Trees and woodland on public land

Bradford Council manages around 20,000 highway trees, 267 hectares of park trees and 590 hectares of woodland trees. These trees provide both benefits and challenges in our urban environment.

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.

For some people trees can cause inconvenience where it is felt that they block out light or views, interfere with TV signals, drop twigs, leaves, fruit and sap on to paths, drives and cars. Trees can also become a danger to people and property.

Providing the wider benefits of a district rich in trees and resolving problems with individual trees efficiently and effectively within the resources available is a challenge for both the Council and citizens.

Legal obligation and priorities

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

As well as meeting our legal obligations we also 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 on highways, parks, and Council land 
  • removing trees obstructing the highway, road signs, lights and sight-lines
  • removing trees that may be causing subsidence or other damage to property
  • taking in to account disability discrimination issues.

Citizen responsibility and rights

Most public trees near private property have been there for many years and help to create a more attractive and sustainable urban environment. Anyone considering buying or renting property near a tree should ask themselves whether or not they are going to be happy living near to trees. The Council is under no obligation to remove a tree on public land simply because it is disliked or may cause inconvenience to people who live nearby.

Property owners who have trees growing on their land have similar obligations to the Council and are responsible for ensuring that their trees do not pose a danger to their neighbours. Private owners should also ensure that trees and shrubs growing on their land do not obstruct or encroach on the highway, including foot paths.

Property owners are broadly entitled to cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching roots from a neighbouring tree, up to the boundary of their property. If the tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order or is in a Conservation Area any work must be formally approved by Planning.  Failure to obtain approval may result in prosecution and a fine.

Tree removal and replanting

Bradford District has a Woodland Strategy that promotes increased tree and woodland cover across the district by planting trees. Our guiding principle is to grow 'the right tree in the right place'. This does mean that when trees are removed the loss is balanced with new planting in more suitable locations.

Quality tree work

Trees do not need to be regularly cut-back or lopped and topped. All work on Council trees is carried out to British Standard 3998 Recommendations for Tree Work or better. The standard is designed to ensure pruning is not detrimental to the health, vitality, stability and look of the tree. In practice this means that any form of pruning, with the exception of pollarding will remove less than 15% of the crown at a single time.

Who should I contact about a tree problem?

Bradford Council has two separate services within the Department of Place dedicated to the management of trees and woodland within the district.

The Trees Team based in the Planning Service deals with Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), trees protected by Conservation Areas and trees affected by development. It also deals with the Hedgerow Regulations, High Hedge legislation and breaches of planning control relating to trees.

The Tree and Woodland Section deals with trees and woodland on public land and the highway.

If the tree is on Incommunities land please call 0845 120 8171.

How long will the inspection and tree works take?

If the request to inspect a tree meets current priorities we aim to inspect it within 8 to 12 weeks. If works are identified these will be given a “work priority”. Where there is high risk of harm these will be dealt with immediately or in an appropriate timescale; medium to low risk trees are placed in the works queue and are generally dealt with in date order.

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 regarded as being 'safe' when the likelihood of failure is moving below 1/10,000.

When we receive a report of a 'dangerous' tree the inspecting officer looks at a number of 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.

Who is responsible for dangerous trees?

The owner of the land is responsible for trees growing on the land. If the tree is on the highway or Council land please report the details to us by calling 01274 431000. In special cases where a tree on private land is thought to be imminently dangerous and the land owner is not known the Council has discretionary powers to intervene.

Does the Council have to cut back a tree or remove it because it blocks my light or view or TV reception?

No. There is no general right to light, a view or TV reception and we have no legal obligation to cut back. Before buying or renting a property next to a tree think very carefully about whether you can live with the tree and the outlook. You may consider repositioning your satellite dish, aerial or use a cable service.

Is the Council responsible for leaves, sap and fruit that fall from its trees and may block private gutters or private paths?

No, in the eyes of the law once a leaf, seed or fruit has left the tree, ownership passes to the owner of the land on which it falls.

Sap is falling on to my car, does the Council have to cut back or remove the tree?

No. Sap or more accurately honeydew is excreted by insects feeding on leaves in the tree. We do not have any obligation to cut back or remove trees for this reason.

Sap, leaves or fruit are making the footpath slippery and unsafe – will the Council remove the tree?

In most cases no. This is often a street cleaning issue rather than a tree issue. You can request street cleaning using our online form or call 01274 431000

Does the Council have to cut back any branches from its trees that overhang my property?

No. Although, the owner or tenant has a right to enjoy their property without interference from roots and branches there is no obligation on the adjacent landowner to cut back. Where it can be shown that encroaching roots or branches may be the cause of damage then we will investigate and take the necessary action to prevent further damage.

If you suspect damage to your property please contact your insurance company in the first instance.

Can I cut back branches or roots from a Council tree that overhangs my property?

Yes, a land owner or tenant may cut back branches and roots that encroach on their property but only as far as the boundary. If the pruning work entails working at height, this work is best carried out by a competent tree surgeon. Before cutting back overhanging branches you or your contractor are advised to

  • check for Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area status. A formal application and approval will be needed to carry out work and failure to do so can lead to prosecution and fines
  • check for bats and nesting birds. You may be committing an offence by disturbing or destroying habitat
  • give notice to the Council 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
  • use a qualified, insured and traceable arboricultural contractor working to British Standard 3998 Recommendations for Tree Work
  • follow relevant Health and Safety legislation
  • ensure the tree is not made unstable or dangerous through the works, you could be liable for subsequent harm
  • take away and dispose of all prunings correctly.

Can I pay for a contractor to remove a tree not covered by current priorities?

The Council favours the retention of trees in public places and, therefore, does not generally agree to tree removal.  Requests can be made via Customer Services on 01274 431000 and each case will be assessed on its own merits.

Can the Council force my neighbour to cut their tree down if it affects my property?

We do not get involved in private disputes unless the tree is shown to be an 'imminent danger' and the owner is  unknown. In some cases the 'trees' may fall under the high hedges regulations and we may be able to assist through  the Planning Service Trees team.

Will the Council manage trees growing on private land affecting my property where the owner is unknown?

No, unless the trees are an 'imminent' danger, we will not normally intervene.