Tree and hedge maintenance

How we manage trees on the highway and address any safety issues

1 Maintenance of trees

We are responsible for the management of trees on the highway and for addressing any safety issues. We will cut them back where they are obstructing the highway and are an impediment to its safe use by road users and pedestrians.

We carry out regular inspections of the highway, along with its various features (including trees), recording any problems and arranging tree surgery when necessary. Work is prioritised based on the assessed risk; less urgent jobs can take several weeks or months before the work is carried out.

All work to highway trees is carried out by our own contractors. We do not allow unauthorised tree surgeons or members of the public to work on them. 

The vast majority of tree work we carry out is for safety reasons and falls into one of these categories:

  • Dead, diseased, damaged and decayed trees.
  • Low canopies obstructing roads and footways.
  • Obstructed sight lines at road junctions and obscured street lamps and road signs.
  • Damage or prevention of damage to properties (where there is evidence that the tree has caused or is likely to cause damage).
  • Cyclical pruning of trees with recognised defects.

There are several scenarios where we will not carry out tree work. We do not cut back trees for reasons of:

  • tree size
  • overhanging canopies
  • shading
  • television reception
  • leaf, fruit fall and sticky deposits
  • solar panels.

2 Report problems with trees

You can report safety concerns or issues relating to highway trees to us, including vandalism or damage by strimmers or mowers.

If you are concerned that there is an immediate danger contact us on 01243 642105.

3 Maintenance of hedges

The majority of hedges bordering the highway are the responsibility of the adjacent landowner.

Hedges that we are responsible for are cut annually during the autumn and winter. It is an offence to disturb birds and their nests during the nesting season. However, where a hedge is causing a serious problem, we will deal with the matter urgently.

If you have shrubs or hedgerows on your land bordering the highway:

  • keep them trimmed so they do not obstruct the highway or cover road signs
  • use warning signs on all approaches if carrying out extensive work
  • try and carry out work at off peak times and in daylight
  • make sure your equipment is in good condition and clearly visible to road users
  • do not throw debris into the path of traffic and remove it from the road, verge and drains
  • make sure you get permission from the planning department at your local district or borough council first before carrying out any work as many hedges are protected, making their removal illegal.

You can find information about protected hedgerows from your local council or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

If trees, shrubs and hedges from private land interfere with the safe use of the highway we can serve a notice on a landowner requiring them to take appropriate action.

We also have the option of carrying out the work if the problem is not resolved. All costs will be passed on to the owner.

4 Trees on private property

If you have trees on your land:

  • have them regularly inspected for safety by a competent person
  • manage them appropriately to prevent them from obstructing the highway or its infrastructure.
  • use a recognised contractor conversant with the legislation and procedures if tree maintenance requires working on the highway
  • make sure you first gain consent from your local district or borough council's planning department before carrying out any work where trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders.

You can obtain information about protected trees from your local council or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Last updated:
23 July 2020
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  • West Sussex County Council will only use this email address to respond to any issues raised.