Trees and woodland on public land

Your questions answered


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What is the Council's remit concerning trees in the Bradford District?

Bradford Council is responsible for maintaining a substantial number of trees within the district. This includes approximately 21,000 trees growing in or alongside the adopted highway. Bradford Council also manages 267 hectares of trees in public green spaces and 590 hectares of woodland.

The Council's tree management efforts are dedicated to maintaining public safety and managing trees to support health and wellbeing, capture carbon, support biodiversity, mitigate extreme weather and enhance the appearance of the district.

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What are the Council’s legal obligations and priorities for public trees?

The Council has legal obligations to ensure that the trees on its land or the adopted highway are safe and not causing damage to property or obstructing the highway.

As well as meeting our legal obligations, we endeavour to be a 'good neighbour' and strive to provide high-quality trees that enhance the district and don't unreasonably inconvenience or distress people who live near them. However, budget constraints have placed greater emphasis on setting priorities that focus on meeting our legal obligations; these are:

  • Removing dead, diseased or dangerous trees in highways, parks, and Council land.
  • Removing or pruning trees that obstruct the highway, road signs, lights and sightlines.
  • Removing trees that may be causing subsidence or other damage to property.
  • Making reasonable adjustments.

The Council also operates an emergency call-out service to deal with trees that have failed due to accidents and extreme weather conditions. If you need to report a dangerous tree, please call 01274 431000.

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How does the Council manage tree inspections and maintenance?

Trees that are owned or controlled by the Council are visually checked by professional arboriculturists (Tree Officer) on average every 12 to 18 months as part of a rolling programme. The inspection aims to identify trees that meet its priorities as set out above. When we find trees that are judged to be dangerous, blocking the highway or causing direct damage, a recommendation for pruning or removal works will be made and carried out. The inspection programme is focused on trees where there is a potential “target” should a failure occur, for example, next to a building, highway, or footpath. Trees without a target are not generally inspected.

The Council is not currently able to implement a scheduled or predetermined program of pruning. For instance, our goal is not to routinely and systematically trim or prune trees, as these practices can be detrimental to the trees and often lead to a surge of robust new growth. The preferred approach is to perform work only when it is deemed necessary to meet its obligations or for tree health.

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How are customer enquiries for tree inspections managed?

Alongside its programme of inspections, the Council also responds to tree-related service requests and enquiries from property holders and members of the public. We aim to respond to give an initial response to a service request within 28 working days. The request is assessed against the Council’s priorities and one of several actions will result depending on the nature of the call.

  • A review concludes a recent inspection has been carried out, no further action is necessary, and the case will be closed.
  • A review concludes the service request requires a site visit to determine if any further action is required.
  • A request for further information may be made.

Where the review results in an inspection visit, we aim to carry out this out within 4 to 8 weeks. When the tree officer visits site the service request is assessed against Council priorities, where work is required, an order will be raised, and the works carried out according to the nature of the issue:

  • Emergency works with an imminent risk of harm are carried out within twelve hours.
  • Urgent works to reduce or remove the risk of damage are usually completed within five days.
  • Ad-hoc works to meet a specific completion date, usually within six weeks,
  • Scheduled work processed chronologically but may take up to six months to complete.

Scheduled (or any works) may take longer than stated if there are nesting birds, suspected bat roosts or other protected species present that could be affected by the work.

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What issues result in removal of publicly owned trees?

The Council’s default position is to keep trees wherever it is safe to do so, however, sometimes it is necessary to remove trees:

  • Diseases, decay (fungi) or poor form that makes the tree unsafe.
  • Movement in the roots or soil have made the tree unstable.
  • As part of an agreed woodland management plan.
  • Where planning permission has been given.

The Council’s Woodland Strategy promotes increased tree and woodland cover across the district through planting trees. Our guiding principle is to grow 'the right tree in the right place for the right reason'. When we do have to remove trees, we aim to match these with new trees in suitable locations.

All work on Council trees is carried out according to British Standard 3998 Recommendations for Tree Work or better. The standard is designed to ensure pruning is not detrimental to the tree's health, vitality, stability and look. In practice, this means that any form of pruning, except pollarding, will remove less than 15% of the crown at a single time.

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What are the obligations of private tree owners?

People who have trees growing on their land are responsible for ensuring that their trees do not pose a danger to others or cause harm. Private owners should also ensure that trees and shrubs growing on their land do not obstruct or encroach on the highway, including foot paths. or more information visit trees on your property page.

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Who should I contact about a tree problem?

The Contact the trees team page provides guidance on where you should direct your enquiry.

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How do I find out who is responsible for a particular tree?

The landowner is generally responsible for any trees growing on their land.

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Who is responsible for dangerous trees?

The owner of the land is responsible for trees growing on their land and must take timely action to resolve any problems. If the tree is on the highway or Council land, please report this straight away by calling the Council switchboard on 01274 431000. In exceptional cases where a tree on private land is thought to be imminently dangerous, and the landowner is not known, the Council has discretionary powers to intervene.

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When is a tree defined as 'dangerous' or 'safe'?

Descriptions such as 'dangerous' and 'safe' are relative – there is no single definition. We will refer to a tree as 'dangerous' when it is judged to be an 'unacceptable' risk; that is, the tree is likely to fail and cause significant harm to people or property. The Quantitative Tree Risk Assessment methodology has been adopted to help determine the level of risk posed by an individual tree. Broadly, if there is a risk in the region of 1/10,000 or higher of a tree failure that may result in significant harm in the next 12 months, then we will do what is reasonably practicable to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring. A tree is generally considered 'safe' when the likelihood of failure is below 1/10,000.

When we receive a report of a 'dangerous' tree, the inspecting officer looks at several things to determine the level of risk, such as the consequences if the tree fails – who or what will it hit - and the likelihood of it happening, for example, a dead or decayed tree is more likely to fail than a healthy, live tree. A tree next to a highway is or greater concern than an isolated woodland tree.

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What is Ash dieback and how does it impact trees?

Ash dieback, also known as Chalara dieback of ash, is a devastating fungal disease that affects ash trees. The disease primarily spreads through windborne spores produced by a fungus.

Affected trees will have these symptoms:

  • Leaves develop dark patches in the summer.
  • They then wilt and discolour to black. Leaves might shed early.
  • Dieback of the shoots and leaves is visible in the summer.
  • Lesions develop where branches meet the trunk. These are often diamond-shaped and dark brown.
  • Inner bark looks brownish grey under the lesions.
  • New growth from previously dormant buds further down the trunk. This is known as epicormic growth and is a common response to stress in trees.

(Source: Woodland Trust)

For more information, visit the Woodland Trust Website.

If you suspect that a public tree has Ash dieback, please report this to the Trees and Woodlands Team by calling 01274 431000.

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What are citizens’ rights regarding overhanging branches on their property?

The courts have judged that the solution to overhanging branches is the right of the property owner to cut back overhanging branches or roots (encroaching vegetation) to the boundary of their property. The tree owner does not generally have a duty to cut back overhanging branches. However, the right should be exercised with caution:

  • The work should not damage the tree or make it unsafe.
  • Checks should be made for bats and nesting birds before work. You may be committing an offence by disturbing or destroying habitat.
  • The Council should be notified of the work; you may need permission to enter Council land or work on the highway – contact the Tree and Woodland Service on 01274 431000
  • The tree may be protected by a Tree Preservation Order or is in an Conservation Area where any work must be formally approved by the Planning Service Trees Section (email: Failure to obtain approval may result in prosecution and a fine.

Where it is thought a Council tree may be causing direct damage, please get in touch with your insurance company and inform the Council. The Council will work with property owners and insurers to resolve any claims.

Please also follow the important guidance below:

  • If the pruning work entails working at height, this work is best carried out by a competent tree surgeon.
  • Use a qualified, insured, traceable arboricultural contractor working to British Standard 3998 Recommendations for Tree Work.
  • Follow relevant Health and Safety legislation.
  • Take away and dispose of all prunings correctly.

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Can I pay a contractor to remove a tree not covered by the Council’s current priorities?

Such requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The Council’s default position is to retain trees for the public amenity. A tree officer will review the request and provide a response within 28 days. Requests for tree removal can be submitted through Customer Services by calling 01274 431000.

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Can I request the removal of a public tree near my property if I don't like it or find it inconvenient?

The Council’s default position is to retain trees for the public amenity and will not generally remove a tree on request unless it meets current priorities. Anyone thinking of buying or renting property near a tree should consider whether they will be happy living near these trees.

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Will the Council remove or cut back a tree that is blocking light, views, television reception, or affecting solar panels?

The Council will review and assess individual cases, but it has no specific duty to remove or cut back trees that block light, views, TV or solar panels and does not currently have resources other than to meet existing priorities (see above). In some circumstances it may be possible for householders to carry out this work at their expense with Council approval. We may suggest considering other solutions for TV reception such as repositioning satellite dishes or aerials or using cable services.

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Will the Council prune trees that are affecting telephone cables?

Generally, telephone lines are designed to withstand being routed through tree canopies and the Council does not routinely prune trees to clear lines. Where there is a concern that the line is damaged then you should contact your provider. The Council will work with telephone line providers to assist householders.

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Is the Council responsible for leaves, sap, fruit, or other debris that fall from its trees?

The courts have judged falling leaves, seeds, 'sap' etc are natural occurrences and the tree owner does not have a duty to remove or cut back a tree. Responsibility for the 'litter' once it has fallen from the tree rests with the owner of the land on to which it falls.

Where sap, leaves or fruit etc. are making public footpaths slippery and unsafe, you can report this to the Street Cleaning team by completing a street cleaning online form or calling 01274 431000.

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Is the Council empowered to instruct my neighbour to trim or remove their tree if it has an impact on my property?

The Council does not intervene in disputes relating to private trees. The Council does have limited powers to act in some circumstances:

  • The tree is an 'imminent danger’, the owner cannot be found, and no other person or body is able to intervene. Assistance may be available through the Tree and Woodland Service. Call 01274 431000.
  • The nuisance is covered under the high hedges regulations.
  • Assistance may be available through the Planning Service Trees team. Email

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How do trees benefit the community?

Trees in parks, woodlands, highway verges and other green spaces create an attractive and sustainable place where people can live, visit and invest. Trees not only look good but also provide many benefits, including:

  • contributing to health and wellbeing
  • providing habitat for insects, bats and birds
  • carbon capture and storage
  • shading from summer sun and shelter from winds
  • flood prevention
  • improved air quality.

Without trees, the district would be a poorer and less attractive place.

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How can I get involved in tree planting or care initiatives in my community?

There are many ways to get involved in preserving and protecting the district's precious green spaces. Learn more about volunteering opportunities and tree-planting initiatives on the Bradford District Parks website.

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