Frequently asked questions about trees

Who do I contact about a tree growing in the verge between the footpath and the highway?

The tree is likely to belong to Lancashire County Council and can be reported at to Lancashire County Council

Who Do I contact about a tree growing in the garden of Social Housing? (formerly known as Council Houses)

The trees in gardens of social housing are normally maintained by and can be reported to Calico Housing

Who do I contact if I believe a tree is dangerous or has fallen down?

For Trees on Council land, parks, and cemeteries which require an urgent response, please contact greenspaces@burnley.gov.uk with location of tree and any other relevant details.

If it is an out of hours emergency please contact the Councils out of hours emergency service on 01254 356 535

Examples of dangerous trees which require an urgent response include:

  • Trees that have fallen or are lodged in an adjacent tree.
  • Large branches which have broken or hanging loose in the tree, close to property, public footpaths or in well used areas of parks or open space.
  • Trees which appear to be diseased, and trees with fungi growing on the trunk, main branches or close to the base. 

Roots from a tree on Burnley Borough Council owned land appear to be causing structural damage to my property. What should I do?

Where there is a genuine concern that a tree is causing damage to a property from subsidence or heave, the property insurer should be contacted in the first instance and evidence provided to the Council before any action can be considered. The Council would normally expect evidence of physical damage or movement and presence of live roots of the specific species of tree which is allegedly causing the damage. Any claims will be investigated by the Councils Legal Section, in conjunction with the Councils structural engineers and the tree officer.

I am concerned that a trees roots have invaded my drains and caused a blockage. What should I do?

Tree roots typically invade drains that are already broken or damaged. Trees themselves very rarely break or damage the drain in the first place. Tree roots found in a drain are usually symptomatic of an underlying problem requiring repair of the broken pipe. If you are concerned about the condition of your drains then you are advised to contact your water and sewerage company. Householders are usually responsible for the maintenance of the drains within their property.

A Council owned tree is touching my property. What can be done?

If a tree is or branches are in direct contact with a building, private dwelling or garage we will take appropriate action to provide the necessary clearance.

In many cases the solution will be for the Council to prune the tree, but in some circumstances it may be more appropriate to fell the tree. If pruning is appropriate we will endeavor to undertake works to stop the problem re-occurring within three years.

A tree is overhanging my property. Can it be pruned?

The council will not prune a tree which is overhanging a property unless the work is being carried out as part of a routine maintenance pruning programme, which is typically once every five to seven years. Pruning will normally only be limited to lower hanging branches up to no more than 5.2m from the ground, although any higher overhanging dead branches will be removed at the same time.

A property owner has a common law right to remove a nuisance associated with branches overhanging their property, whether the tree is owned by the council or is in private ownership.

The tree can only be pruned back as far as the point where it crosses the boundary of your property. There is no legal right to to cut or remove any part of the tree that does not overhang the property. The arisings from the pruning technically belong to the tree owner and should be offered back to them, although they are under no obligation to accept them.

In the case of a Council owned tree, the council will not accept any arisings removed from overhanging trees and it is the property owners responsibility to dispose of them. It will be viewed as fly tipping if branches are dumped on council owned land. This is a criminal offence.

It is advisable to inform a neighbouring land owner in advance if you are planning to cut back overhanging trees, and it is strongly recommended any work other than minor pruning is carried out by a fully qualified arborist.

A Tree is blocking light to my garden and property can it be pruned?

The council will not prune or fell a tree solely because it is blocking light to a property

There is no legal right to light concerning trees. The only right to light may be earned under the Prescriptions Act 1832, by which a person must have enjoyed light to a window in the dwelling for 20 years before the obstruction appeared.

There is no right to direct sunlight or light to gardens, and at present solar panels.

However, if the trees blocking natural light are two or more evergreens planted in the form of a hedge, then action may be taken to reduce the problem under part 8 of the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003. More information can be found on the government website.

A Tree planted by the council a few years ago is now blocking my view. Can it be felled or pruned?

We will not prune or fell a council owned tree to improve the view from a private property.

There is no legal right to a view.

The leaves from a nearby tree are blocking my gutters, and I’m having to clear fallen leaves from my garden. Can the tree be pruned or removed, and will the council remove the fallen leaves?

The council will not fell or prune a tree to remove or reduce leaf fall, or remove leaves from a private property.

The loss of leaves from a tree in autumn is part of a natural cycle and cannot be avoided by pruning.

The council or any other tree owner, are under no obligation to remove leaves which have fallen from a tree.

The maintenance of gutters is the responsibility of the property owner. In some cases gutter guards may prove to be a low maintenance solution to prevent a build-up of leaves in a gutter, however it is not the councils responsibility to fit these.

There is a sticky substance on my car which is parked below a Council owned tree. Can the tree be removed, and will the council pay for my car to be cleaned?

The council will not fell or prune a tree solely to reduce honeydew or other sticky residue arising from trees. The council will not pay for any vehicles to be cleaned.

Honeydew is caused by greenfly (aphids) feeding on the sap from the leaves and excreting their sugary, sticky waste. Unfortunately there is little that can be done to remove the aphid which causes the problem and pruning the tree may only offer temporary relief and any re-growth is often more likely to be colonised by aphids, thereby potentially increasing the problem. Some trees, such as Limes, are more prone to attack by aphids and in some years, especially following a mild winter, aphids are more common. Honeydew is a natural and seasonal occurrence. Where new trees are planted we try to choose trees that are less likely to attract aphids. Where honeydew affects cars, warm soapy water will remove the substance, particularly if you wash the car as soon as possible and if possible park the car away from the tree during the period the tree is in leaf.

Will the Council fell or prune a tree which is shedding blossom?

The Council will not prune or fell any tree to remove or reduce blossom fall or remove fallen blossom from private land.

Tree blossom usually heralds the start of spring. Blossom is a natural occurrence, which cannot be avoided by pruning and blossom is not regarded in law as a statutory nuisance

I’m allergic to tree pollen. Will the Council remove the tree on the green space next to my property to reduce the amount of pollen in the air?

The Council will not fell or prune a tree to remove or reduce the release of pollen.

In general the benefits trees provide towards improved health far outweigh any negative effects from pollen.

Tree pollen is ever present during certain times of the year with billions of spores carried in the air. The removal of a single tree will offer no noticeable improvement to tree pollen sufferers.

There are birds roosting in a tree close to my property and bird droppings are falling from the tree on to my decking. Will the council remove the overhanging branches and remove the bird droppings?

The Council would not prune or fell a tree to remove or reduce incidences of bird droppings from trees; or clean up bird droppings from private land.

Bird droppings can be a nuisance, however they are naturally occurring in the urban environment and it is not normally considered a viable option to prune or remove a tree for this reason. Nesting birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(and other wildlife laws). Warm soapy water will usually be sufficient to remove bird droppings.

There are berries all over the footpath causing the footpath to become slippery. Can the tree be pruned to remove the problem?

The Council will not prune or fell any tree to remove or reduce the occurrence of fruit, berries or nuts falling onto footways or private land. Where fruit trees are established but there is a significant anti-social behaviour problem caused by the throwing of fruit or nuts we may consider phased removal and replacement with more suitable species.

Fruit trees such as apple, cherry and pear are welcomed in many locations for their spring flowers with the added benefit of providing free food. Falling berries and fruit is mainly a seasonal occurrence in the autumn time. Some of the fallen fruit and berries will be cleared as a matter of course by the Council’s leaf clearance teams; however the Council will not clear fallen fruit, berries or nuts from private land.

My satellite TV reception is poor and the engineer says it is due to nearby trees in the park blocking the signal. Can the trees be removed or at least pruned?

We will not prune or fell any tree owned or managed by the Council to improve reception of satellite or television receivers or to enable or ease installation.

Your satellite or TV provider may be able to suggest an alternative solution to the problem, for example relocating the aerial/dish or means to boost the signal. Please note that the Council will not reimburse costs associated with relocating a TV aerial or satellite dish.

I am considering installing solar panels on my property but are concerned that trees in the nearby park will make them less effective. Can some work be done to ensure they are effective?

Council will not prune or fell any tree owned or managed by the Council to improve the performance of Solar Water Heating Collectors or Solar Panels such as Photovoltaic Cells.

Whilst the Council appreciates that there is a need to provide renewable energy resources. Trees have an important role in maintaining and improving the local environment, in addition to contributing to local and national targets in tackling climate change. The presence of trees must be fully appreciated when considering a suitable location for the placement of solar collectors and panels. Your solar panel provider may be able to suggest an alternative solution to the problem.

My telephone is only working intermittently and the wire travels right through a nearby tree could this be resolved?

The Council will not fell any tree to remove or reduce interference with telephone wires. However, there may be instances where the Council will undertake works to prune trees and reduce interference where pruning would be an effective measure.

Your telephone service provider may be able to suggest an alternative solution to the problem. However, wires can and do run through trees with little or no effect. Service providers will often install the wires after the tree has been planted.

There are lots of bees and other insects in a tree close to my garden. Can the Council remove them and if possible remove the tree to stop them returning?

We will not prune or fell a tree to remove or reduce incidence of perceived insect pests, such as bees or wasps.

Bees are a desirable species which provide many environmental benefits. The council will endeavour to protect bees wherever possible. It may be necessary to treat a wasps nest if there is a genuine risk to the public, however that would depend on the outcome of a risk assessment.

Insects colonise most trees and are an important part of the ecological cycle. They provide food for birds and other animals.

We will remain vigilant for any notifiable invasive pests which we may have been alerted to and take the appropriate recommended action if discovered.

The trees in the woodland next to my house have grown too tall and are swaying in the wind. Can the tops be chopped off them to make them safer?

We would not fell or reduce the height of a woodland or parkland deciduous tree because it is perceived to be too tall or swaying unless it is visibly lifting and unstable around the rooting area or severe decay is present.

Trees are meant to sway in the wind and will produce additional growth as necessary to withstand the normal forces of the wind.

A tree is not dangerous simply because it may be considered too big for its surroundings. Other problems would need to be present, to consider it to be dangerous, such as extensive decay or disease.

“Crown reduction” “lopping” “topping” or “pollarding” as a general form of management generally creates more problems than it solves due to extensive regrowth or exposing the tree to dangerous pathogens. It also destroys the natural form of the tree. Such work can be detrimental to the health and future safety of trees and are only undertaken in exceptional cases for example re pollarding trees which have been maintained as pollards for a long period or occasionally retrenchment work on older trees, mainly Oak, to mimic the natural decline of a tree in the hope of stimulating new growth.

I feel unsafe when walking in certain areas of the park where there are lots of trees and shrubs. Can anything be done to make these areas safer?

Advice

Where any tree owned or managed by the Council is associated with criminal activity or anti-social behaviour, measures to reduce the problem will be considered on a site by site basis. Where a tree is associated with criminal activity and/or anti-social behaviour, steps to reduce the problem will typically require the coordination of a number of agencies including the police. Just pruning or felling a tree is not always the answer to the problem. Some research shows that areas with lots of trees actually help to make places safer. But, neglected spaces with overgrown trees and untidy areas can encourage criminal activity and/or anti-social behaviour. The Council’s tree and grounds maintenance programme tries to improve these areas by making the local environment cleaner, greener and safer.

The majority of trees growing on the highway verges around the Borough are the responsibility of Lancashire County Council. Issues can be reported on the Lancashire County Council website, however they broadly follow the same criteria as Burnley Borough Council for determining whether any pruning or felling of trees is justified.

Trees obstructing the Highway

The Council will work to maintain a clearance of at least 5.2 metres in height for branches overhanging the carriageway.

This clearance distance also applies to privately owned trees. If a privately owned tree is causing an obstruction to a road, powers exist under the Highways Act to make the owner of the tree remove the obstruction. If they do not, Lancashire County Council could enforce this work and recharge the owner.

Trees obstructing a public footpath

The Council will undertake work to trees owned or managed by the Council to maintain a minimum 2.5 metre height clearance over a footpath associated with a street, road or highway, and 3 metres where there are cycling rights. Any works necessary to prevent an obstruction to the width of a footpath associated with the highway due to the presence of a Council owned tree will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If privately owned trees or bushes are causing an obstruction to a footpath associated to a highway, powers exist under the Highways Act to make the owner of the tree or bushes to remove the obstruction. If they do not, Lancashire County Council could enforce this work and recharge the owner.

Trees obstructing traffic signals and street signs

A tree should not obstruct the vision of an approaching driver.

The Council will undertake work to trees owned or managed by Burnley Borough Council to maintain clear lines of sight for traffic signals and street signage (associated with a street, road or highway).

If a privately owned tree is causing an obstruction to a traffic signal or street sign, powers exist under the Highways Act to make the owner remove the obstruction. If they do not, Lancashire County Council will do the work and recharge the owner.

Trees obstructing Street Lamps

The Council will undertake work to trees owned or managed by the Burnley Borough Council to ensure that street lights are not substantially blocked by the presence of trees.

If a privately owned tree is causing an obstruction to street light, powers exist under the Highways Act to make them remove the obstruction. If they do not, Lancashire County Council will do the work and recharge the owner.

Road Sight Line obstruction

The Council will undertake work to trees owned or managed by Burnley Borough Council to maintain clear lines of sight for traffic and pedestrians at junctions and access points (associated with a street, road or highway).

 Standards for visibility vary according to the class and speed limit in force.

If a privately owned tree is causing an obstruction to the visibility at a road junction (sight line), powers exist under the Highways Act to make the owner of the tree remove the obstruction. If they do not, the Lancashire County Council may enforce work and may subsequently recharge the owner of the tree.

The shoots that grow from the base of some trees in Council ownership such as Lime trees are removed as part of our tree maintenance programme, this is usually done on an annual basis for trees growing in the street.

The removal of basal shoots for aesthetic reasons is done as and when funds allow or when it is necessary to inspect the base of a tree.

Trip Hazards

Burnley Borough Council will undertake measures to make safe any potential trip hazards caused by trees on footpaths in parks and Burnley Borough Council owned open spaces.

However, any tripping hazards on footpaths associated with the highway need to be referred to Lancashire County Council who have their own inspection procedure and standards for footways.

Tree Stumps

When a tree is felled, it is not always possible to remove the stump at the same time. This is because it requires specialist equipment such as a stump grinder, which is hired in for a period when there are enough stumps to justify the cost of hiring the machine.

If a tree is felled in a footway the stump is temporarily left at approximately 1 metre in height so it can be easily seen and not become a trip hazard. Occasionally it is not possible to remove a stump due to the close proximity of underground services.

Stumps in unmanaged areas, shrubberies and woodlands will normally be left in place for wildlife and ecological reasons.

Vehicle Crossovers

The planning and installation of vehicle crossovers to private residences is a function dealt with by Lancashire County Council.

Burnley Council will not normally support the installation of a vehicle crossover, where trees are at risk unless there are exceptional circumstances and the tree is not considered worthy of retention.

If a tree is removed to provide a vehicular crossing, the cost of removal of the tree and provision and initial maintenance of a suitable replacement will be charged to the applicant as part of the overall cost of installation.

Vandalism and damage to Trees

The Council will investigate any reports of vandalism to any tree owned or managed by the Council and use enforcement and legal action to bring about the prosecution of offenders. Vandalism includes wanton damage of newly planted trees, ring barking, deliberate poisoning, encouraging a dog to strip bark from a tree or chew on branches and any unauthorised pruning felling or similar work to mature trees.

You are not allowed to remove living material from Council land without consent and unauthorised persons are not allowed to use a chainsaw of any type in parks, public open spaces or other Council land.

Where a tree has been damaged by a vehicle, we will take appropriate action to deal with the damage or fell the tree if necessary. Wherever we have the appropriate details we will claim damages against the driver’s insurers.

Trees on Allotments

Work must not be carried out to trees in or around allotments by allotment holders or unauthorised persons, which involves the use of a chainsaw.

Only minor pruning to branches from the ground using hand tools or trimming a hedge with a powered hedge trimmer from the ground is acceptable.

Any tree work which involves working at height or using a chainsaw will be carried out by the Councils tree team if proved to be necessary.

Planting trees other than fruit trees within the allotment is discouraged and planting aggressive fast growing species such as Leylandii, Eucalyptus, Poplar and Willow is not allowed and the tenant will be asked to remove them.

There is no formal inspection programme for trees in allotments so any concerns regarding trees should be reported to the allotment inspector or forwarded to the Council’s Tree Officer.

When an allotment becomes vacant any tree work considered necessary to provide optimum growing conditions will be carried out before the allotment is re let.

Trees in Cemeteries

The Council are responsible for trees in open cemeteries at Burnley Cemetery and St Johns Cemetery Padiham.

We will also carry out any necessary tree maintenance at the closed cemeteries at St Peters Church, All Saints Church Habergham and Mereclough Chapel. The Council are not responsible for tree maintenance in St Leonards Cemetery Padiham, St James Church Cemetery Briercliffe or St Johns Church Cemetery in Worsthorne.

The trees in cemeteries under Council management will be managed in a similar way to trees in parks and open spaces and any work carried out will be in accordance with the Councils Tree Management Policy.

However trees may be removed where they are causing direct or indirect damage to graves or gravestones.

Grave owners are not allowed to plant trees on top of or close to graves and the Council reserves the right to remove them without notice.

Self seeded trees which have grown on or close to graves will be removed over a period of time as part of the winter maintenance programme.

For enquires about trees in cemeteries please contact Bereavementservices@burnley.gov.uk

Trees in playgrounds

A visual inspection in line with the Council’s Tree Management policy is carried out on trees in and around playgrounds on an annual basis.

Trees which are considered dangerous such as trees within falling distance of the play area containing extensive decay or dead wood are made safe as a matter of urgency. If necessary the playground will be closed while the work takes place.

More obvious hazards such as hanging branches will be picked up as part of the regular playground safety inspections and dealt with as necessary.

A programme was introduced in 2002 to remove any branches within play areas below 2.4m to prevent children to easily access trees which are overhanging railings.

We will avoid planting any trees which contain poisonous, leaves, flowers or fruit in and around play areas.

Play area benches and picnic areas are situated away from trees which contain branches where summer branch drop is a possibility.

Rope swings and tree houses

Rope swings and tree houses on designated play areas will be removed as soon as possible after they have been reported.

In other areas which are considered more appropriate such as woodland areas rope swings may be left in place in trees. The decision would depend on whether the swing conforms to the guidelines set out in ‘Childrens Tree Swings, A guide to good practice, by London Play.

All tree swings will be removed at the end of September.

Commemorative Trees

The Council runs a Commemorative tree scheme in order to encourage planting trees within parks and open spaces.

Members of the public or an organisation can sponsor a tree to commemorate the life of a person or pet, or even a special occasion or achievement.

A specimen tree will be planted in the allocated areas within the main parks or open spaces, (excluding Towneley Park and the Crematorium grounds)

The tree will be approx 4.5metres tall with a stem girth between 12 to16 cm.

A post will be provided in front of the tree on which a commemorative plaque celebrating the occasion or achievement can be placed.

Please note, we cannot allow wreaths, floral tributes, toys or other artefacts to be placed on or around the tree. These may be removed from the tree without notice.

More information can be found on the Commemorative Sponsorship Schemes page of this website.

Woodland trees May be planted within a selected area of Wilsons Wood in Towneley or the Family Forest in the Brun Valley Forest Park. These trees will become part of the woodland and no plaque or tributes will be allowed will be allowed. The tree will be planted as part of the Trees for Burnley programme, and people are welcome to come along to assist planting the tree. Further details can be obtained from Trees For Burnley.

Replacement commemorative trees

If a commemorative tree dies within two years of planting or is vandalised before becoming established, a replacement tree of a similar size to the one which was planted will be provided.

If a commemorative tree dies, is vandalised or suffers any other damage after a period of two years it will be at the discretion of the Greenspaces and Amenities team whether the tree will be replaced, depending on the circumstances and funding available.

We will provide a replacement post if it has rotted or has been stolen, but we will not provide a replacement plaque.