One of the main reasons why Cheshire is regarded as being such an attractive county is that many of its country lanes and roads are still bounded by mature hedgerows and trees. Not only do these features play a key role in shaping the overall landscape character of the county, but they also help to attract inward investment, combat pollution, encourage tourism, provide an ideal habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna whilst also offering users varied, pleasant and interesting routes.
However, trees are not just exclusively restricted to rural roads as there are many well-established trees situated in the urban areas which play an equally important role in helping to create and enhance the environment of Cheshire East towns.
Roadside hedge and tree maintenance
Roadside hedges and trees are greatly valued for their ecological and amenity importance. However, land owners have to balance these values and restrictions with the requirement to keep the highway/footway free from obstructions under the Highways Act 1980.
Many hedges and trees grow on the edge of the highway and mark its boundary with private land or property. In such cases it is the responsibility of the adjacent landowner or occupier to properly maintain them.
Legal Requirements for Maintenance
The Highways Act 1980 (section 154) empowers Cheshire East Highways, as Highway Authority, to protect the safety of highway users by ensuring that owners and occupiers carry out their legal duties in respect of roadside hedges.
Owners and occupiers are required to:
- Trim hedges and trees to ensure growth does not obscure the view of road signs
- Trim roadside hedges to maintain visibility for road users, particularly at junction and on the inside of bends
- Trim any hedge that directly abuts a road, footway, cycleway or public right of way so that growth does not prevent the passage or affect the safety of highway users, including cyclists and pedestrians
- Remove dead or decaying trees and other growth that may fall across the highway
- Remove branches and other growth that may prevent the passage of high sided vehicles or obstruct light from a street light
- Ensure the highway (including the footway and drainage features) is left clear of debris from the cutting operations (section 148, Highways Act 1980)
However, there are a relatively small number of roadside hedges which are considered to be in the ownership of Cheshire East Highways. These form part of an annual hedge cutting programme, undertaken in Autumn/Winter each year, taking account of ground conditions, wildlife and highway safety.
Roadside hedge and tree maintenance programme
The programme for Cheshire East Highways’ hedge cutting in 2013/14 is shown below. It is due to commence in mid-October and scheduled for approximately 4 weeks.
Unless it can be proved otherwise, trees situated in boundary hedgerows are also owned by the adjacent landowner. Therefore, it is they and not Cheshire East Council who is responsible for preventing danger to the highway user. Landowners should therefore ensure that their trees do not create problems or hazards to road users.
As is the case for hedges, Cheshire East Council possesses the necessary powers to prune, lop or fell trees that are deemed to be creating a nuisance or hazard. In such cases, it is normal practice for Cheshire East Council to recover the costs of these works from the owner of the tree(s) in question.
Trees that fall across the highway can create extremely serious hazards for road users. The Highways Service can be contacted at any time (24 hours) to deal with such instances.
If a tree from your property falls across the highway, then you can either arrange for a contractor of your choice to remove it or you can ask us to do the work on your behalf. However, we will expect you to meet all the costs that we incur in carrying out the work, including those associated with any traffic management measures / road closures that we have to implement as a result of the tree falling onto the highway.
If you ask us to do the work, then you can either elect to retain the arisings yourself or we can arrange to dispose of them for you. If you choose the latter, the costs of disposal will be included in the final charge.
It is estimated that there are around 100,000 trees located in the highway in Cheshire. Any tree that is situated in the highway is the responsibility of Cheshire East Council.
Cheshire East Council’s policy in relation to the management and maintenance of highway trees is as follows;
In relation to trees that are situated within the highway, the Highways Service will;
a) Instigate and operate a tree inspection and defect reporting system to meet all statutory requirements.
b) Undertake remedial/preventative works that are deemed necessary as a result of the inspection process.
c) Deal with all tree-related emergencies
d) In co-operation with Borough and Parish Councils, undertake a modest programme of tree planting in the highway maintainable at the public expense.
Any problems with Highway Trees - particularly potentially hazardous defects such as broken branches, large cracks etc - should be reported to the Highways Service. They will arrange for the tree to be inspected and any works that may be required as a result of the inspection.
‘Right to Light’
A person’s tolerance of shade or their need for light (daylight or direct sunlight) is a subjective and personal matter and whilst some people prefer shade, there are those that have a desire for sunlight.
Many people are aware of the ancient and prescriptive ‘right-to-light’, but this only relates to loss of light over a considerable period of time and in certain specific circumstances. Where trees are concerned, there is no ‘right-to-light’ and owners of trees are not required or obliged in respect of any law to prune any tree – including those located in the highway - for the benefit of a neighbour’s level of light.
However, the common law position still applies; i.e. neighbours can take their own action at their own expense to cut overhanging branches over their land (although in the case of trees which are subject to a Tree Preservation Order, they would first need to have obtained prior consent from Cheshire East Council).
The purchase of a television licence entitles the buyer to operate any equipment to receive a transmission; it is not a guarantee of any television reception, let alone a perfect reception.
Analogue televisions (terrestrial) operate in a way that will allow for a degree of variation in the reception and that will still allow a viewable image on the screen. However, satellite-television requires the ‘dish’ to have a clear line of sight at the broadcasted signal. Even small obstructions such as a single branch of a tree (or a highway traffic sign, high building, etc.) may prevent adequate signal getting to the satellite-dish.
Cheshire East Council (or indeed any tree owner) is not required to remove or even prune them for the benefit of television reception. Such action would have an immense impact on the environment, affecting visual amenity, air quality and public health. To expect Cheshire East Council to take responsibility for the quality of television reception is unrealistic and unsustainable, and there is no basis in law or policy for that expectation.
General Nuisance from Leaf-fall, Fruiting Bodies, Sap, Bird Fouling and Pollen
Being living, growing organisms some trees have certain characteristics that are not always compatible with the expectations of some residents. In particular, the Council does receive sporadic complaints on tree related problems such as leaf-fall, fruiting bodies, sap and bird fouling.
Most of these phenomena are natural and seasonal processes and there is little the Council can, or indeed would wish to do to alleviate them. Cheshire East Council does not accept liability for damage as a result of such natural deposits from trees and there is no decided case law holding that these phenomena are a legal nuisance.
Damage by Roots from Highway Trees
If you think that your property has been or is being damaged by roots from a highway tree, then you should write to Highways Service. You will need to provide evidence to back up your assertion in the form of surveyors and arboricultural reports, bore hole / trial pit data, results from crack monitoring tests and photographs of the alleged damage. It should be noted that the provision of such evidence does not automatically mean that Cheshire East Council will admit liability for the damage.
Report a fault with a hedge or a tree