Throwing your neighbour's tree branches over the fence may seem tempting in moments of strong emotion, but legislation requires a more subtle approach that fosters good relationships in the long term. Allowing your neighbour his rights regarding his tree clippings helps you steer clear of legal difficulties and may be an opportunity for a friendly conversation.
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Your neighbour's rights
Your neighbour's trees belong to him, even when growing into other properties. He the right to all the material removed from his trees, and to have tree prunings returned to him in such a way as won't cause damage or injury to himself or his property. If you do cause damage, he has the right to sue. You should offer removed material to him, though he can ask you dispose of it yourself. Unless you can prove to your local authority that your neighbour's tree is causing a nuisance, you can't force him to cut his tree himself.
Your rights regarding your neighbour's trees extend as far as your property, above and below ground. You can remove overhanging material and tree roots growing over your boundaries. Where trees not growing into your land are causing a nuisance, such as injury, damage or prevention of reasonable enjoyment of your property, you can apply to the courts for an abatement notice. This requires the owner to deal with the problem caused by their tree or allow others onto the property to do the work. Where your neighbour's tree isn't overhanging your property, but is obstructing the roadway or other public space, you can apply to your local authority to remove the obstruction.
Tree preservation orders
Some trees are subject to a tree preservation orders or are growing within conservation areas and it's illegal to fell them or carry out major work. Tree owners and their neighbours must apply to the local authority first. Neighbours may get local authority permission to prune a tree, but they also need the owner's consent, even if the tree is overhanging their property. Professional tree surgeons should always undertake major work on trees.
Where trees are causing a nuisance, the first step should be to approach your neighbour in a friendly fashion to talk about the problem and try to reach a mutually-agreeable solution. It's better to talk as soon as possible rather than dwell on it, allowing negative feelings to build up. People are often completely unaware of the problems their trees may cause. If you feel unable to talk to your neighbour face-to-face, asking a disinterested third party to approach him sometimes helps.
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