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Who is Responsible for Trees

Tree Ownership

Trees are the responsibility of the owner of the land on which they grow.  Tunbridge Wells Borough Council does not have the powers to ensure that people carry out regular tree maintenance.

If you wish to gain general advice on trees and their maintenance, including Trees that you own or neighbours trees, you are advised to speak to a tree surgeon or a tree consultant as applicable.  The Arboricultural Association maintain a list of Registered Tree Consultants and Approved Tree Surgeons.

You may prefer to contact a local tree surgeon or consultant, but you will need to ensure they hold relevant insurance

Trees that you own

If you are a landowner you can find guidance on managing trees on the forestry commission website

We would advise that you have trees inspected at regular intervals by a competent person, and also after major storms if you have any concerns.

The Council does not give pre-application advice on trees and is not in a position to give general advice on trees or make site visits.

If you wish to gain general advice on trees and their maintenance, you are advised to speak to a tree surgeon or a tree consultant as applicable.  The Arboricultural Association has a list of Registered Tree Consultants and Approved Tree Surgeons on their website

You may prefer to contact a local tree surgeon or consultant, but you will need to ensure they hold relevant insurance

Dangerous Trees

If you own a tree that is dangerous, you should contact a competent tree specialist to give you advice as soon as possible.

If a dead or dangerous tree is a protected one, and it’s condition has been confirmed by a person competent to make that decision, then you do not need to make a full application for making it safe. You can find out more about works to dangerous protected trees on our are my trees protected page.

The forestry commission website provides advice on woodlands

Neighbours Trees

The maintenance of trees is the responsibility of the land owner.  The Council does not have the powers to ensure that owners of trees carry out regular maintenance.

Overhanging branches

Whilst landowners have a responsibility to ensure that their trees do not present an unreasonable risk to neighbours, they do not have an obligation to cut back overhanging branches, and so there is a common law right for a neighbour to cut back branches as far as the boundary, subject to getting any relevant permission if the tree is protected.

By law you should offer to return the pruning's to the tree owner.  We also advise you let the owner of the tree know before you begin any work as they may wish to make alternative arrangements with you.

If you are considering cutting back overhanging branches or tree roots on your land we advise you to get the opinion of a qualified tree specialist first, as you may cause the tree to become unstable or die.

Damage to property

If you think a tree is causing damage to your property then you should contact your property insurer or seek legal advice. The Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to help.


If you are concerned about light loss from neighbouring trees, and the trees concerned are a row of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees, then this may constitute a High Hedge.

Dangerous Trees

If you think that a tree on neighbouring property is dangerous, then you should contact the owner of the property in the first instance and let them know of your concerns.  Landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees do not pose an unreasonable risk.

Land ownership details are held by the Land Registry. The Council does not hold land ownership details.

If you have tried to contact the landowner and have not been able to do so, or if you have and they have not taken action then please contact us

Trees in parks and on TWBC land

Our Tree Management Strategy sets out the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s approach to the management of trees on land owned by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, including Parks and Open Spaces.

As a landowner, we have a duty of care to ensure that all trees on TWBC owned land are kept in an acceptable condition and do not put people or property at unreasonable risk.

We carry out regular inspections of trees to identify issues at the earliest possible time, so that preventative action can be taken where appropriate. TWBC supports a policy of tree preservation therefore only essential works will be undertaken in order to manage a tree. The type of works undertaken will depend on the location, species and state of health of the tree.

We carry out works to trees on our land, if the problem is about:

  • The health of the tree – if the works are vital to the tree’s long-term survival. Dead, dying or diseased trees will only be removed when there is no other option
  • The safety of the tree – if the tree has been identified as potentially hazardous or an immediate danger
  • Damage being caused by the tree e.g.– where branches are touching buildings, physical contact with walls, windows, gutters) or roots are resulting in structural damage
  • A fallen tree
  • Loose limbs

We do not carry out works to a a tree if the problem is solely about:

  • Light or shading
  • Blocked TV signals
  • Falling leaves, fruit, seeds, pollen, bird droppings
  • Overhanging branches

If one of our trees has branches overhanging your garden, and you wish to prune it back, then we have no objection to you doing so. If the tree is protected by Tree Preservation Order or is within the Conservation Area, first you need to obtain consent by making the necessary application or  notification. You can also use our interactvie map to find out if a tree is protected.

The impact on local wildlife of all tree works will always be thoroughly considered. Where appropriate, dead and fallen wood will be left on site, unless there are sound conservation and safety reasons for its complete removal.

All tree work carried out on TWBC land will done by a qualified tree surgeon appointed by TWBC and in accordance with BS 3998:2010 Tree work. Recommendations.

If there is a problem with one of our trees, try to get as much information as you can about it before contacting us. This includes the exact location and any nearby landmarks.

Development Sites

If you wish to make a planning application and trees on or adjacent to the site may be affected then you should consider whether you need to have a trees survey carried out to the guidance in the current edition of BS:5837 – Trees in Relation to Demolition, Design and Construction.

If you are concerned that works are taking place on a development site and that trees are being damaged contrary to any applicable TPOs or Planning Conditions in force, then you should contact our planning enforcement team

Trees alongside Railway lines

Trees that border railways and stations including their car parks are usually the responsibility of Network Rail

Trees on Housing Association Land

Trees that are on land owned by a housing association are maintained by the housing association which owns the land

The majority of Housing Association properties in Tunbridge Wells are owned by Town and Country Housing Group

Find out who owns a tree

Trees that are on privately owned land should be maintained by the land owner. To find out who owns a piece of land you should contact the Land Registry.

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