Overhanging hedges, trees, shrubs or bushes

The following guidance has been put together in order to help you gain a greater understanding of our position on hedges, trees, shrubs and bushes that overhang the highway (known as overhanging vegetation).

What is overhanging vegetation?

Overhanging vegetation can be hedges, trees, shrubs, bushes or any other type of plant that grows out from within your properties boundary onto a footway or carriageway (including footpaths, snickets or roads to the front, rear or side) in a way that obstructs or endangers highway users; for example:

  • it may obstruct the footpath so pedestrians, including those with a disability, have to walk in to the road
  • it may prevent pushchairs or wheelchairs from getting past
  • it may obstruct sight lines for vehicle users
  • it can obstruct street furniture such as street lamps

Any such obstruction is a safety hazard and a potential danger therefore Bradford Council (the Highway Authority) can enforce those responsible to cut them back.

What is classed as a public highway?

'Public Highway' in this instance is defined as a footway, verge, carriageway or public right of way between the boundaries of private property which could be adopted or un-adopted.

Dedicated park land is excluded and so is private land. Unfortunately, on occasions where overhanging vegetation is contained within the boundaries of private land adjacent to the public highway, we do not have any powers to enforce removal.

If the ownership of land is disputed the ‘alleged’ owner will be asked to provide evidence to the contrary to that recorded by the definitive Highway Record or Land Registry.

Please note:  

Un-adopted highway may show that you have ownership on the title deeds however, the existence of a public highway on this land supersedes any land ownership rights (the Highway Authority has precedence in legal consideration of activities in the highway land over the land owner).

Under Section 31 of the Highways Act the designation of highway may also arise from the use of land for an uninterrupted period of 20 years. Therefore the Council may consider that land which has not formally been dedicated or adopted is appropriately designated as highway.  

Which laws and legislation allow the Council to enforce overhanging vegetation?

The following enforcement legislation allows the Council to enforce overhanging vegetation:

  • Highways Act 1980, Section 154 – Cutting or felling etc. trees etc. that overhang or are a danger to roads or footpaths.

What should I do if I see overhanging vegetation on the highway?

We endeavour to deal with overhanging vegetation as soon as reasonably possible but if you see overhanging vegetation on the highway the quickest and easiest way to report it to us is by calling the contact centre on 01274 431000.

How will enforcement action be taken?

The following procedure will be followed if overhanging vegetation is found on the public highway:

  • a Council officer will visit the site of the overhanging vegetation where photographic evidence will be obtained along with other details such as the siting of it
  • the appropriate land owner will be identified and notified via a Notice to cut back the overhanging vegetation to the appropriate property boundary within 14 days. Please see ‘How far do I have to cut back the overhanging vegetation?’
  • if, after the 14 day period, no action has been taken the Authority will deploy a contractor to cut back the vegetation for which all reasonable costs will be charged. Please see ‘How much will the Council charge for cutting back overhanging vegetation?’

Please note

Under no circumstances will a Council employee or contractor deployed by the Council ask you to pay them directly in the event that enforcement work is undertaken. If someone does request payment please:

  • do not hand any money over or pay them by any means (for example cash, cheque, online payment)
  • try to get as many details as possible of the person requesting payment: description, vehicle details, business details, contact number
  • contact Bradford Council on 01274 431000 and ask to speak to a member of the Highway Enforcement team.
  • If you feel threatened or in danger call the police.

How far do I have to cut back the overhanging vegetation? 

Lower branches should be at least 2.5m (8 ft) above the footway or carriageway.

Diagram showing height of lower branches

Hedges, trees, shrubs or bushes should be cut back to your boundary line.

Diagram showing boundary line

There should be a clearway of at least 1m (3ft) around any street furniture (such as street lamps and road signs) and at least 2m (6ft) above it.

Diagram showing space required around street furniture

Aesthetic appearance as a result of cutting back overhanging vegetation is not a mitigating circumstance.

If you believe you have nesting birds or there is a tree preservation order please refer to the following websites for information:

How much will the Council charge for cutting back overhanging vegetation?

If the Council has to arrange for the overhanging vegetation to be cut back, all reasonable costs incurred for the work to be carried out will be recharged to the land owner, this will include:

  • contractor's costs – this will be dependent on the size of the area to be cut back, the type of vegetation, if specialist equipment is needed (such as a cherry picker and associated licence may be required to cut trees around a lamp column) and the time taken to undertake the work.
  • an administration fee of £50
  • a minor works permit fee of £62

Once the work is completed a bill for the full amount and how to pay will be sent to the landowner.

Who will carry out the enforcement action?

City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council is the Highway Authority as defined under the Highways Act 1980 and therefore has a statutory duty to ensure that the highway, comprising of roads and pavements, is kept safe and free from obstruction.

As a result, enforcement action will be undertaken by the Council's Network Resilience and Management Team who are a part of the Planning, Transportation and Highways Service which forms part of the Department of Place.

Please note:

Enforcement action from the Network Resilience and Management Team can only be taken when overhanging vegetation is obstructing the highway or associated street furniture. If your issue is in relation to overhanging vegetation growing from your neighbours’ property on to your land or private land or the height of the said vegetation please visit our trees and your property page.

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