Dangerous Trees

The following is offered as guidance on the issue of dangerous trees, who should deal with them and what part the Council has to play.

Who is responsible for a dangerous tree?

In all cases, the Landowner is responsible for trees on their land. Therefore, the Council has responsibility only for trees on land that is owned or occupied by the Council.

Does the Council have a part to play from an Health & Safety perspective, regardless of who owns the tree?

No. Local Authorities do not have a duty to investigate the condition of trees on land they don’t own or occupy nor are they required to determine the ownership of land.  The Council will only investigate land ownership where someone else’s tree is causing a danger to a public road or other Council property.

What action can an individual take regarding a dangerous tree?

The general advice is to:

  1. Establish who owns the land. If the land on which the tree is growing is unoccupied and you don’t know who owns it, you may be able to trace the owner online, via the Registers of Scotland website.
  2. Try to persuade the land owner to deal with the problem tree as early as possible, before it grows to such a size that it will cost more to fell or otherwise deal with.
  3. Be aware that there is no easy way to compel a landowner to prune or fell a tree that is giving you cause for concern. A polite, reasoned request is the best initial approach.
  4. If that doesn't work and you suspect the tree poses an immediate risk or may cause future injury or damage to property, then it is important that you make the landowner aware of your concerns.

How do I report a dangerous tree growing on Council land?

If you have concerns about a tree growing on land you think may be owned by the Council, or on land adjacent to a public road, please call the Council’s Customer Service Centre and the matter will be investigated.

Note: Inverclyde Council no longer owns any housing stock so, if the tree is growing in a garden or in open space within a housing estate, it is likely that the tree belongs to an owner/occupier or a Housing Association.

Does the council have a plan to assess trees growing on Council land?

The Council is at present building up a register of all the trees growing on Council land. Due to the large numbers of trees involved, the process is being prioritised.  The priority for a particular tree or group of trees to be inspected depends on the usage of the area within their potential falling distance.  Top priority is given to trees growing in places where people or high-value items of property are frequently or continuously present:

  • street trees
  • trees in cemeteries and parks
  • trees adjacent to footpaths

Street trees and many of the trees in parks and public open spaces are already on the register. The updating of our Tree Register is ongoing.  As well as the above, the following are also being added to the register:

  • trees growing on maintained grass and beds
  • woodland trees

In more remote areas where tree failures are less likely to cause injury or damage, the need to record and inspect is lower, e.g. dense woodland, unused land with dense under storey vegetation.  Even with a more heavily used site, it could be that the risk is currently very low by virtue of the size and species of the trees present.  There cannot, therefore, be a hard and fast distinction between sites where inspection is essential and where it is unnecessary.

Note: No tree is entirely safe, given the possibility that an exceptionally strong wind could damage or uproot even a mechanically sound specimen.  It is usually accepted that hazards are only recognisable from distinct defects or from other failure-prone characteristics of the tree or of the site.  The assessment of risk is based on the risk posed by individual specimens or groups of trees.

Page last updated: 21 May 2015