Trees

Tree Strategy

The Tree Strategy, produced in March 2021, is Reading’s second version of the strategy, replacing the original version from 2010. The strategy sets out the approach to the planting, management and maintenance of trees in Reading.

In particular, the strategy contains ambitious proposals for new tree planting and extension of tree canopy cover in Reading up to 2030, to mitigate climate change effects and to adapt to the climate change that is already occurring, as well as for the many other benefits that trees bring.

The Tree Strategy will be reviewed on a regular basis, and the version of the document on this page is therefore likely to change as and when required. Please check this page for the latest version.

The Tree Strategy is strongly related to the Biodiversity Action Plan, which was produced and consulted upon at the same time. Both documents help to achieve aspects of Reading’s Climate Emergency Strategy, the response to the Climate Emergency declared by the Council in February 2019.

Concerns about trees

See a full list of frequently asked questions about tree management here.

Neighbours trees

If you have any concerns about trees in your neighbour’s garden, let them know your concerns, clearly explaining what and why you are worried. All tree owners have a ‘duty of care’ under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 to ensure that their trees do not pose an unacceptable risk to people or property, so owners should act appropriately to ensure they are meeting that duty. Under common law, you have the right to trim overhanging branches back to your boundary (no further) without the owner’s permission. The branches remain the property of the tree owner and should be returned unless otherwise agreed. This does not apply if the trees are the subject to a Tree Preservation Order or within a conservation area.

There is no set maximum height for trees.

The council can only potentially intervene in concerns over trees blocking light if those trees meet the criteria of being a ‘High Hedge’.

Council trees

For enquiries or concerns relating to council-owned trees, please send an email to the Parks Team, at mail.parks@reading.gov.uk.

If the trees are within the grounds of a school, please contact the school directly.

If the trees are within a council property, please contact your Housing/Neighbourhood officer for advice – there is advice relating to tree maintenance in your tenancy agreement.

Work to protected trees

If you are concerned that work is being undertaken to a protected (TPO) tree or to a tree in a conservation area without permission being given or notice being submitted, please contact the Natural Environment Team by email: planning.naturalenvironment@reading.gov.uk. Please note that Tree Work applications and notices are available to view on our online planning service, alongside planning applications.

If you want to prune a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) you must apply for our permission using the Planning Portal website following the procedure for submitting a planning application. We can give you pre-planning advice. If you think you need it, fill in our pre-planning request.

You can see which trees are protected on our Tree Preservation Order directory. Further information about TPOs and the application process can be found in our Guide to Tree Preservation Orders.

If you live in a conservation area, you will need to give six week’s notice (a Section 211 Notice) before carrying out any tree work. You can use a tree works application form for this but there is no obligation to do so. Notice in writing can be via email to planning.naturalenvironment@reading.gov.uk or letter, and should identify the tree(s) and proposed work.

Information on conservation areas

If you need a copy of a TPO, please email us with the full postal address and TPO reference if known and we will confirm if the TPO is relevant to the property in question. There is a charge of £27.50 for a copy of a full TPO document or £13 for just the TPO plan (which shows which trees are protected). Payment can be made by selecting planning in both drop-down menus and then ‘Planning Department Miscellaneous Income’ on our secure payment site.

Felling of trees which are not subject to a TPO may still require a Felling Licence from the Forestry Commission. Failure to fell under a proper licence is an offence and subject to a penalty. Gov.uk advice on illegal tree felling.

Choosing a tree surgeon

Professional tree surgeons (also known as tree contractors or arborists) are highly skilled people and can provide useful advice on tree maintenance and appropriate pruning. However, anyone can buy a chainsaw and trade as a tree surgeon without proper qualifications or insurance so extreme caution needs to be taken when choosing a company to prune your tree to avoid long-term harm to your tree, potential liability if they harm themselves, other people or property, and potential prosecution if they do not give you proper advice on tree law.

Advice on choosing a tree surgeon can be found on the Arboricultural Association (AA) website as well as companies approved by them. Whilst there is no obligation to use an AA approved contractor, if you do not, it is strongly recommended that you follow their advice when selecting a company.

If you require the services of a tree consultant, for example to carry out condition surveys/inspections of trees or to assist with a planning application, companies approved by the AA can again be found on their website. Consultants can also be found on The Institute of Chartered Foresters website.

Trees and development

The retention and protection of appropriate trees within development sites and planting of new trees is important.  This is supported by planning policy and by our Tree Strategy. Whether a development of 100 houses or just an extension to an existing house, if there are trees potentially affected, these will need to be considered and you may need professional tree advice. Further information can be found on our help with planning page and within our Guide to Tree Preservation Orders.

If your tree is protected by a TPO, Permitted Development (PD) rights do not override a TPO hence any works within the Root Protection Area (as defined by BS5837:2012) will need to be agreed by the Local Planning Authority. Trees (and landscaping) in relation to development is dealt with by the Natural Environment Team in Planning: planning.naturalenvironment@reading.gov.uk.

Tree planting

To meet with the objectives of our Tree Strategy, there will need to be tree planting across the borough on private land as well as our own planting schemes. Planting trees is a great way to help mitigate climate change, provide wildlife habitat and help clean the air, amongst many other benefits. It is really important that trees are planted properly, given enough water for at least the first three growing seasons (approximately April to October) and that appropriate species are chosen for each location to ensure they can grow to their optimum size without causing problems. There is lots of great advice available on planting and choosing trees, such as on the Trees & Design Action Group website and from tree professionals.

Tree maintenance

Advice on tree maintenance can be found on the Arboricultural Association (AA) website or directly from tree and landscape professionals. It is often thought that trees need regular pruning to keep them healthy, this is not the case, except for trees that are specifically maintained to restrict growth, such as fruit trees, pleached trees or espalier trees. Every time a tree is pruned it causes the tree stress and provides an entry point for pathogens, resulting in the tree needing to use energy reserves to recover from the pruning.

Trees in urban areas often need pruning to address conflicts with houses, telephone wires, lampposts, etc. However you should always think ‘what should be done to the tree?’ rather than ‘what could be done to the tree?’, as the questions can have very different answers.

It is important to plan tree maintenance in advance. The appropriate times to prune which minimise the harmful impact on your trees will depend on various factors, such as the extent of work, tree species and condition of the tree. If, for example, you need to re-pollard a tree this is generally best done in July/August or December/January. In this case thinking ahead is vital to ensure your tree works application is processed in time (if your tree is protected) or you can book a tree surgeon in time.

Reading Borough Council Commercial Services

The Parks Department provide a professional tree service at competitive prices.

Book tree work

We can:

  • inspect trees and give a written assessment
  • design and arrange the planting of trees, hedges and woodlands
  • carry out tree surgery
  • clear fallen trees

Please note that if your tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order or you live within a conservation area, you should liaise with the Natural Environment Team first.

Reading Tree Warden Network

Reading has a committed Tree Warden Network.

Woodland Management Plans

Reading Borough Council’s plans for woodland management can be found on our Grounds Maintenance page.