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Tree Roots

There's a section on Tree Roots on the Trees page of this web site.


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DNA Root Sampler

To prevent further damage to property trees are often removed indiscriminately without any real attempt to identify the actual cause. Better to be safe than sorry the thinking goes . Up to 50% of trees removed for this purpose have nothing to do with the damage.

Now former Senior Arborculturist with Bradford MDC has set up the Tree Root DNA Project with the aid of a DTI grant.The technology will enable any tree to be identified from a sample taken from a root.There are potentials for huge savings in cost to both house owners and the insurance industry as well saving thousands of trees.

You can contact the team at:

Jonathan Cocking
Unit 80
Bowers Mill
Branch Rd
West Yorkshire


House of Lords Decision

On the 25th October the House of Lords delivered a judgement in relation to tree roots and the liability in nuisance of the owner of the trees.

Because tree roots carry on growing they can cause a " continuing Nuisance ". You can sue the owner of the tree for damage caused to your property in the last 6 years, but only if :

1. The tree owner has been given notice of the damage being caused. Always get in an expert ,but contact your Insurance company first so they can be involved from the start -- and they will probably pay. Again always put the complaint in writing keeping a copy and send it by recorded delivery.

2. The tree owner must be given a reasonable time to rectify the problem. THE EARLIER THE WARNING IS GIVEN THE BETTER.

The case itself contained few of the usual disputes eg that the damage was not caused by the roots from that particular tree or the existing characteristics of the sub-soil were to blame.No Court action is advised except as a last resort and , preferably , conducted by your insurers.

You can read the full judgement on:



Other Remedies

An injunction may be granted by a court to restrain your neighbour from causing harm by allowing his roots to grow under your land. The roots sucking out water and making your land less stable may be enough for an injunction for nuisance to be granted. You must always seek expert advice before embarking on this course.

Under Section 1(4)(c) of the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 you can ask a court to give you access to your neighbours land to carry out "basic preservation works" which include the treatment, cutting back, felling, removal or replacement of any hedge, tree, shrub or other growing thing which is, or is in danger of becoming damaged, diseased, dangerous, insecurely rooted or dead. NOTE OF CAUTION this is not a much tested course of action so always seek legal advice before embarking upon it.

If a tree or hedge overhangs a public highway or a public footpath and so endangers or obstructs vehicles or pedestrians the Local Authority or the Secretary of State for the Environment , Transport and the Regions can lop or prune them as required. They can also fell diseased, damaged, insecurely rooted and dead trees.


Useful Links

International Society of Aboriculture - web site with many useful resources including a list of ISA Certified (Certification is the only UK qualification for arborists with a CPD requirement.) online advice for tree pruning and tree work, an online shop stocked with tree related books and much more.

To find a tree expert try www.trees.org.uk or www.naturenet.net or www.oak-wood.co.uk.


Tree Specialists, Johnson Tree Care, regularly make very informed and expert contributions to the Garden Law Discussion Forum on all matters relating to trees and can be found at:


Johnson Tree Care can be contacted at:



Alan Harris is also one of our regular contributors to the Garden Law Discussion Forum. He is a Chartered Civil Engineer specialising in trees, roots, subsidence and the law.

Alan can be contacted at:


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