Tree and hedge maintenance responsibilities

What the County Council and you are responsible for maintaining, and what other organisations do.

1 WSCC's and others' responsibilities

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 National Highways
  • 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. These are looked after by our Facilities Management team.

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 our Facilities Management team.

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.

2 Your responsibilities

Keep roads and pavements safe for vehicles and pedestrians by cutting back overhanging vegetation on your property - it’s the law under the Highways Act.

Maintaining your vegetation will also prevent potential claims being made against you in the event of damage to a bus, for example.

Vegetation cut back requirements

  • There should be a minimum clearance height of 5.2m (17ft) above the road. A minimum clearance width of 0.5m (1.6ft) is required past the edge of the road.
  • A minimum clear height of 2.4m (8ft) is required above the footway, if applicable. Vegetation must be cut back to the boundary so that the full width of the footway is revealed.

Please note: the clearances specified above are minimum requirements; for better long-term value you can cut back further.

If you are unable to carry out the work yourself, contact a reputable local contractor and direct them to the information on this page to clarify what is required. You can find a contractor in West Sussex that’s approved by Trading Standards.

If you are undertaking the work yourself, please ensure:

  • warning signs are used on all approaches if you carry our extensive work
  • you try to carry our work at off-peak times and in daylight
  • you only use equipment that is in good condition and visible to road users
  • debris is kept off the path of traffic and is removed from the road, verge and drains.

To identify overhanging vegetation walk or drive along the roadside boundary of your property when it's safe to do so. Then, identify any overhanging vegetation that does not meet the specified requirements.

If you live near a busy road and require traffic management, your contractor will arrange for a permit from the highway’s authority. The cost of this will be included into the overall price of their work.

Always 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 also find information about protected hedgerows from your local district or borough council or by viewing GOV.UK's information about countryside hedgerow protection and management.

Last updated:
30 September 2022
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