Your comments are on the face of it perfectly reasonable but the point I make is that in a world of decreasing available land space there is a need to consider more carefully the trouble which one neighbour can cause another by cultivating but not properly maintaining trees in their gardens. Councils are obliged under the Highways Act 1980 (section 96) to not to allow highway trees which are a nuicance to continue to grow and if you own a hedge and fail to trim it causing a nuisance on the footway the council is not slow in requiring that you trim it. For more elderly and less able house owners to have to clean up the neighbours arisings becomes increasingly onerous as the years pass. In the absence of legal precedent in this matter of return of fruit I believe that there is good reason to construe that in the future the courts may see that there is a duty on the ordinary tree owner to properly maintain their own trees so as to abate any nuisance, including keeping the canopy size within their own ownership. Severe pruning of street trees is regularly undertaken by Highway Authorities so why should tree owners not expect to have to prune their own trees as necessary to prevent nuisance. I would certainly keep my own planting within the land which I own so that I do not intend toput out my neighbours to trouble.
The high hedges legislation already recognises the impinging effect of overshadowing caused by dense evergreen hedges and I see no reason for the law not moving towards a situation where the adverse effects of trees are entirely the liability of the tree owner. Clearly trees which have environmental or landscaping importance in a preservation area the personal interests of land owners will remain subservient to the public good, but trees in gardens planted for the benefit or pleasure of individual owners are a completely different case and should be the liability of the owner. Large and long lived trees can be planted specifically where the do not have adverse effects such as parks and common spaces or large gardens or else the planted trees can be predicably of limited size or age so that they are a welcome addition to the local scene rather than a feared and troublesome addition to a crowded environment.
Other issues come to mind such as sub surface spreading of brambles, Japanesse knotweed and foreseeable damaging root encroachment. I consider that an owner should be liable when they do not reasonably control the plants in their own land so as to avoid damage to a neighbour. A century ago when many of the cases defining liability arose there was much less specialist information available and less concern as to the potential adverse effects of plant growth. Indeed the current knowledge and concern over tree root effects was only first seriously investigated in the 1940's and only reached a significand pace in the late 1970's after the effect of the summer of 1976 was seen to cost insurers £300million in one year as a consequence of the "subsidence and/or heave clause" in the buildings policy which was only introduced in 1972. We can now more easily predict the nuisance effects of plants such that gardens can be planned/designed to avoid one neighbour adversely affecting another.
Law is not a fixed set of rules which remains unchanged in perpetuity. New precedents and legislation emerge to enable the population have regard to the public good as the needs of society evolve. Time for some more changes
Alan is a consulting engineer specialising in subsidence, tree roots, soils and party wall surveying.