Tree and hedge maintenance responsibilities

What we are responsible for maintaining and what other organisations do.

Along the highway

Not all trees on or near the highway are the responsibility of West Sussex County Council (WSCC). Responsibility for:

  • trees and hedgerow bordering the A27, M23 and parts of the A23 lies with Highways England
  • trees in car parks, parks and recreation areas usually lies with district and borough councils
  • most hedges and trees bordering our roads lies with adjacent landowners
  • grass verges and trees next to a road or path owned by district and borough councils or housing associations lies with them.

There is no general rule on the extent of the highway boundary. Historic features such as ditch lines and hedges may give a rough outline of the boundary, but each area is specific. In certain places the extent of the highway may be limited to only the paved surface.

There are between 500,000 and one million trees alongside and part of the West Sussex highway network. With such a large number of trees across the county, it is necessary to undertake tree works all year round.

Work to trees is subject to traffic management and other constraints such as periods of very bad weather, which may significantly disrupt planned work schedules.

It is not practical to notify interested residents in advance. However, you may receive prior notification when it's needed to carry out the job, such as working over a driveway or where on-street parking needs to be cleared before a job can proceed.

We carry out regular inspections of the highways and trees and we also respond to customer reports of issues.

Public Rights of Way (PROWs)

We are responsible for maintaining Public Rights of Way (PROWs). The owner of the land a PROW crosses is responsible for trees that grow next to and on it.

Properties we own

We have a duty of care for trees on properties that we own, such as WSCC care homes, libraries, fire stations and countryside sites.

Schools are responsible for their own sites and grounds maintenance, but we have ultimate duty of care if we own the landMany schools choose to manage their sites through WSCC. Our arboriculturists will carry out safety checks and order remedial works, if required.

Woodlands and hedgerows

We work in partnership with others, such as local tree wardens. This ensures that the special character and environment of West Sussex is protected and enhanced through tree, woodland and hedgerow conservation.

Hedge maintenance

We cut hedges that we are responsible for every autumn and winter. It is an offence to disturb birds and their nests during the nesting season. However, if a hedge is causing a serious problem, we will deal with it quickly.

If you have shrubs or hedgerows on your land bordering the highway, make sure you do the following:

  • Ask your local district or borough council's planning department for permission before you carry out work on hedges. This is because many are protected, making their removal illegal. You can find information about protected hedgerows from your local council or by viewing GOV.UK's information about countryside hedgerow protection and management.
  • Keep hedges trimmed so they do not obstruct the highway or cover road signs.
  • Use warning signs on all approaches if you carry out extensive work.
  • Try and carry out work at off-peak times and in daylight.
  • Only use equipment that is in good condition and visible to road users.
  • Do not throw debris into the path of traffic, and remove it from the road, verge and drains.

Please note: If we observe trees, shrubs or hedges that are interfering with the safe use of the highway, we will notify the owner and ask them to take appropriate action.

In most cases land owners will take action, but if they don’t we also have the option to carry out the work and pass all costs on to the landowner.

Last updated:
11 March 2021
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  • West Sussex County Council will only use this email address to respond to any issues raised.