Trees believed to be dangerous

I believe that a tree is dangerous. What can I do?

Before taking any action you should contact a qualified arborist (tree surgeon) who will be able to advise you on the most appropriate course of action.

Do I need Council permission to cut down a dangerous tree that is covered by a Tree Preservation Order or in a Conservation Area?

Where a tree presents an immediate risk of serious harm, prior written consent from the Local Planning Authority is not required in order to carry out only those works that are necessary to make the tree safe. The authority should be notified as soon as reasonably practicable of the works that have been carried out and the reasons for doing so. It is likely that you will be required to provide evidence of the need to carry out the works; a photographic record being particularly well suited to this.

Failure to provide the required evidence on request can be treated as a breach of the Tree Preservation Order / Conservation Area.    

Commonly expressed concerns and general advice.

The tree is too tall / too big:

Significant height and/or a broad spreading crown do not, in themselves, make it a dangerous tree. Trees will grow depending on their type and on the presence of external influences such as adjacent structures, natural competition from other trees, soil type and fertility or microclimate.

The tree sways when it is windy:

Significant swaying in the wind does not, of itself, make it a dangerous tree. Trees will naturally bend and sway in the wind, as the pliability in the branches is a natural mechanism that helps prevent fracture.

The tree has a lean:

A tree that has grown with a lean does not, of itself, make it dangerous. The tree develops fatter growth rings on one side to make it stable. There is likely be a problem, however, if a previously vertical tree suddenly develops a lean.

The tree is hollow:

Some hollow trees may have so little healthy tissue surrounding the hollow area that they can be regarded as dangerous, but this is by no means the norm. Trees do not become hollow overnight - it can take decades - and while the centre of the tree (the heartwood) may be decaying, the tree continues to lay down healthy wood (sapwood) around the outside of its trunk. This results in the formation of a cylinder, the strength of which depends upon the percentage of healthy to unhealthy tissue. Inspection by an expert is recommended.

The tree appears to be dead:

Dead trees do not necessarily pose a significant risk, especially if they have only recently died. However they will, with time, decay to the point where the level of risk associated with them increases significantly. Not all trees that at first appear dead are in fact deceased; and it may simply be that they are late into leaf or lose their foliage early. You should seek advice from a qualified arborist (tree surgeon) who will be able to guide you on the correct course of action. Leaving certain parts of a dead tree in situ, only so long it is safe to do so, can be of significant environmental value.  

What should I do if I believe that a tree on land adjoining a highway (road or footpath) is dangerous?

We advise that you contact Staffordshire County Council in their capacity as the Highway Authority.
What should I do if I believe that a tree on land neighbouring my property is dangerous?
Once you are sure of your facts we suggest that you should notify your neighbour of your concerns by first speaking to them and then following this up in writing (we suggest that you keep a copy of the letter) and ask that he/she address the problem. If he/she does not take appropriate action and damage occurs from negligence then you (or possibly your insurer if you make an insurance claim) may be able to take action against the tree owner. You may wish seek your own legal/insurance advice in such cases.

Please Note: The Borough Council does not have responsibility for trees which it does not own, has no legal obligation to take action and is not liable for damage caused by trees in others' ownership

Other advice

For further information regarding trees please follow the links below:

All information contained on this and other pages relating to trees is written for the benefit of tree owners, the general public and amenity groups. It is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligations

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