Parks & Open Spaces FAQs
Refer to the following information for our abbreviated list of frequently asked questions. To see our full answers to the questions, please download the complete Parks and Open Space Full FAQs.
Donating a bench or bench engraving
Q. Does the Council permit residents to donate new benches in its parks?
We will consider all applications for new benches or bench engraving. We will only install new benches where we feel there is a real need for them. We won’t fill our parks with too many benches but find that most requests are for larger parks where it is usually possible to accommodate a new one.
We do not allow standalone plaques in our parks to commemorate people or mark trees. With the exception of benches, our view is that the place for memorials is the local churchyard or cemetery. We can arrange to have words engraved directly into the seat back which we have found is more vandal resistant than fixing brass plates.
Request to plant a memorial tree
Q. Does the Council permit residents to donate memorial trees in its parks?
We are happy to support any initiative to plant new trees in our parks where we have space to do so and where it fits in with our wider plans.
We do not allow plaques near trees or any other feature in our parks to commemorate people, but we can consider donations from families to plant a tree in memory of a loved one. We also encourage residents to think about engravings on our benches.
Memorabilia in parks
Q. Does the Council allow items to be placed in its parks in memory of loved ones?
The Council understands that floral tributes and cards provide a visible and poignant focus of grief for families and friends. We are supportive of short-term acts of remembrance in a place that is special to the family or the person grieved for.
Please be advised that we do not allow memorabilia such as toys, clothing and banners to remain on display in our parks. We understand that some residents find comfort from these actions, but our view is that the place for memorials is the churchyard or cemetery. We find that floral tributes or any other memorabilia compromise visual amenity and can hinder maintenance of our parks.
Benches on the highway
Q. Does the Council allow Parish or community groups to install benches on highway verge?
Hertfordshire County Council own and are responsible for the maintenance of highway verges, we provide them with a service to cut grass on their behalf but this does not include the provision of benches.
If a Parish Council or group of residents wish to provide and maintain a bench on a highway verge, they should obtain authority directly from Hertfordshire County Council.
The only benches East Herts Council provide and maintain are in our own parks and open spaces.
Scattering of Ashes on East Herts Council Open Spaces
Q. Is it ok to scatter ashes in Council parks?
We aim to ensure our parks can be used and enjoyed by as many people as possible for as many diverse activities as we can.
We are aware families are increasingly choosing to scatter ashes at favourite beauty spots or in places their loved ones were fond of. There are generally no legal restrictions to prevent this, but relatives must seek the landowner’s permission.
Some areas in our parks are not suitable. If you are able to satisfy some simple criteria, we should be able to provide permission.
We ask that people do not make any permanent marks or leave items at locations where they have scattered ashes. We are happy to provide a map of the agreed site so that relatives are able to record the location.
Graffiti in parks
Q. What does the Council do to deal with graffiti in its parks?
Our Environmental Inspectors are accredited to take action against anyone caught defacing property. This includes issuing Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to those found to be committing "Environmental Crime". This legislation allows the Council and the residents to work together in keeping the streets, parks, and open spaces free from graffiti, fly-posting and other Environmental Crime.
We aim to remove graffiti from East Herts Council owned property within seven to ten days of it being reported and within 24 hours if the graffiti is racist/offensive. For graffiti (e.g. tagging) which is visible from one of our parks or open spaces, we will aim to identify and make contact with the land owner to request its removal.
Ballgames in open spaces and play areas
Q. Does the Council prohibit ball games on its open spaces?
The Council will not erect signs on any of our open green spaces to prohibit ball games. Our open spaces are there for all to enjoy including kicking a ball about. Our experience is that “no ball games” signs are not an effective solution to anti-social behaviour. There is no law to support this type of ban and such signs are therefore not enforceable.
In some circumstances where an area is very small and close to property boundaries, we might consider modifying the landscape with trees or shrubs to divert activity if there is a more suitable space nearby.
Play area noise (Anti-social behaviour)
Q. The play area near my home can get quite noisy, what action can the Council take to deal with this?
We appreciate that noise from play areas can become an annoyance for some at certain times.
Play areas are however, an essential part of the community, providing somewhere for young people to play and socialise. Most of our play areas have been in their current location for many years and do not present any significant problems.
We expect a certain amount of noise and do not agree on the face of it that children playing in or around a play area is unreasonable behaviour.
Our Community Safety & Anti-Social Behaviour team are able to investigate concerns in more detail.
Q. What is the Council doing about the problem of dog fouling in parks?
We aim to ensure our parks welcome visitors without unnecessary restriction by encouraging responsible behaviour. For example, we work with dog trainers to help educate visitors, have installed a dog training area in one of our parks and have introduced some enforceable legislation which we believe is fair and proportionate.
Dog control – fencing
Q. Does the Council install fencing around its parks to keep dogs away from roads?
We understand that our parks are very popular with dog owners and we welcome such use. We promote responsible dog ownership and for dog owners to have sufficient control of their pets to be able to let them run around safely or to keep them on a lead. It is important that dog owners are able to get their dogs to return when needed, not just for their own safety but for the benefit of other park users. Our parks are already good places to walk dogs but secure fencing to contain dogs is not a justifiable expense.
Q. A dog from a nearby property keeps coming into our garden and worrying our chickens, can the Council help?
The Council does have a duty to deal with stray dogs, but our role is to assist residents who have taken a stray dog in by either returning the dog to its owner or making arrangements through a local kennels for it to be rehomed. Our officers are not trained to deal with dangerous dogs.
We have received enquiries where dogs have killed chickens and residents have expressed concerned for the safety of their children, their own dog, and others in the area. In this type of case, we advise reporting details to the police who are empowered to deal with potentially dangerous dogs.
The police are responsible for some issues with dogs relating to livestock. However, we understand that they will only intervene if an actual crime is in progress or has just been committed and the dogs are already seized or contained.
Dogs around cattle in our parks
Q. I’m worried that the cattle might chase me
We have grazed cattle in our parks for many years. It is very important that visitors follow the country code and keep their dogs under control. The few incidents that have been reported to us are where the animals have been frightened by dogs that have not been kept under control or on a lead in the park. This is of course the same across the country in areas where the public come into contact with cattle in parks or across public rights of way. If residents and visitors visit any of our parks where there are cattle with a dog, we ask that this is taken into consideration.
Drones and model aircraft
Q. Can people fly drones in Council parks?
The Council’s parks are there for all to visit and explore. We have no problem with people enjoying their hobbies in most of our parks (with the exception of those with byelaws) as long as they are doing so legally and with respect for other visitors. With regard to drones, we follow the government’s guidance and ask that operators fly safely and within the law.
Since November 2019, anyone flying a drone or model aircraft between 250g-20kg must have it registered and be able to demonstrate that they are able to fly responsibly by passing an online theory test.
E-scooters in parks
Q. Can I ride an e-scooter in Council parks?
Whilst there is interest in developing alternative modes of transport, it still remains illegal to use privately owned electric scooters on footpaths or in public spaces.
If you witness illegal activity involving a privately owned e-scooter in one of our parks, please make the police aware. This should be through the non-emergency 101 number unless it’s believed that the behaviour of the rider is such that immediate apprehension may be required.
Animals in Circuses
Q. Does the Council allow circuses that use wild animals?
Whilst we have few circuses hiring our land and have not been approached by any which use wild animals, the Council has considered concerns raised about this matter and are confident it is not a practice which our customers would support. We therefore ban the use of wild animals in circuses performing on East Herts Council land.
Fireworks in a Council park
Q. Does the Council allow fireworks in its parks?
Any group or person letting off fireworks in a Council owned park or open space without authorisation would be breaking the law.
Q. Are the Council’s parks and open spaces available for hire?
We welcome the use of our parks and open spaces for local community events and will consider applications from professional organisations. All requests must go through our event application process before being approved. Our Customer Service team can register your interest and start the process.
Bouncy castle / gazebo / tent / barbecue in a Council park
Q. Can I bring equipment into a park for a family gathering?
We encourage residents to make the most of our parks and enjoy them in any way that does not adversely affect the park or have negative impact on other users. Families or groups of friends may gather in our parks as long as participants take sensible precautions to keep themselves and other park users safe.
We do not permit barbecues as they can present a risk to users and often result in hot coals being left that might present a fire risk. Bouncy castles are not permitted unless erected and supervised by a professional supplier as part of an authorised event.
We are happy for families to use gazebos for “one day” gatherings.
Q. Is geocaching allowed in Council parks?
Geocaching is a free outdoor treasure hunting activity whereby you seek hidden items that have been left at a specific location by another player using given coordinates on a smartphone or GPS device.
We are happy for residents to place geocaches in our parks as long as they respect the environment and follow the guidelines from the Geocaching Association of Great Britain (GAGB).
Helium Balloons and Sky Lanterns
Q. Does the Council allow helium balloons or sky lanterns in its parks?
The Council bans the intentional release of sky lanterns and helium balloons from its land. We have taken this action to protect the environment and to highlight the hazards in releasing lanterns and balloons.
Metal detecting and magnet fishing
Q. Does the Council allow metal detecting in its parks?
Whilst we endeavour to allow as many diverse activities on our open spaces as we can, we regret that we cannot permit metal detecting on our land.
We know most metal detectorists have a genuine interest in history and archaeology, and take care to report their finds, but we need to guard against finds being removed without proper recording or archaeological supervision.
All our land has archaeological potential and is managed for the benefit of everyone – when finds are taken out of context we lose a piece of the jigsaw, making it harder for us to care for our archaeology.
Giant hogweed on private land visible from highway
Q. I’ve seen some giant hogweed, can the Council help to get rid of it?
The Council will carry out an inspection if giant hogweed is found on our own land and will remove it if we determine that it is presenting a risk to the public. However, we have no duty or powers to take action with regard to invasive plants on privately owned land.
If you spot giant hogweed near to the highway on land that you believe may be owned by the County Council or where pedestrians might easily come into contact with it, they may investigate and decide whether any action is necessary as part of their highway fault reporting assessments.
Japanese knotweed on East Herts Council land
Q. What can the Council do to help control the spread of Japanese knotweed?
Japanese knotweed was brought to Britain as an ornamental garden plant in the mid-nineteenth century. Since then, it has become widespread in the wild and can cause serious problems by displacing native flora and causing structural damage.
The Council monitors its occurrence on the Council’s own Open Spaces and will take appropriate action when it is identified.
We do not have a responsibility to monitor or control Japanese knotweed on land that we do not own.
Q. Does the Council use glyphosate to control weeds?
The Council carry out weed killing on pavements and gullies across the district on behalf of the County Council and to control weeds in some of our own shrub beds. Where pavements are regularly brushed, the weeds cannot take a hold so easily. Controlling weeds helps to prevent damage to the surface infrastructure and reduces trip hazards.
Our grounds maintenance contractor delivers two applications of herbicide each year using a product called glyphosate. It is widely used to control unwanted vegetation in parks and gardens and works by entering the leaves of the plant. Whilst we are aware of other weed control systems such as hot foam and propane flame, these are still relatively expensive and not proven to be as effective as herbicide.
We hand weed in some ornamental areas where it is the most effective way of maintaining high standards. Hand weeding across the entire district however is not economically viable.
Pest Control in Parks
Q. Can the Council help control rats at my property or in my local park?
The Council has no duty to control rats, wasps or other pests across the district and is not able to provide a service to do so. There are professional companies widely available that are able to offer such services.
We will carry out pest control on our own land (open spaces, buildings etc) where we believe there is a problem.
Trying to reduce rat populations in our parks with pest control methods, however, would be ineffective and a waste of resources. It would also risk harming wildlife present in our parks such as other small mammals and birds.
Pest Control for Vulnerable Residents
Q. Are you able to help vulnerable residents to deal with pest infestations?
We are able to provide a pest control service for vulnerable residents; that is residents on income related benefits who own their own homes.
If you rent your property, then you should contact your landlord or housing association as they are the owner of the building and are ultimately responsible for the building's condition.
For other customers we recommend that they use an approved company which has signed up to one of the industry bodies such as the npta.org.uk or the bpca.org.uk
Bird Droppings from trees
Q. Will the Council prune tree branches overhanging my property to prevent birds from making a mess in my garden?
We occasionally receive calls about birds roosting in the trees near to houses and creating a mess.
We inspect all our own trees regularly and carry out any maintenance that is needed to manage the risk of damage or injury. Any nuisance presented by birds, however, is not the fault of the tree or the Council.
Pruning trees is not the solution, as the birds will simply roost on the remaining branches or other nearby trees. Even when trees are pruned, they will continue to be inhabited by wildlife.
Bees around Ivy
Q. There are a bees buzzing around some ivy in my garden, what should I do?
The Ivy Bee (Colletes Hederae), is a species of plasterer bee, and are harmless. They can nest in Ivy, mostly during the autumnal months of September through to November. These bees are harmless. Their work is vital to their survival, and the Council advises that residents do not disturb them.
Q. Is it ok to feed ducks in the park?
Please do not feed bread to the ducks in our parks.
We have provided some information for feeding the ducks in our parks.
Making sure parks are safe
Q. How do you make sure play areas and parks are safe?
The Council carries out routine inspections of all its parks and open spaces to ensure they are as safe, secure, as fit for use as is possible and to ensure that any items requiring maintenance identified during the course of an inspection are speedily addressed.
Sand play – animal faeces and play area fencing
Q. Are play area sand pits safe from dog and cat poo?
Sand is a safe surface to minimise the risk of head injuries, it is also a fun play and learning element in its own right and adds an attractive character to a play area.
We install fences where busy roads or rivers may present a potential hazard. They are mostly installed though to prevent dogs from entering play spaces designed for young children to minimise the risk of Toxocariasis, a rare infection caused by roundworm parasites. This is because toddlers are more likely to come into contact with contaminated soil when they play and put their hands in their mouths. Older children are generally less likely to do this.
All our play areas with sand are inspected and maintained at least three times per week which includes raking through the sand to remove any debris or animal faeces.
Rope swings in Woodlands
Q. I’ve noticed that someone has created a rope swing in one of your woodlands, is that allowed?
There is a good argument that “natural” play is important and that young people are actually very good at assessing risks. We like where possible to encourage and facilitate young people making use of our open spaces for play. There have however been incidents across the country involving serious injury where rope swings have been erected without the benefit of professional guidance.
In practice, we generally remove them as they have been installed without any informed risk assessment and may not therefore provide for safe use.
Shrub bed / hedge encroachment into gardens
Q. What does the Council do to maintain shrubs or hedges near to resident’s boundaries?
All our hedges and shrub beds in residential areas are pruned regularly. The purpose of these shrub beds and hedges are to enhance the visual amenity for all residents and often to hide or “screen” fences from public spaces. The Council does not reduce the height of hedges or shrubs to afford access to resident’s walls or fences.
Shrub beds may sometimes be reduced in height on a rotational basis (e.g. every 5 or 7 years) where it is beneficial to the species and where it is more cost effective than annual pruning.
We are confident that our maintenance regime is sufficient to keep vegetation tidy and to minimise the potential for any damage. If residents are concerned that our vegetation has caused damage to their property through subsidence or root movement, they should consult their household insurer. For residents wishing to pursue a claim, refer to our guidance on insurance claims.
Ivy growing over boundary from a Council open space
Q. There is ivy growing over my boundary from a Council open space
Ivy is a woody stemmed, self-clinging climber that can grow relatively quickly to cover fences, walls and buildings.
In our wider parks, where wildlife conservation is of consideration, ivy is not removed. If it is growing in an ornamental shrub bed and encroaching other plants, we may remove it during our winter remedial works.
We will not remove ivy that is growing across a boundary, but residents are at liberty to prune it at the boundary line.
Hedge or shrubs close to residential fence, concerns about encroachment and height
Q. Will the Council reduce the height of the hedge next to my property?
The Council does not reduce the height of hedges to afford access to resident’s walls or fences. Hedges would have been planted by developers to “screen” such infrastructure for the benefit of the public amenity.
We advise residents who install fences adjacent to our hedges to ensure they are removable from the inside should they wish to access the outer side of panels.
If you are concerned that vegetation may have caused any damage to your property through subsidence or root/branch movement, we would advise that you consult your household insurer.
High Hedge complaints
Q. My neighbour’s hedge is too high, what can the Council do to help?
Some residents may be unhappy with the height of their neighbour’s hedge where it is affecting reasonable enjoyment of their property. The Council is empowered under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (High Hedges) to consider disputes. Our planning enforcement team can provide a chargeable service to help.
Q. How does the Council keep its trees safe?
The Council operates an independent tree risk management inspection programme to inspect our trees regularly and diligently. Where our inspections reveal there is any cause for concern regarding the safety of trees, we endeavour to take appropriate action.
The Council invests considerably in this robust inspection process to fulfil our duty of care to residents and to minimise the risk of injury or damage to property. We do all can to achieve this, however, trees are naturally growing in the environment and not always predictable.
We prioritise the budgets available to manage our entire tree stock to prune or remove those trees which do present a risk, ensuring that the most urgent cases are dealt with first.
Tree dropping fruit/seeds/leaves onto resident’s property
Q. A tree is dropping fruit/seeds/leaves onto my property. What can I do about it?
Our inspection regime is thorough and carried out by specialist arboriculturalists qualified to undertake risk assessments. Trees are naturally growing, shedding organisms. Leaves, twigs, fruit litter, pollen and dead branches are a normal consequence of living with trees and are not sufficient justification for felling or pruning.
We will not fell or prune any trees without sound evidence that the tree is likely to cause damage or injury or where for conservation reasons, its removal will benefit the wider environment.
Tree dropping sap onto resident’s car
Q. A tree is making a sticky mess on my car (or garden), can anything be done?
Honeydew deposits during the summer months are produced by aphids which feed on the leaves of trees. This is common with tree species such as lime and sycamore.
This feeding activity is a natural process and there is no practical treatment which will control insect numbers or prevent honeydew secretion.
The Council manages thousands of trees across the district, many of which are adjacent to gardens, footpaths, roads, and parking areas. We will not fell or disfigure trees to prevent sap dropping.
Residents should consider, garaging, covering, regularly cleaning vehicles, or alternatively parking away from trees when sap is dropping.
Tree/shrubs: allergies and pollen
Q. I have a problem with pollen and allergies, can you plant only pollen free trees and shrubs?
Whilst the Council sympathises with allergy suffers, it would not be practical nor beneficial to our environment to stop planting all the trees and shrubs which create pollen.
Many of these trees are native to the UK and are an important part of our landscape. Oak for example is one of the main allergenic pollens and affects about 20% of suffers.
Pollen from a wide number of species travels freely in the wind and does not remain in the close vicinity of each plant. It may be possible to reduce symptoms by choosing plants carefully for resident’s own contained gardens, but this is neither practical nor would it be effective for the wider landscape.
A Council tree overhanging resident’s property
Q. A Council tree is overhanging my property. Can I cut it back?
Residents are only permitted to cut back growth to the boundary line of their property and no further.
Our general advice regarding vegetation overhanging property boundaries is that householders are legally within their rights to remove any branches that are overhanging the boundary up to and no further than the line of the boundary and preferably no higher than 3 metres.
This does not allow residents to reduce the height of a Council owned tree in any way. It is important to note that any such pruning may damage the visual appearance of a tree and could seriously destabilise it.
We manage the trees and woodlands in our parks and open spaces carefully and in line with good practice
A Council tree blocking light from a resident’s garden
Q. Trees adjacent to my property are blocking light to my garden. Can they be reduced in height or removed?
Whilst we understand that some residents find this a problem, it is not a service that we are able to provide. The Council will not prune trees to afford light to residents.
We operate an independent tree risk management inspection programme to inspect our trees regularly and diligently. Where our inspections reveal there is any cause for concern regarding the safety of trees, we endeavour to take appropriate action.
Many residents have concerns about the amount of light they feel is obscured from their property by vegetation.
The only practical solution to this would be to either fell a huge proportion of specimen trees and trees in our woodlands or to commit to a long-term exercise of reducing the height of thousands of trees at the cost of many thousands of pounds every year. This would be to the detriment of our trees and woodlands.
We manage the trees and woodlands in our parks and open spaces carefully and in line with good practice.
Trees and woodlands near to residential property
Q. The trees in the woodland behind my property are too big and potentially dangerous. Can they be reduced in height or removed?
We understand resident’s natural concerns with regard to the safety of trees and woodland trees adjacent to their property.
We operate an independent tree risk management inspection programme to inspect our trees regularly and diligently. Where our inspections reveal there is any cause for concern regarding the safety of trees, we endeavour to take appropriate action.
Trees will naturally move in the wind and make noises as they sway which can sometimes create concern for residents. It is not correct however that all large trees near to buildings must be removed or reduced in size. Some pruning may be required for example where a tree has developed a weakness or disease.
The felling of trees in woodlands without good reason is the sort of work that we would seek to prosecute against if carried out without permission in a Conservation Area. In some instances where developers have planted near to properties, we may decide to remove trees that we believe are too close.
Branches from a Council tree touching resident building
Q. Branches from a Council tree are touching my building, can you remove them?
If a tree is touching private property such as a house or garage and is owned or managed by the Council, we may take action to avert the nuisance by pruning the tree. In rare circumstances, where a tree is found to have health conditions or has been planted too close by the original developers, it may need to be removed.
Trees affecting light to solar panels
Q. There are trees blocking light to my solar panels? Can they be removed?
The Council supports sustainable alternatives to producing energy. However, residents must take into consideration the location of nearby trees when orientating their panels. If residents have too much tree cover near their property, they may not be able to benefit from solar panels.
Trees affecting TV/Satellite reception, or hanging wires
Q. Does the council prune trees for TV/Satellite reception, or hanging wires?
We advise all customers that there is no legal entitlement to light and we are not aware of any legal obligation for landowners to remove trees or branches that may be affecting a television signal.
The Council can only consider trees or shrubs with regard to their physical effects on the structure of properties. We will not reduce the height of trees on a regular basis unless there is a significant risk of damage or injury to the public.
Statutory undertakers such as telecommunications companies may carry out pruning to trees on the highway to protect the integrity of their system. They should liaise with local authorities prior to carrying out work to trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order.
CCTV & Security Cameras are blocked by Council owned tree branches
Q. CCTV & Security Cameras are blocked by Council owned tree branches, can you remove them?
If residents have security cameras protecting their property, there is no reason for these to be directed into a public space. You may prune branches hanging across your boundary within certain limitations.
Tree roots lifting a patio, pathway or drive
Q. Tree roots are lifting my patio, pathway or drive. Am I allowed to cut them?
We do not routinely inspect, or repair root damage made to private property.
Cutting the roots of any tree is generally ill-advised as it may affect the tree's health and stability. If a tree is covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), or if it stands within a Conservation Area, an application will be required before root pruning can take place.
We are confident in most cases that our maintenance regime is sufficient to keep our own trees safe and to minimise the potential for any damage. If you believe however, that a tree on Council owned land has caused any damage to your property (such as a garden wall or house) through subsidence or root/branch movement, we advise that you consult your household insurance provider to arrange an investigation.
Trees near drains
Q. Can trees cause damage to my drains?
It is rare for trees to block up or cause damage to intact drains.
The Council will not undertake the topping, thinning, or felling of trees to prevent roots entering damaged pipes. The necessary repairs of the defect in the pipe are the only certain remedy that will prevent future problems.
Modern materials and joints will significantly reduce pipe damage and subsequent root encroachment in the future.
Council tree with fungus growing on it
Q. I have seen a Council tree with fungus growing on it, does this make the tree unsafe?
There are many types of fungi that live happily on trees. However, if the fungal growth is close to the base of the tree, or from the stem or branches, this may suggest wood decay. Do not remove it.
We inspect all our trees on a regular basis and our inspectors are expert in the identification of fungi and the effect on varying types of trees. Our inspectors are likely therefore to have noticed anything that might present a risk in one of our trees.
If you believe that a tree on Council owned land is diseased and unsafe, then please report this to us. We can check the most recent inspection.
If the tree is on your own property and you are unsure of its condition, then we advise that you contact an experienced arborist for a professional opinion.
Council owned trees that are covered in ivy
Q. I have seen Council owned trees that are covered in ivy, is this a problem?
Ivy is a climbing, scrambling plant abundant as a groundcover shrub in many types of woodland. It has a variety of conservation benefits and forms an integral part of a woodland's habitat.
In a public open space, there is a need to balance certain considerations for its retention: tree safety, conservation, and aesthetics. Ivy causes no direct damage to trees.
The Council only undertakes the removal of ivy from trees where it is considered necessary to aid the health of an ailing tree, for safety reasons or to support the inspection of tree.
Cracks/splits in a Council tree
Q. There are cracks/splits in a Council tree. Do these need to be reported?
Cracks and splits in a trunk can be an indicator of an unstable tree.
Please report any such concerns to us. We cannot offer a service to inspect trees that we do not own.
Streetlights obscured by trees
Q. The streetlights in my road are obscured by trees. Will the Council prune them?
Trees on the highway are managed by the County Council. We carry out grass cutting, hedge and shrub pruning on their behalf, but we do not manage their trees.
If you would like to report an issue of concern about a street tree to the County Council, you can do so through their web site.
Tree, bush or hedgerow encroaching onto a public footpath from a private garden
Q. There is a tree, bush or hedgerow encroaching onto a public footpath from a private garden, what can be done about this?
East Herts Council are not empowered to intervene where a resident has allowed plants in their garden to obstruct a footpath.
You may report this to the County Council. They manage the safety of the highway and may, if they feel there is a problem, contact the householder under the powers granted to them through the Highways Act. This is entirely at the discretion of the County Council according to their resources and assessment of the issue.
Inspection of an unsafe tree on privately owned or common land
Q. Is the Council able to take action to inspect an unsafe tree on privately owned or common land?
Generally, the Council cannot take responsibility for somebody else’s tree.
It is very unusual for common land not to be owned by somebody. Residents, if concerned about a tree on neighbouring land should try to identify the owner and impress on them that they have a duty of care to the public to ensure their tree is not presenting a risk.
East Herts Council does have powers under section 23 of The Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976 in relation to dangerous trees in the district. This legislation is designed however, to provide a remedy where there is imminent risk of injury or damage from a tree where there is not an immediate solution. The powers are at the Local Authorities’ discretion.
In most instances there is no imminent risk of danger and therefore no immediate remedial work required.
The Council is not able to provide any specialist advisory service to determine the condition of a tree or to mediate on behalf of residents where they are in dispute with a neighbour.
General tree advice to landowners
Q. My own tree does not look very healthy. Can the Council advise me? If not, where else can I seek advice?
We have a considerable task in managing our own trees (in excess of 70,000) and must focus our limited budgets carefully to ensure that we are acting reasonably to minimise risk.
The Council is not able to provide any specialist advisory service to determine the condition of a privately owned tree and does not have sufficient resource to offer a general advice service.
We may sometimes discuss issues with residents in relation to an application for works to a protected tree in their garden once they have made an application for tree works and as part of our determination process.
We would suggest that you approach a local tree surgeon or consultant to obtain expert advice on the health and management of your trees.
Advice regarding the purchase of property with trees
Q. I am thinking of buying a house with trees in the garden. Can the Council advise me?
We have created a leaflet for home buyers with information to consider when taking on the responsibility of trees; Buying a Tree with a House in the Garden.
Fallen/dead/dangerous tree protected by TPO or in Conservation Area
Q. I have a protected tree in my garden which I think needs urgent work, how do I apply?
You may be able to proceed without making a full application for work on protected trees (TPO and Conservation Area). There is provision in the legislation that can exempt landowners from the normal requirement to seek the local planning authority’s consent before carrying out work on dead or dangerous trees and branches.
This is categorised as a “5-day notice” and does not necessarily need to be submitted through our application for tree works process. You must show why you think a tree may be dangerous and provide its location. Please check the more detailed advice before proceeding.
Neighbour dispute about a tree
Q. My neighbour is refusing to prune a tree in their garden which is causing me a problem, can the Council help?
Whilst we understand that disputes about trees can be difficult to resolve, we are not able to assist in such matters, either under our general environmental or our tree protection duties.
Good practice for any tree owner is to ensure their trees, whether protected or not, are inspected by an appropriate expert on a regular basis to minimise any risk of injury.
However, this is not a legal requirement. There is no legal provision to require tree owners to carry out work to their trees in order to keep them healthy or to prevent their demise.
It should be noted that pruning work is not generally required in order to maintain the health of tree but may be recommended by an expert to prevent the complete loss of a limb for instance or to abate an actionable nuisance.
We advise in these situations that residents contact the landowner to express their concerns and if necessary, seek mediation. We have outlined our understanding of the law in this sort of situation and provide advice on where to find assistance.