How to find a competent person to determine if my tree is in a safe condition.

Discussion in 'Trees' started by Oldcodger, Nov 20, 2021.

  1. Oldcodger

    Oldcodger Apprentice Gardener

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    A neighbour has complained to the council about the canopy of my willow tree extending over the boundary of their property, and I have received a letter from the council saying that I need to maintain the tree in a safe condition and I should have the tree inspected by a competent person.

    I note that there is a Arboricultural Association but it doesn’t seem to indicate how to find a competent person in Bristol.

    Can someone please advise me?
     
  2. Clare G

    Clare G Super Gardener

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    You can find a local Arboricultural Association approved contractor on this page of their website - there's a box to search via postcode.

    I'd also suggest getting in touch with your council's own Tree Officer and asking if they can suggest someone - have always found them very knowledgeable and helpful, here in London.
     
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    • Liz the pot

      Liz the pot Super Gardener

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      Find your local Stihl or commercial supplier, these tend to know the good ones from the bad ones.

      I use a local one I know who go by the book and are very good.
       
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      • shiney

        shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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        How big and old is the tree and how far over their boundary does it go?

        Willows are notorious for brittle branches but I would guess they are more unhappy about the leaves as, unlike a lot of trees, they drop leaves all year and can take a couple of months to drop their autumn leaves. There's nothing you can do about the leaves but you do need to check whether the branches are safe.

        Any arboriculturalist should be competent to make an assessment (it's not difficult) but just be aware that they could inflate the price. Maybe get an assessment from a couple of them.

        We have a very large willow but it rarely needs much work on it. We have it shortened and narrowed every five years simply because it cuts out so much light.
         
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        • Oldcodger

          Oldcodger Apprentice Gardener

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          Thanks very much for your reply.

          The tree is 25 yo, taller than my house and it’s difficult to judge, but it goes over one boundary about about 3m.

          Yes, I know that another neighbour is unhappy about the leaves, the prevailing wind blows them into his garden.
           
        • shiney

          shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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          It's not cheap to get the tree done properly. :dunno:

          Our tree cost 1/6d in 1953 :heehee: so it's quite large. It's not a tree that I would attempt to do yourself as it is such brittle wood. You need all the safety gear.

          Also, it depends on how far from your house it is. It's recommended that a mature willow should be at least 50ft from a house to avoid problems from the roots.
           
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          • HarmonyArb

            HarmonyArb Gardener

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            Hi Oldcodger

            Arborist here. What you're looking for is an arboricultural consultant - someone who can make a thorough inspection of your tree and write a report detailing their findings. Consultants have all the qualifications, experience and insurances in place to provide these reports. What they will not do is say how 'safe' your tree is. No tree professional uses that word, and if you find someone who does then their advice should be double-checked. What a consulting arborist will advise is along the lines of what the 'likelihood of failure' is [low, medium, high etc.]

            As others have pointed out the Arb. Assoc. has a list of approved consultants should you wish to go down that route. Also just Google 'arb consultant / consultancy' and your area and you should get a good list of names. Just make sure they have professional indemnity cover.

            TBH though any good tree surgeon will be able to offer perfectly sound advice and suggest what, if anything, should be done to your tree. At the end of the day it's all about you being able to provide evidence of taking reasonably practicable care of your tree/s to avoid any damage or injury to neighbouring parties should anything happen.
             
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            • Oldcodger

              Oldcodger Apprentice Gardener

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              Thanks HarmonyArb. The council wrote to me, saying that they had explained to the complaint that “the only specific responsibility a land-owner has regarding their trees is to maintain them in a safe condition” but I accept your expertise in this matter. He further said that “the owner of the trees that have potential to cause damage to a third party’s property must have them inspected by a competent person and undertake the recommendations generated by that inspection”.
               
            • pete

              pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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              I'm not disputing that paragraph, but I'd like to add something.
              Back in Christmas 2013 we had some very bad gales and a tree across the road from my sisters house was blown down, it landed on the car parked in their driveway and also smashed the roof in on their garage, 20ft to the right and it would have taken out most of the front of their bungalow.

              The owners of the tree were not liable, apparently, and they had to claim on both their house insurance and car insurance, which as you all know really hikes up premiums the following years, even if the insurance companies say that it doesn't.

              They and and a neighbour had complained about the tree appearing unsafe in strong winds to the owners, but apparently that didn't matter either.
               
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              • Loofah

                Loofah Well used member Staff Member

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                I asked our council recently about assessing some trees and they flatly refused. They don't do residential trees. Ok I said, what about the one in the road? Nope, not them either! What will the council actually assess then?!

                Anyhoo, am left with having to upset a neighbour now and asking them to have the trees checked over. Having briefly mentioned it in passing before, they're very anti the idea! Immediately ran off a diatribe of how oaks don't grow back after cutting and how I can't touch over hanging branches without his express permission.

                Trees are such fun.
                 
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                • HarmonyArb

                  HarmonyArb Gardener

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                  Well that is interesting. I wonder if the tree owners had previously had a survey / work undertaken and that all reasonable precautions had been met? Maybe it was claimed that no-one could have foreseen the damage that this particular gale would cause.
                   
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                  • HarmonyArb

                    HarmonyArb Gardener

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                    The squeeze on council budgets have led to a lot of departments having to cut back on what they should / could do. Where I am the council used to have two tree officers and one wildlife officer. Now they got rid of one tree officer and the wildlife officer and the remaining tree officer has to cover both jobs. There's just not the time, money or staff available any more. Unless something causes specific damage I think the council's are stuck as to what they can offer. A lot of work is also going out to subcontractors and that's just messing things up even more.

                    People can be so proud and protective of their trees until the time comes to spend money on them. Of course oaks grow back after cutting and of course you're entitled to trim off overhanging branches. But, of course, you also have to live with the fallout that would cause. I don't envy you in the least. It begs the question; what's more difficult - the tree or the neighbour?
                     
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                    • Loofah

                      Loofah Well used member Staff Member

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                      With chunks of wood falling down regularly? That would be the tree, the neighbour will have to lump it! A shame but there it is
                       
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                      • pete

                        pete Growing a bit of this and a bit of that....

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                        I think it was considered "an act of god", but the tree itself was a balsam poplar growing very close to a drainage ditch, the water table where they live is not that far down anyway.

                        The hole where the roots came out the ground was just filled with water.

                        The tree was growing within the grounds of a nursing home, not sure if that has any bearing on the matter.
                         
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