Trees and woodland on public land

Bradford Council manages around 18,000 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 habitat for insects, bats and birds, shading from summer sun and shelter from winds, carbon capture and storage, interception of rain and removal of dust and grime. 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 to both the Council and citizens.

Legal obligation and priorities

 The Council have 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, Council and private land (only in extreme situations).
  • 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.
  • managing public trees covered by Tree Preservation Orders or in Conservation Areas.

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. We are 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 your 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.

Frequently asked questions

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 4 to 6 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 the tree will 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. 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 we have 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, roots and branches are not an infringement of that right. 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 at or 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 the Council or another contractor to remove a tree or carry out work not covered by current priorities?

Yes, it is possible that in some circumstance the Council may agree to either removal or pruning of a tree where it does not meet current work priorities.  Each request is assessed on its own merits, however, there is a clear preference to retain the tree.  We may consult with neighbouring residents, other relevant Council officers and Ward Councillors to assist decision making. We can provide a quote for such works – please email or call 01274 431000.  There is no obligation to accept the quote and it is recommended that quotes from other contractors are obtained.

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.

Underline image

Stay connected Image of an envelope

Sign up for email updates about planning and building control

Rate this page

The feedback you provide will help us continue to make improvements to our website.

Rate this page now