Responsibilities of a Tree Owner - Trees and the Highway

A tree owner has a responsibility, known in law as 'the duty of care', to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which he or she could reasonably foresee may result in harm or injury to those using the highway.


Where a tree encroaches onto the highway there is no responsibility, per se, to abate the nuisance. However, the highway authority can require the tree owner to remove branches causing an obstruction and, if necessary, carry out the work itself at the owner’s expense.

Trees that are actually on highway land are almost always presumed to be the responsibility of the highway authority, regardless of when they were planted, and regardless of the strict position in law as to ownership.

The highway authority has a duty to ensure that trees on highway land do not constitute a danger to those using the highway or adjoining properties.

The highway authority must also ensure that trees on highway land do not become a nuisance to the occupiers of adjoining properties, either by virtue of overhanging branches or by roots affecting foundations.



When a tree on plot A is indirectly interfering with the 'use or enjoyment' of the owner of plot B, this known in law as nuisance, for example by encroaching roots or branches

Where nuisance occurs, B has the right to remove the roots or branches. This is known as abating a nuisance.

For specific advice, with respect to the law, please seek qualified legal opinion. For general advice please contact us.



Veteran Trees: A Guide to Risk and Responsibility published by English Nature

Highways Act 1980