The council and maintaining trees

We maintain thousands of trees in and around Brighton & Hove. However, we don't have responsibility for trees that we do not own. We have no legal obligation to take action and are not liable for any damage caused, unless the Highway is under threat. We then have a statutory duty of care to protect under the Highways Act 1980.

On this page you'll find information on what to do if you're a private tree owner.

How to manage an overhanging tree

Under common law, you can cut back any branch or root from a tree that comes onto your property.

You must pay for this and follow these criteria:

  • you must not trespass onto the land on which the trees are growing. We do not allow the use of chainsaws, pruning saws or similar tools on our land unless the work is being carried out for us by an approved contractor
  • branches or roots must not be cut back beyond the boundary
  • you must dispose of any material responsibly and pay for it yourself. Dumping rubbish is illegal. Anyone caught dumping rubbish could face legal action
  • we ask that any elm tree pruning not be conducted during May to October due to the risk of elm disease infection and threat to the city’s National Elm Collection>
  • all work must be carried out carefully. You must avoid damaging property or carrying out work that would leave the tree unsafe or dangerous
  • You cannot alter the height of trees or hedges

Before doing any work to trees:

What you should do about tall trees

Large trees are not necessarily dangerous. Trees will grow as large as its species type and surrounding environment will permit.

What you should do about leaning trees

Leaning trees are not necessarily dangerous. This is because the tree will put on additional growth on one side of the trunk to stabilize itself. A tree growing in competition with neighbouring trees may naturally develop a lean over time as it grows towards the light.

If a tree suddenly develops a lean there is likely to be an underlying problem which requires further investigation.

What you should do about swaying trees

Swaying in the wind does not necessarily mean that a tree is dangerous. Trees will naturally bend and sway. The flexibility of branches acts as a natural mechanism to prevent the tree from breaking.

What you should do about hollow trees

Hollow trees are not necessarily dangerous. Strength depends on the percentage of healthy to unhealthy tissue. Hollowing usually occurs over many years. While the heart of the tree may become hollow, the tree will continue to lay down wood around its trunk every year. To be sure, you can consult an independent arboricultural consultant.

What you can do if there's a dangerous tree on private property

Landowners have a legal duty of care to ensure their trees are maintained in a safe condition. If you suspect a tree to be unsafe, the first step is to contact the owner and tell them your concerns.

More information

For more advice about privately owned trees, you can contact an independent tree professional. Go to the Arboricultural Association website