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Agenda item

Tree Management Policy


The Committee considered the Joint Report of the Director of Transformation and Partnerships and Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services that provided Members with background information on the Tree Management Policy (for copy of report, see file of minutes).


Mr Craig, Clean & Green Manager (North) and Mr McGinnety, Senior Tree Officer were in attendance to present the report and deliver a presentation (for copy of slides, see file of minutes).


Members were advised that mostly the public love trees and will do their upmost to save them. Durham County Council’s Tree Management Policy applies to all trees in Durham County Council ownership or management regardless of location and of trees in private ownership that pose a safety risk to the public.


Members were advised that the policy was adopted by other bodies such as Town and Parish Councils and some housing groups.


Durham County Council trees are inspected regularly; on a 3, 5 and 10 yearly cycle maintenance is usually carried out during winter months between October to March but the maintenance programme is dependent on weather conditions for example if there were high winds that brought down trees or made trees dangerous this would be addressed and the maintenance programme would be suspended.


Members were advised that customers can challenge decisions made by the team which would then be escalated to Senior Tree Officers for a decision to be made. The information is recorded as evidence and should a similar question be raised this information would be used as evidence.


The Chairman indicated that the circulated tree policy set out how the authority managed trees with some element of flexibility.


Councillor Clark referred to large housing estates that were formerly owned by Durham County Council that had now passed over to housing groups along with the environmental features also under the control of housing groups. Residents however, were confused about the ownership of the trees and to who they should make complaints and asked if something could be included in the policy to explain that these trees were under the responsibility of housing groups/associations.


The Clean and Green Manager (North) advised that his team initially take the enquiry and advise the customer accordingly and officers tend to go out and assess the tree. They worked closely with housing associations and other land owners. If the tree was dangerous and the land owner refused to act upon it then they would carry out the work.


Councillor Turnbull referred to the damage caused to properties from trees, officers had attended and described the tree as healthy leaving the only course of action was to go through your house insurance.


The Clean and Green Manager (North) advised that tree roots were difficult and that they often received reports of tree roots damaging drains and indicated that roots do not grow into drains and it was usually the case that if the drain was damaged before the roots entered it. Roots were the same as branches and could be cut off, the problem was finding evidence that the tree had caused the damage. If a tree was removed this does not get rid of the roots. Evidence was required if a tree had caused problems to a property which should then referred to the insurance company. Councillor Turnbull advised that the roots were lifting the footpath.


The Senior Tree Officer indicated that where there is damage to a property, removing the tree without investigating the cause of the damage first could exacerbate the matter.


Councillor Brown asked what action was taken if someone took matters into their own hands and pruned the trees themselves.


The Senior Tree Officer responded that they would speak to the customer and ask them not to carry out any work on the tree. They would replace any trees that had been removed as they were in place for the benefit of the community.


Councillor Brown asked if the roots were also protected when a tree had a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in place.


The Senior Tree Officer indicated that a TPO protected all of the tree including the root system, if there was proof of damage to the tree Durham County Council could act.


Councillor Martin referred to independent gardeners and tree surgeons and if they had an accreditation scheme in place for residents so they were assured that they were employing someone professional.


The Clean and Green Manager indicated that they worked closely with professional companies who would not act on a tree outside of the council’s policy. They did not want to dictate to people who they should use as they carry out private work if the customer asks.


Members were advised of a national approved arborist contractors web site which members of the public could access.


Councillor Simpson asked if there was a restriction on the height of trees. The Member was advised that there was no height restrictions.


Councillor Jopling referred to the policy and the frequency of inspections and sought clarification on what was the inspection frequency.


The Senior Tree Officer indicated that the inspections were conducted at the appropriate frequency and that guidance had changed since 2017, and tree inspections were reviewed on a 3, 5 and 10 year cycle. The majority of trees on highways were on a 3 year cycle but they had discretion to decease this to 18 months. If it was a 18 month cycle then the tree could be viewed in the winter and summer months, all highways inspections were recorded. School sites were inspected on a 3 yearly cycle but this was not formal, others were on a reactive basis.


The Chairman referred to the frequency of inspections and asked if they were carried out less often because of a lack of resources. He then referred to the trees that had fallen in the Newton Aycliffe area due to winds that had recently been inspected but were found to be rotten from the inside and asked why this had not being picked up during inspections.


The Senior Tree Officer referred to an ash tree that had fallen due to the winds but advised that when inspected the leaves looked healthy and showed no indication of the decay in the inside, if this tree was on an 18 month cycle this may have been picked up. He advised Members that healthy trees had also fallen that year. The Clean and Green Team Manager (North) advised there was a small team but they did usually manage to get round all the trees but sometimes weather events impacted upon this.


Resolved: That the report and presentation be noted.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714