Order, or are not growing in a conservation area, they may be removed without the council's permission. Trees are a material consideration when a planning application is submitted, irrespective of whether they are protected. The council is able to impose conditions during the construction process to help ensure trees receive adequate protection. For more information, read our supplementary planning guidance.

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

The Forestry Commission (Tel 01420 23337) issues felling licences to control the quantity of timber that is felled. A licence is usually required when it is proposed to fell over five cubic metres of timber in a calendar quarter. When a licence is granted, there is normally a requirement to re-stock.

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

Any protected tree that is dead, dying or dangerous can be removed without the need to submit an application. However, unless the tree is imminently dangerous, it is advisable to give the council five days’ notice. There may be a duty to plant a replacement. Please click here for more information on protected trees

Will the council accept responsibility for my protected tree if I am not allowed to cut it down and it then causes damage to my neighbour's property?

If we refuse permission to fell a protected tree, which subsequently causes damage to your neighbour’s property, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. This will depend on whether the damage was caused as a direct result of the refusal, the level of damage, and the age of the Tree Preservation Order. If you have any concerns, you are advised to obtain an independent tree specialists report. Any claim for compensation must be made within 12 months of the council’s decision (or the Secretary of State decision in the event of an appeal). What can be claimed changed after 2 August 1999.

Am I able to claim compensation from the council if a protected tree causes damage?

Landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe regardless of whether they are covered by a Tree Preservation Order or in a conservation area.

Will the council pay for my protected tree to be pruned?

No, all landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe. Any necessary pruning will be at the landowner's expense.

Can I appeal against the council's decision if my application to carry out work is refused?

Yes, but appeals must be made in writing within 28 days of the council’s decision. They are dealt with independently by the Planning Inspectorate, usually by written representation and from three to five months to resolve. There is no fee for making an appeal.

An appeal can be made against:

  • a refusal
  • granting consent with conditions
  • failure to determine the application within the eight week determination period
  • Tree Preservation Orders served after 2 August 1999
  • failure to agree tree replacement details.
I have a tree that is protected and I want to do some work to it. How do I get permission?

Applications to fell or prune a protected tree must be made in writing to the council. Please click here for an application form and further guidance to fell or prune a protected tree.

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

We will generally only apply a Tree Preservation Order if it can be demonstrated that the tree is under threat. Please click here for more information on how to get a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order

What is a conservation area?

A conservation area is an area of special architectural or historic interest, which has a character or appearance that is desirable to preserve. In a conservation area, all trees with a diameter of over 7.5cm, when measured at a point 1.5m from ground level, are automatically protected, irrespective of species. Please click here to see a list of conservation areas in the borough.

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a special form of control applying to certain trees. It is used to protect trees that positively contribute to the appearance or character of an area. A TPO can be served on an individual tree, a group of trees or a woodland, or any combination of these. A TPO relating to an area of land is known as a ‘blanket’ order. These only protect trees that were there when the order was made. Anything that has grown since will not be protected.

I am interested in planting a tree. Can you offer any advice?

Our staff can only offer general advice about species, size, site, or when to plant. Further advice can be obtained from the Arboricultural Association.

My tree drops a sticky substance. What can I do about it?

This is most probably ‘honey dew’, a sticky sugary substance secreted by aphids living on the underside of leaves. The honey dew can become colonised by sooty moulds that turn it black. Some species, such as limes, are more susceptible than others. Aphids can be controlled by pesticides, but this is not practical on a large tree. The incidence of honey dew varies from year to year. For example, there will be fewer aphids about after a cold winter. Natural predators will also help to reduce numbers. We will not usually give permission to prune or remove a protected tree because of aphids.

My tree has a fungus growing on it. Does this make the tree unsafe

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 the fungus will not remedy the problem, as this is just the reproductive part, the main body of which is inside the tree. You would be advised to seek independent arboricultural advice in this situation

My tree doesn't look very healthy. Can the council advise me? If not, where else can I seek advice?

You should contact the Arboricultural Association 01794 368717 Arboricultural Association or a local tree surgeon.

How can I tell if my tree is safe?

These assessments are best made by qualified experts. Details of tree consultants are available from the Arboricultural Association on 01794 368717, or log on to their website Arboricultural Association.

Can you recommend a tree surgeon or tree consultant?

We are unable to make specific recommendations, but we do keep copies of the Arboricultural Association’s directory of registered consultants and approved tree work contractors, which may be made available. The Arboricultural Association also produces a leaflet on choosing an arborist (tree work contractor), which is available from the council (contact 01256 844844) or direct from the association.

When should I prune my trees?

Generally, trees should be pruned when dormant (November-February). However, all tree species respond differently, so if in doubt seek advice from an expert. Avoid pruning maples and birch in spring, as they tend to bleed profusely. For similar reasons, walnut trees should only be pruned in late summer.

My tree needs to be pruned. What should I do?

Pruning disrupts the natural state of the tree and creates opportunities for decay fungi to enter the tree. For further information, please view the document - guide to proper pruning below.

I have a tree that I feel is immediately dangerous and the council offices are closed. Who do I contact?

If a tree-related incident occurs outside office hours and cannot wait until the offices open, an emergency telephone service is available through our normal contact number; 01256 844844.

Are there any controls on the type of tree I can plant in my garden?

No, although we will need to approve the species selected for replacement planting when a protected tree is removed.

A protected tree is lifting paving slabs/affecting my drive. Can I cut the roots?

Cutting the roots of any tree is generally not advised, as it may affect the tree's health and stability. If a tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, or if it is growing in a conservation area, an application will be required before root pruning can take place. Please click here for more information and an application form.

Tree roots are blocking my drains. What can I do?

Tree roots are opportunistic, and if a pipe with poor joints is leaking into the surrounding soil, it will attract the roots. If repairs are required, a large number of tree roots often lead to the blame being placed with a nearby tree. However, replacing faulty drains/pipes with modern materials will usually eliminate the leak and stop problems.

There is a tree in our street with a broken branch/trunk, or a branch that obstructs a path/drive. Can you help?

Usually, trees in the pavement or in roadside verges are the responsibility of Hampshire Highways (Tel: 0845 850 4422). Trees in parks, playing fields, managed grass areas or pavements in Basingstoke and Chineham, may be our responsibility. Any problem with these trees should be reported to us by contacting 01256 844844.

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 direct or indirect damage to built structures. Direct damage usually occurs where a tree is growing adjacent to a structure, and physically pushes against it as it grows. Indirect damage is caused by the roots’ uptake of water. This only happens on shrinkable clay soils. If you are worried, you can discuss the matter with your home insurance company.

My neighbour has a very large hedge, eg leylandii (cypress conifer), along our boundary, and will not reduce the height. What can I do?

The government has introduced a law to tackle this problem. Before contacting us, please read this useful information on high hedges.

I am having problems with a tree in my neighbour's garden blocking light. What can I do?

Issues of blocking light and shading between two properties are private maters. Generally, there is no right of light for one property over another. If this is an issue, you would be advised to seek independent legal advice.

My neighbour’s trees encroach over my boundary. Can I cut them back?

Civil law allows you to remove any branches overhanging your property back to the actual boundary line, projected up into the airspace over the line. Please click here for more information on tree management.

How do I find out about Tree Preservation Orders and conservation areas?

For Tree Preservation Order enquiries, and general conservation area enquiries, contact us on 01256 844 844.

Contact details

Natural Environment Team

Telephone: 01256 844844

Contact us

  • Contact us online
  • 01256 844844
  • Civic Offices
    London Road
    RG21 4AH
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    8.30am to 5pm
    8.30am to 4.30pm