Concerns about trees

Useful contacts

For further information relating to Council trees in parks, open spaces or on the highway, please contact the Tree Officer. e-mail: mail.parks@reading.gov.uk

For information about Tree Preservation Orders, trees in conservation areas, High Hedges, trees & development, please contact the Natural Environment Team in Planning: planning.naturalenvironment@reading.gov.uk

You can view Reading’s Tree Strategy (revised, adopted March 2021) here.

Frequently asked questions

A Council tree is overhanging my property. Will the Council cut it back?

Can I cut back overhanging branches?

There is a council owned tree blocking out sunlight. Can it be pruned or removed?

Can my neighbour let their trees/hedge grow to whatever size they want?

There is a tree outside my property that is tall and moving in the wind. Is it dangerous?

A tree on my neighbour’s land is dangerous; will the Council make my neighbour remove the tree?

There is a Council tree dropping fruit/seeds/leaves on my property. Can I have the tree pruned or removed?

A Council tree is interfering with my TV/radio signal – can it be pruned?

Will the Council prune my tree for me?

I want to get work undertaken to a Council tree even though the Council will not fund it.

Can the Council make my neighbour prune their tree?

I am a Council tenant and have trees in my garden that need pruning – what should I do?

A tree has fungus growing on it. Does this make the tree unsafe?

There are tree roots in my garden, and they are growing under my house. Are they going to damage it?

Will trees cause damage to my drains?

On a nearby building site, the builders are felling/pruning trees. Is this permitted?

Will you replace a fallen, felled or diseased tree?

My tree overhangs the pavement and/or road – do I have to maintain it in any particular way?

The roots of the tree outside my house are affecting the pavement – who do I contact?

A Council tree is causing damage to my property what can I do?

A Council tree is overhanging my property. Will the Council cut it back?

We do not prune trees that are causing shade, dropping leaves, have roosting birds, dropping sticky ‘sap’ (honeydew) or which overhang private properties. We only carry out works on trees for statutory reasons, for example to address health and safety issues, to address actionable nuisances where damage to property is reasonably foreseeable and for public highway clearance purposes.

Can I cut back overhanging branches?

If there are branches from Council trees or hedges overhanging your property and you would like to cut them back, you should check with Reading Borough Council Natural Environment Team to find out whether there are any Statutory controls in force such as Tree Preservation Orders or conservation areas.

If there are statutory controls on the trees, then it is a legal requirement to follow the appropriate procedure for applying for permission. If there are no statutory controls, then you have a right under common law to prune branches back to your boundary line only. However, this work should be done by a professional following good arboriculture practice, such as BS 3998:2010, and should not leave the tree structurally unstable or result in its terminal decline.  It is advisable to discuss the pruning with the Tree Officer first.  The Council is not in a position to fund these works so will need to be undertaken at your own expense and carried out from your own property. If access is required from Council Land, permission will need to be gained from the department that manages that land.

The waste created can be disposed of through the Council’s green waste schemes, composted or reused. Please do not deposit it on Council land as this may be considered fly tipping.

The presence of protected wildlife such as birds and bats should be assessed prior to commencement of works as it is an offence to disturb such species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. If you are unsure about the presence of birds or bats, you should contact an Ecologist or ask your tree surgeon for advice.

Tree work is a dangerous operation and should only be undertaken by a competent person, with due diligence to health and safety and other relevant laws and responsibilities.

There is a council owned tree blocking out sunlight. Can it be pruned or removed?

There is no legal right to light blocked by a tree. The Council does not carry out tree work to alleviate light restriction or overhanging branches. In order to maintain such light levels such work would need to be regularly repeated which is likely to be unduly expensive.

We do not consider seasonal occurrences like shade, leaf fall and sticky honeydew justifies felling or pruning a tree. We must also consider the amenity value that would be lost and the expense of the works.

Can my neighbour let their trees/hedge grow to whatever size they want?

There is no size limit on individual trees or hedges.

If a neighbour’s hedge is causing problems and reducing the amount of light into your house and/or garden, you may be able to make a formal complaint to the Council. More information on High Hedges.

There is a tree outside my property that is tall and moving in the wind. Is it dangerous?

Tall trees are not necessarily dangerous. Healthy trees produce enough wood to remain upright even in strong winds, the swaying is natural and allows the tree to withstand these conditions. The strength of the tree may be affected by factors such as fungal attacks, diseases and physical damage. If the tree is on Council land and you believe it to be dangerous please report your concerns to our call centre on Tel: 01189373787 or email: mail.parks@reading.gov.uk

A tree on my neighbour’s land is dangerous; will the Council make my neighbour remove the tree?

Not initially; the responsibility resides with the tree owner under their ‘duty of care’. We advise that you contact your neighbour requesting they make their tree safe. We suggest you follow this up with a letter and retain a copy for your records. You may wish to ask a solicitor to write a letter to your neighbour on your behalf. If your neighbour does not respond to your requests, please contact the Council and provide evidence that you have made a request to your neighbour. Contact the Tree Officers in Parks: mail.parks@reading.gov.uk

There is a Council tree dropping fruit/seeds/leaves on my property. Can I have the tree pruned or removed?

We do not remove or prune our trees for this reason. These are natural, seasonal occurrences that pruning is unlikely to solve. However, if there is a build up of material on a public highway you can report a street problem here.

A Council tree is interfering with my TV/radio signal – can it be pruned?

We do not undertake work to our trees to improve TV and radio signal. In order to maintain the signal this work would need to be regularly repeated which is likely to be unduly expensive.

Will the Council prune my tree for me?

The Council has its own arboricultural team that undertakes necessary works to Council trees and provide tree works quotes to private residents via Reading Borough Council Commercial Services. You can request a quote here. Alternatively, you can get advice on choosing a tree contractor from the Arboricultural Association.

I want to get work undertaken to a Council tree even though the Council will not fund it.

This will need to be discussed with the Tree Officer and a decision made on a case-by-case basis. We will work with you to try and alleviate your concerns but will not agree to pruning that is likely to have a harmful impact on the future health or amenity value of our tree.

Can the Council make my neighbour prune their tree?

Any issues between neighbours are a civil matter and the Council will not get involved unless the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order or within a conservation area. Even then, the Council has no power to make your neighbour prune their tree.

You are legally allowed to prune any overhanging branches back to your boundary line without your neighbour’s permission. Permission will be required from the Council if the trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or within a conservation area. Any branches removed remain the property of the tree owner and should be returned unless otherwise agreed. It is always recommended that you let the tree owner know what you are going to do, out of courtesy.

I am a Council tenant and have trees in my garden that need pruning – what should I do?

Pruning or felling of trees within a Council property must be agreed with your Housing Officer.  Prior to pruning, please contact them directly or via 0118 937 3787.

A tree has fungus growing on it. Does this make the tree unsafe?

Not necessarily. There are many types of fungi that are a natural part of a trees life and do not necessarily mean the tree is dangerous. However, the fungal growth suggest that some dysfunctional wood and/or decay is present hence you should seek professional advice. Removing fungal fruiting bodies from trees will not get rid of the fungus from within the tree, as by this stage it is well established – it should be left in place for identification. If you believe that a tree on Council Land is diseased and unsafe, please contact the Tree Officer in Parks: mail.parks@reading.gov.uk .

If the tree is on your own property and you are unsure if its condition is making it unsafe, you are advised to contact a tree surgeon or consultant for a professional opinion. You can get advice on choosing a tree contractor from the Arboricultural Association.

There are tree roots in my garden, and they are growing under my house. Are they going to damage it?

Tree roots are important to both provide stability to the tree and to provide nutrients and water for tree maintenance and growth.  Great care must be taken not to remove or damage roots as this may cause the tree to become unstable and/or affect its future health. If surface roots are causing problems or roots are causing direct damage to structures, professional advice should be sought prior to pruning them.  The presence of roots does not mean that your property will suffer from subsidence; subsidence will only occur on soils prone to volume change over the seasons, i.e. predominantly clay soils.

Will trees cause damage to my drains?

It is rare for trees to block up or cause damage to modern and well laid drains. Roots may occasionally block drains, but in order for the roots to gain access the drain must already be damaged. If you suspect that a drain is broken or blocked, you are advised to contact a drain contractor.  If the trees are protected, liaison with the Natural Environment Team should take place in agreeing a resolution.

On a nearby building site, the builders are felling/pruning trees. Is this permitted?

The development should have planning permission and planning permission overrides the legal protection of trees. The issue of trees, their felling, pruning and replacement will have been included in the planning officer’s consideration. If you suspect that work being carried out hasn’t been authorised please contact the Natural Environment Team: planning.naturalenvironment@reading.gov.uk

It is important to note that building work undertaken under ‘permitted development’, i.e. that does not require planning approval, does NOT override a TPO hence such works close to protected trees should be agreed with the Natural Environment Team.

Will you replace a fallen, felled or diseased tree?

We do our best to replace trees, although sometimes trees cannot be planted in exactly the same spot.  Our Tree Strategy provides information on our tree planting aims and targets.

My tree overhangs the pavement and/or road – do I have to maintain it in any particular way?

As a tree owner you are responsible for making sure the lowest branches are kept to a reasonable height above the footpath and the road in order to provide adequate clearance for pedestrians and vehicles. Reading Borough Council requires a clearance of 2.75m above the pavement and 5.5m above the road.

If your tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order or within a conservation area, you do not need approval for this pruning, although it is strongly recommended that you advise the Natural Environment Team of any work you plan to do in relation to this issue so that they can agree the specific works.

The roots of the tree outside my house are affecting the pavement – who do I contact?

You can report a street problem here.

A Council tree is causing damage to my property what can I do?

If you believe that a tree owned by Reading Borough Council is causing damage to your property, you must contact your own buildings insurance company. Your insurer will investigate the cause of the damage to your property and where appropriate, provide arboricultural evidence about a particular tree. They will also provide structural evidence of any building damage in support of any potential claim against Reading Borough Council. If you do not contact your insurer, then you will be responsible for the cost of providing the required information.

In order to evaluate and decide the likely cause of damage if there is alleged subsidence, we require the following information from you or your building insurer:

  • A description of the property, including a description of the damage and the crack pattern, the date that the damage first occurred/was noted, details of any previous underpinning or building work and the geological strata for the site identified from the geological map
  • Details of vegetation in the vicinity and its management since the discovery of the damage.  Include a plan showing the vegetation and affected building.
  • Measurement of the extent and distribution of the vertical movement using level monitoring.  Where level monitoring is not possible, state why and provide crack monitoring data.   Data provided must be sufficient to show a pattern of movement consistent with the presence of the implicated tree(s)
  • A profile of a trial/bore hole dug to identify foundation type and depth and soil characteristics
  • The subsoil characteristics including soil type (particularly that on which the foundations rest), liquid limit, plastic limit and plasticity index
  • The location and identification of roots found.  Where identification is inconclusive, DNA testing should be carried out
  • Proposed and estimated costs of options to repair the damage

In addition, you must include a report from an arboriculturalist to support the tree works proposals, including arboricultural options for avoidance or remediation of indirect tree related damage.

The required information should be sent to our Insurance Section at the Civic Offices, Bridge Street, Reading, RG1 2LU.  Each cause is unique and needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.