We love our borough’s trees and so do our residents. Every winter we plant more and we have a team of officers dedicated to looking after them.
- Street tree maintenance policy statement
Street tree maintenance includes the inspection, pruning, removal and replacement of trees.
Pruning is carried out to in accordance with good arboricultural practice to:
1. alleviate, in as far as it is practical any loss of daylight to dwellings and associated problems.
2. achieve sufficient height on the carriageway side to allow statutory vehicle height.
3. reduce, where possible, shadow caused by trees obscuring street lighting
4. keep the trees in a safe and healthy condition.
5. enable the tree to grow into the desired shape and form.
6. reduce the risk of tree related subsidence damage to buildings by limiting the tree’s foliage area and subsequent water demand.
All street trees are subject to a planned management programme and are inspected and/or maintained at least once every 3½ years. The larger growing trees, such as London planes and Limes, in close vicinity of houses are pruned to control their size and growth on a three yearly cycle. Other street trees are pruned as necessary on instruction by the Arboricultural Officer.
Policy Street trees should only be removed for the following reasons:
1. If the tree is dead, dying, diseased, dangerous or interferes with the safe use of the public highway.
2. As a result of an approved highway improvement scheme.
3. As a result of an insurance claim where evidence has been presented implicating the tree and no other practical steps are available to resolve the problems.
The council recognises the value of street trees in the urban environment and is committed to a programme of planting to provide trees for the future. Trees should be planted wherever possible in accordance with the criteria and guidelines listed below.
The following criteria are used to determine planting locations in streets.
Trees should normally be located:
1. So that they do not unduly obstruct the footpath or pavement, normally the footpath should be at least 1.8 metres wide (measured from property boundary to rear of kerb-line).
2. Along the line of party walls so that they don’t stand directly before windows or gates.
3. So that they are not less than 8 metres apart along the street.
4. So that they do not obstruct or interfere with from street lights, road signs and other equipment, such as “pay & display” machines, cycle stands and bus shelters.
5. So that they do not foul or damage overhead cables or underground services or structures.
6. So that they do not obstruct sight-lines for road users at junctions, pedestrian crossings and traffic light.
7. So that they do not obstruct vehicle entrances, crossovers and garages
Policy on species
Generally, it is considered that trees should be of suitable size and species and appropriate to the street scene and site conditions.
Because of the varied nature of the streets and planting sites within the Borough it is not practical to give a list of ‘suitable’ species. Some species may well be appropriate for one site but not another. However certain factors should be taken into consideration which may well limit the choice of species on any given site.
1. Trees should be of such size that they do not cause undue light restriction, encroachment or subsidence problems.
2. Trees with excessively large, sticky or prolific fruits should be avoided wherever they are likely to cause a nuisance.
3. Trees with poisonous fruits, bark or wood should be avoided.
4. Hazardous trees, e.g. trees with large spines on the trunk, or which are known to shed branches easily should be avoided.
Residents often express specific preferences for species and their views will always be considered, provided they meet with the above requirements. However, the final choice of species is at the direction of the Director of Environment, in consultation with the Arboricultural Officer.
The majority of residents welcome trees, shown by the large number of planting requests received annually. However, opposition is sometimes experienced from individuals who for various reasons are opposed to trees in the vicinity of their property. All new planting schemes should involve prior consultation with local residents, businesses and other relevant stakeholders.
Except where monies are allocated for specific projects, resources will normally be allocated in the order set-out below:
1. Replacement of dead trees and existing tree stock.
2. Requests from residents; Individual requests will be prioritised taking into account the number of trees already in the street, including those in front gardens and land adjacent to the highway. Typically, the fewer trees visible from the highway the higher priority the street would have for planting.
3. Streets without trees. New planting schemes will be prioritised according to the guidelines set out above and the relative amenity importance of each street.
Report a problem
To report a problem with a tree on a street, in a park or on other council-owned land in the borough, please use the online reporting system:
Request a new tree
We are always seeking to increase the number of trees in the borough and we will consider your requests to plant trees in your area. Before planting, we have to make sure the trees won’t cause any problems such as damage to nearby buildings or underground cables. To request a new tree, please email email@example.com
Guide to planting tree bases
We are inviting residents to plant flowers, herbs and shrubs – anything you like really – at the base of trees across the borough as part of our campaign to make streets greener and more pleasant. See our short guide on planting tree bases.
We prune our street trees every three to four years, although some larger trees in narrow streets are pruned more regularly.
For more information on our pruning policies, please see our guidelines for job allocation for street trees
- Guidelines for job allocation for street trees
The criteria below are used by the council’s arboricultural staff when investigating service requests from customers. Ad-hoc pruning may be justified if either one or more of the criteria are met.
Intervention criteria for defects
- Condition/safety of tree, a defect that increases risk of failure, i.e. structural defect, decay, storm damage etc. Dependant on tree size, target area, nature of problem and characteristics of tree species.
- Low branches (including suckers/epicormic growth) obstructing footpaths or carriageways. Less than 2.3m over a footpath or private garden and 4.0 m over a carriageway (Unless it a bus route for double-deckers, then not less than 5.0m) • Branches obscuring traffic signs/controls and/or street-lights.
- Branches that are within 1.0 m of the building or that overhang the garden/property by more than 5.0 m.
- Suspected structural damage to property, either written report for loss adjuster/surveyor or clear visible signs of damage that could reasonably be linked to tree activity.
- Slip hazards due to excessive fruit fall, bird mess. Works must be proportional to the risk and only undertaken if they will significantly lessen the problem. Normally only considered where vulnerable groups are particularly at risk, i.e. near hospitals, sheltered housing, shops or near properties with contributory hazards such as steep basement steps.
- Trip hazards where tree roots have lifted pavement to trigger intervention by Highways.
In our borough we have a number of large trees that are up to 150 years old and not suitable for the narrow streets they are planted on. Our policy is to maintain these trees and work to manage the problems they present through regular pruning. We will only remove a tree for a good reason, for example, if it is dead, diseased or dangerous. During new planting schemes we make it a priority to replace these trees.
Damage caused by street trees
If a council tree is damaging your property, please contact your building insurer for their opinion before reporting the damage to us. We will then consider evidence of the damage from your insurer and decide on what action is needed.
Trees on private land
Trees and bushes growing on private land are the responsibility of the landowner, not the council.
If a privately-owned tree is causing a problem, such as root growth damaging your building or vegetation overhanging your property, please contact the landowner.
If a tree on private land is dangerous and needs urgent attention, we have the power to force the landowner to make it safe. To report a dangerous tree on private land, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or report it online.
If vegetation from a tree or bush on private land is obstructing a public road or pavement, we will ask the landowner to trim it.
To report overhanging trees or bushes, call 020 8753 1100 or email email@example.com
If after 14 days of this request being made, the tree is still blocking the pavement, we will trim back the tree and bill the resident.
Advice on finding a tree surgeon
If you are looking for a tree surgeon to work on trees on your property, you should make sure they are fully qualified and insured.
Visit the Arboricultural Association's website to see its list of approved contractors.
Tree preservation orders and trees in conservation areas
Some trees enjoy legal protection because they are subject to a tree preservation order or located within a conservation area. There’s more information on this in our planning pages on trees and tree preservation orders.