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January 4, 2011

Worried about dangerous trees?

As the extreme winter weather persists you may find yourself concerned about nearby trees and overhanging branches, their stability and what could happen if heavy snow or strong winds caused them to collapse and fall causing serious damage and injury.

NFU have the following advice:-

A dangerous tree is one that is likely to cause serious damage to property or injury to people. Many trees become unstable when entering the latter stages of disease – though perfectly healthy, young trees can also become a danger if damaged by severe weather.

Trees adapt to their surroundings over time however, and the vast majority grow more than strong enough to withstand the elements.

Even narrow-trunk trees with sprawling heavy branches will retain a natural balance – and trees which hollow out after a number of years also represent little threat, despite their aged appearance.

Another common misconception is that a tree swaying in the wind is dangerous. In fact, trees moving gently with the breeze are not necessarily unstable at all – they’re simply trying to absorb the wind’s energy with subtle movement. If the branches didn’t sway, they would snap.

Rather than watching the swaying branches, look closely at the ground around the tree trunk for a clearer indication of any problems. If, on a windy day, you can spot signs of ground movement (‘heave’) or cracking, there may be genuine cause for concern. Look for raised soil opposite to the tree’s natural lean, which could indicate uprooting.

Similarly, if a tree is precariously overhanging a road or building, don’t hesitate in seeking the advice of a professional tree surgeon or arboriculturist. Most commonly the tree will not have to be removed in its entirety – just the limbs causing the potential danger.

Be aware that some trees are protected by TPOs – Tree Preservation Orders. Such trees are normally highly visible to the public, and integral to the local environment. Should you wish to work on – or remove – a protected tree, you will need to seek permission from your local council. It can often take more than a month before a decision is reached, but taking action before permission is given could land you in trouble.

If the tree constitutes an immediate risk, you can take steps to make the tree safe prior to receiving permission – but the onus is on you to prove that the work was absolutely necessary.

If you identify a dangerous tree owned by somebody other than yourself, express your concern to them and encourage them to take action. If the tree is deemed ‘imminently dangerous’, the council can require the owner to act by law.

For further information visit www.nfumutual.co.uk

or for the services of a specialist arboriculturalist contact OCA at www.landscapeplanninggroup.co.uk

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