Maintaining trees in West Sussex

Work that property owners are responsible for.

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) does not have the capacity to offer surveys and inspections of trees on private land.

If you are concerned about the safety of your trees, contact a local tree surgeon or consultant. The Arboricultural Association provides a list of approved contractors and consultants.

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
  • check whether your trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders. If any are, make sure you gain consent to manage them from the planning department of your local district or borough council

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

What we are often asked

We are often asked whether we will undertake tree pruning or felling for the following reasons:

Large trees

We will not prune or fell a tree just because it is considered too big and/or tall for its surroundings.

Leaf or fruit fall from trees

The law courts have previously determined that a leaf or fruit is no longer considered the responsibility of the tree owner once it falls from a tree. This is because it is ‘incidental to nature’ and part of a seasonal inconvenience shared by many property occupiers.

We are not legally obliged to remove fallen leaves or debris from trees such as cones, seeds or blossoms. These are part of the biodiversity and amenity value of trees. It would also be extremely unlikely for WSCC to fell a tree for these reasons.

Street cleansing is the responsibility of the district and borough councils. You should contact them if there is a problem area that needs to be cleared.

It is not unreasonable for a resident to clear fallen leaves or fruit from their own property as part of routine seasonal maintenance. This is regardless of whether they originated from their own or somebody else’s tree.

Trees causing damage to your property

If you believe that a WSCC-owned tree is causing damage to your property, we recommend that in the first instance you contact your insurance provider. They will generally carry out an investigation and manage any subsequent claim on your behalf.

You are at liberty to submit a claim without the support of your insurance company, but you will need to provide detailed evidence (for example, a structural survey) to support your assertion that a WSCC tree is responsible for the damage. The burden of proof is on the claimant and therefore without supporting evidence, it is unlikely that the claim will be processed.

Tree roots blocking drains

West Sussex Highways do not fell trees because of blocked drains as a more satisfactory and permanent engineering solution is available. Tree root ingress into drains is common and has been extensively researched. All the evidence suggests that roots will only penetrate drains that have an existing fault.

Drainage problems generally occur with old clay pipes. These can degrade and leak from the joints, allowing roots to infiltrate and then proliferate to block the pipe. Replacing these with modern jointless plastic pipes will permanently resolve these problems.

If you suspect a drain is blocked because of a tree, please contact your property insurer. They should undertake investigations and arrange repairs on your behalf.

Trees blocking a proposed vehicle crossover (dropped kerb) to a driveway

If a tree is blocking a proposed dropped kerb (vehicle crossover) area, the tree will be inspected by a WSCC arboriculturist to see if it is healthy and offering good amenity value and longevity.

If this is the case, we may refuse an application for a dropped kerb licence

Trees blocking a view

WSCC will not prune or fell a tree, or group of trees that we own or manage, to improve the view from private property.

Trees blocking light

We would only consider this in rare and exceptional circumstances, as there is no ‘right to light’ from tree obstruction in English law.

Trees interfering with satellite or TV reception

We will not prune or fell any tree that we own or manage to enable or ease installation or improve reception of satellite or television receivers.

It maybe that your satellite or TV provider will be able to suggest an alternative solution to the problem. However, we will not reimburse costs associated with relocating a TV aerial or satellite dish.

Last updated:
30 September 2022
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