Last updated:
17 March 2017

Tree and hedge maintenance

Details of who is responsible for the maintenance of trees and hedges on the roadside.

1 Overview

We look after nearly half a million trees growing on highway maintainable land, and plant around 400 new or replacement trees every year.

Not all trees on or near the highway are the responsibility of West Sussex Highways:

  • Trees and hedgerow bordering the A27, M23 and A23 are the responsibility of Highways England.
  • Trees in car parks, parks and recreation areas are the responsibility of district and borough councils.
  • The vast majority of hedgerows and trees bordering our roads are owned by, and the responsibility of, adjacent landowners and farmers.

2 Maintenance of trees

We are responsible for the management of trees on the highway, 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, and 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 the following categories:

  • dead, diseased, damaged and decayed trees
  • low canopies obstructing roads and footways
  • obstructed sightlines 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.

3 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.

4 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, please note the following advice:

  • 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 the work at off peak times and in daylight.
  • All equipment used should be 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.
  • Many hedges are protected, making their removal illegal. Before carrying out any work of this nature, you must first gain permission from the planning department at your local district or borough council.

More information about protected hedgerows may be obtained 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 should the problem remain unresolved. All costs will be passed on to the owner.

5 Trees on private property

If you have trees on your land, please note the following advice:

  • Have them regularly inspected for safety by a competent person.
  • Manage them appropriately to prevent them from obstructing the highway or its infrastructure.
  • If tree maintenance requires working on the highway, use a recognised contractor conversant with the legislation and procedures.
  • Where trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders, you must first gain consent from the planning department at your local district or borough council, before carrying out any work.

Information about protected trees may be obtained from your local council or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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