Tree Management Policy

Tree Management Policy

The landscape of East Dunbartonshire is a blend of rural and urban communities rich in a variety of habitats, ranging from fertile agricultural land, rivers, peatland, grasslands and diverse specimen trees and woodlands.

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The area has a range of beautiful landscapes that provide an attractive setting and biologically rich local environment, making East Dunbartonshire a popular place to live, work and visit. The area benefits from large numbers of tourists and visitors who are drawn to the area and contribute to local businesses, positively influencing the economy.

The woodland resource of East Dunbartonshire comprises of a number of different types – from ancient woodland to Policy planting, amenity hedges to signature trees, that all serve to provide a sustainable biological resource, clean environment and structural amenity within and around settlements.

East Dunbartonshire Council is committed to retaining, enhancing and developing the tree cover on publicly owned land where appropriate. As well as conserving this resource, the Council will endeavour to carry out a programme of tree inspection and maintenance as required, and devise strategic hedgerow, tree- and woodland- planting programmes to replace any diseased or veteran trees lost because of Council Inspections and subsequent remedial actions.

The Council has produced a Tree Management Policy that intends to focus on trees and woodlands within council parks, open spaces, schools and all other publicly adopted land or facilities including roads and roadside verges.  This policy is informed and directed by various legal requirements relating to tree management, which are listed below and detailed within the document itself: 

1. Council as landowners have a legal responsibility or Duty of Care to protect the public from potential hazards via the Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

2. Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 give Council powers to ensure that road users are safeguarded from danger from roadside trees and this includes trees on private land adjacent to or bordering the roadside.

3. In addition, the Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 provides methods of safeguarding particular trees from harm via the use of tree preservation orders.

The council will aim to protect public safety by inspecting and managing trees that are growing on Council land. When a tree is deemed to present a hazard to people and/or property, then Council will organise remedial action to make the tree safe. The council also has a long-term commitment to protect the tree stock and manage them appropriately to ensure they are free from disease and are in a healthy/stable condition. The council will avoid all types of unnecessary or cosmetic works and encourage trees to grow naturally and unhindered.

All work identified by the nominated Council officer(s) will be undertaken in line with professional Arboricultural standards, ensuring compliance with the relevant health and safety legislation and to the British Standard BS 3998 (2010) Recommendations for Tree Works. Tree Protection will be in line with BS5837 (2012) Trees in relation to design demolition and construction.

The Policy provides information on the protection of trees, and their associated inspection and management.  The Policy will focus on how Council resources will be used and what priorities the Council will be working to. Unfortunately there are many issues that members of the public may expect East Dunbartonshire Council to deal with regarding trees on Council land which cannot be resolved. The Policy will set out the Council position regarding these issues.  

The advice contained in the Policy is generic in nature and individuals may wish to seek their own independent legal advice on specific issues

Trees on Council Land

  • If a Council tree is deemed to pose a risk to people and/or property, and is thought to be an emergency, then Council will undertake appropriate action to make the tree safe as soon as is practically possible. 
  • If a Council tree is deemed to pose a risk, but the risk to the public is not high i.e. the tree is in a remote location with a low footfall, then the tree will be made safe in line with the perceived risk as calculated by the Council’s nominated Tree Officer. The action identified could range from pruning to felling and the approach deemed as the most effective will be applied. 
  • If a Council tree is identified as having important historical value then the Service may consider alternative options to reduce the potential risk to members of the public such as physically supporting the tree or fencing the area off and creating a safety zone.
  • Council will not cut back trees where they encroach or overhang onto a neighbouring private property, in order to provide additional light or for other cosmetic reasons.

Trees on Private Property

  • It should be noted that Council has no authority to intervene where a tree is privately owned. If the tree in question is at the centre of a neighbourly dispute, this is considered a civil matter and the expectation is that the two parties discuss the issue and hopefully come to an amicable solution, but at no point will Council intervene. 
  • Persons who have trees on private land that are within a Conservation Area or subject to a Tree Preservation Order should seek permission from Council via the Services Arboricultural Officer before undertaking any work. 
  • If the TPO tree is deemed to be of high risk (dangerous) and poses a danger to the public and/or property then work can be undertaken without formal Council consent. However, written and photographic proof of this would need to be provided within five days of the works to ensure there are no breaches of TPO or Conservation Area regulations.

Tree Risk Levels

An emergency is defined as a tree that is in immediate danger, as outlined below:

Risk Level Description Symptoms

High Risk (Emergency)

These trees are usually within urban areas or  areas where there is a high footfall i.e. schools, town centres, shopping precincts

If the tree poses an immediate danger and the nominated Tree Officers assessment points to an immanent collapse. If the Tree is causing an obstruction requiring urgent attention.

Under these circumstances, the tree will be made safe immediately or as quickly as is practically possible. 

  • Dead/Dying or an immediate risk to persons and or property.
  • Blown over or snapped.
  • Roots exposed, damaged or severely rocking at the base of the tree.
  • A pronounced lean and or supported by a neighbouring tree or structure.
  • Large Limb is snapped or hanging off the tree.
  • Tree or limb causing an obstruction to a road, footpath, access to property.
  • Tree or limb has fallen onto a property or vehicle.

Medium or low risk (Non- emergency)

These trees could be situated in areas where there are fewer pedestrians or vehicles and are deemed to be of a lower risk

If the risk is deemed to be of a lower risk, the Service nominated Tree Officer will organise to make the tree safe within 6 months (medium risk) and 12 months (low risk) from the date of inspection

  • Dead, but no immediate danger to persons and/or property
  • Dying, but no immediate danger to persons and/or property
  • Bark is loose and falling off
  • Signs of fungi or mushrooms growing on or near the tree
  • Historic splits or cracks in the trunk or large branches
  • Smaller branches falling from the tree

Members of the public can report a dangerous tree by contacting the Customer Service Centre 0300 1234510 or by email to with the details of the tree, the hazard, the location and a photograph if possible.

Memorial Trees

Council is aware that members of the public may wish to plant trees in our Parks and Greenspaces in memory of family and friends to commemorate their passing or to celebrate the life of loved ones who are no longer with them, but enjoyed the local environment. Council is willing to accommodate Memorial Tree requests as long as the location and species is suitable and there is sufficient space to plant the tree.

If anyone is interested in planting a commemorative tree in one of the Council’s parks or open spaces they can contact the Customer Service Centre on 0300 1234510 or by email to The Services nominated Tree Officer will contact them to discuss their specific request and the options available. The Service work to a specific list of tree species that will ft with the existing trees in the local environment.

Tree Issues, Disputes and Nuisances

The Council Tree Officer is occasionally asked to comment on disputes between parties relating to Trees. The following section is intended to provide guidance regarding nuisance to third parties/neighbouring trees.

Common Law Right to cut back overhanging branches and roots

Any person has the right under Common Law to remove/abate any nuisance associated with trees encroaching onto their property. In should be noted that Council will not cut back trees where they encroach or overhang onto a neighbouring property whether it is a tree on Council land or private land.

The following advice should be given in relation to Common Law rights on encroaching trees:

  • Only the parts of the tree which encroach on to the property can be removed. There is no legal right to cut or remove any other part of that tree; 
  • A professional tree surgeon should be asked for guidance on how best to prune back encroaching trees,
  • Before any works to tree/trees are considered they must be checked to see if they are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or are within a Conservation Area. If the trees are protected, consent for any works will need to be gained by making an application or giving notice to the Council by contacting the Customer Service Centre 0300 1234510 or by email to
  • Any intention to prune encroaching branches or roots should be discussed with the owners first and any cuttings offered to them as legal owners. If the encroachment is from a Council owned tree, any cuttings must be disposed of appropriately and not returned to Council land.
  • Root encroachment affecting buildings is very uncommon, but concerns about this should be referred to the owner’s insurance company for further specialist investigation.

Trees affecting Light, View, TV (satellite reception) or Solar Panels

Council will not prune or fell trees to increase improve TV or Satellite reception, natural light, reduce shade to gardens or solar panels or improve views. In addition, Council has no authority to intervene where a privately owned tree affects the occupiers of neighbouring property and will therefore not get involved. This is considered a civil matter and Council would advise that the neighbours should discuss with each other and attempt to resolve any potential issue amicably.

The only possible exception to this would be where the pruning of the trees could reasonably be enforced under the High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 as below: 

  • Scottish Law does not provide a right to light or a view. If natural light is reduced by the growth of a hedge then it may be possible to take action to reduce the problem by utilising the High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013. Council is required to take account of the effect of the high hedge on the amenity of the area and whether the high hedge is of cultural or historical significance.

Included as Appendix 3 is a Planning guidance note relating to tree protection. This provides information relating to trees subject to statutory protection and what protocols are to be followed to obtain permission to undertake work to them.

General Nuisances associated with Trees

Council will neither prune nor fell to remove or reduce leaf fall, berries, sap and fruit, reduce bird droppings or the incidence of perceived pests such as bees, wasps, or wild animals.

  • Leaf litter, berries and fruit from trees in the autumn is part of the natural cycle and cannot be avoided by pruning. The maintenance of properties (gutters, gardens) is the responsibility of the property owner and Council is not obliged to remove leaves etc. that may have fallen from Council owned trees. Where leaf litter regularly block gutters, Council suggests fitting gutter guards to provide a low maintenance solution. Council sweeps streets to clear leaf litter that may cause potential hazards on adopted pavements, footpaths and roads. 
  • Bird droppings are not considered to be a sufficient nuisance to prune or fell a Council tree. In addition, all wild birds, eggs and nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981, as amended). Where bird droppings settle on cars or other properties then warm soapy water is recommended to remove any residue.
  • Aphids (Greenfly) feed on trees and usually excrete a sugary sap known as Honeydew. The honeydew often turns black once it is colonised by a mould. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to remove the aphid which causes the problem and pruning the tree may only offer temporary relief and any re-growth is often more likely to be colonised by greenfly thereby potentially increasing the problem. Some trees, such as Limes, are more prone to attack by greenfly and in some years, greenfly is more common especially following a mild winter. Honeydew is a natural and seasonal problem. Where new trees are planted, trees are chosen that are less likely to cause this problem. Where honeydew affects cars, warm soapy water will remove the substance, particularly if the car is washed as soon as possible.
  • As a priority species in the Council Local Biodiversity Action Plan, Bees are monitored species and advice should be taken before considering their removal. Residents may be able to dispose of individual wasps using an aerosol insect-repellent spray, but this will not control or eliminate the nest itself. Ideally, the whole nest should be destroyed. This can be achieved with great caution but it is far safer to use pest control experts.
  • Bats - All bats and their roosts are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (Schedule 5) and the EU Directive Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. These make it illegal to intentionally or deliberately kill, injure or capture bats; deliberately disturb bats, whether in a roost or not; or to damage, destroy or obstruct a bat roost. Given that trees can be significant hosts to bats, roost inspections will precede works where bat roosts are suspected. Where necessary Council will seek expert advice before progressing any works.
  • Red Squirrel is also protected and it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy any structure or place a red squirrel uses for shelter or protection or disturb a red squirrel while it is occupying such a place. As trees are significant hosts, inspections will precede works where Red Squirrel dreys are suspected. Where necessary Council will seek expert advice before progressing any works.

Overhead Cables, Telephone Wires and/or Drains

Council trees will not be felled or pruned (including the roots) to prevent tree roots entering a drain that is already broken or damaged. The Council has no authority to intervene where roots from a privately owned tree affects a neighbouring privately owned property.

  • Tree roots found in a drain are often symptomatic of an underlying problem-requiring repair of the broken pipe. If residents are concerned about the condition of their drains, they are advised to contact their water and sewerage company.
  • Utility companies have certain legal rights to carry out works to public or privately owned trees to address health and safety problems and to maintain a clearance between trees and their apparatus to ensure continuity of supply. This may sometimes involve the loss of trees. Where works to trees are necessary as a result of proximity or conflict, Council will encourage utility operators to adopt the most appropriate long term solution, giving consideration to tree health, local tree cover and visual amenity.

Nuisance to third parties - private

Council has no authority to intervene in a dispute concerning trees between neighbours. However, if the problem is due to a ‘high hedge’ guidance may be found by contacting Council Planning via Customer Service Centre 0300 1234510

  • If residents are unable to resolve their issues amicably then they may require engaging with a mediation service if they cannot amicably resolve a dispute between themselves and a neighbour. The Council Tree Officer can offer independent advice to both parties and can be contacted via the Customer Service Centre 0300 1234510
  • It should also be noted that Council will maintain hedges on Council land to a defined height of 1.5 metres. This is to comply with Health and Safety Risk Assessments and the potential associated risks with using machinery above head height.

Roadside trees

Council will undertake work to a Council tree to maintain a minimum 5.5 metres height clearance over the public road and 2.5m over a roadside public pavement/footpath where reasonably practical and to maintain clear sight lines.

  • Public carriageway and pavement obstructions due to trees. Council will undertake work to a Council tree to maintain a minimum 5.5 metres height clearance over the public road and 2.5m over a roadside public pavement/footpath where reasonably practical.
  • The majority of trees at the roadside are in private gardens (ownership). The owner of the tree is responsible for the tree and has a duty of care to ensure the tree within the grounds do not cause danger to a public road or footpath. Powers exist under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 to instruct the owner of the tree to remove the obstruction. If they do not, the Council may do this work and recharge the owner, but will always take time to notify the owner and give them the opportunity to remove the obstruction in the first instance.
  • If a tree is identified as a risk and in immediate danger of collapse or is causing an obstruction requiring urgent attention, it will be treated as an emergency and the Council will attend the site as soon as possible to make the situation safe. If the tree is not causing an emergency, a site inspection will be undertaken within 21 working days of receipt and the customer notified of what action is considered appropriate. The owner of the tree will be informed of what works they are responsible for to make the situation safe. If it is necessary that the Council undertake this work then the owner will be charged in full for the Council costs.
  • Trees that are clearly a danger to, or are obstructing a public road and/or pavement/ footpath should be reported to the Council’s Customer Service Centre on 0300 1234510 or by email to with details of the nature of hazard, location and a photograph if possible.

Roadside trees – Obstructions (sight-lines, traffic signal, street/road sign, street lights and trip hazards)

Council will undertake work to a tree in Council ownership to maintain clear sight lines (where reasonably feasible) at junctions and access points (associated with a street, road or highway), and cut back trees where they encroach on and obscure traffic signals, road signs or street lights, and undertake measures to make safe an unacceptable trip hazard caused by tree roots.

  • Standards for visibility vary according to the class of road and speed limit in force. If a privately owned tree is causing an obstruction to the visibility at a road junction (sight line) or a trip hazard in a roadside pavement, powers exist under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 to instruct the owner of the tree remove the obstruction. If they do not, Council can do the work and recharge the owner.
  • Anyone can report a tree that is clearly causing an obstruction at junctions or is obscuring traffic signals, a road sign or street light (associated with a street, road or highway) or report a trip hazard caused by tree roots by contacting the Customer Service Centre 0300 1234510 or by email to with details of the nature of the hazard, location and a photograph if possible.

Tree inspection

The Law does not consider trees to be dangerous, however, Council has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent or minimise the risk of personal injury, or damage to property, arising from the presence of any of its trees on adopted Council land.

  • Council trees are inspected regularly to identify issues and ensure they do not pose any unnecessary risks from being in poor condition.
  • The following inspection frequencies are based on location priorities:
Priority Locations Inspection Frequencies
High Schools, Parks, Cemeteries, Town Centres, Less than 5 years
Medium  Housing open-spaces Greater than 5 years
Low Woodland But less than 10 years
Reactive As requested As required

The above Tree Management Policy including inspection frequencies applies to trees managed in Parks, Cemeteries and open spaces.

Trees situated on Council Education, Social Work and Housing land will be subject to inspection as part of an internal Service level Agreement and each individual Council section should budget for the regular inspection and any remedial works identified of their tree stock and cost of any remedial works identified.

Vandalised Trees

Vandalism to Council trees will be treated as a criminal act and will be reported to Police Scotland. The damage will be inspected and appropriate action taken within the resources available. Council will generally plant large trees that are less susceptible to vandalism.

  • The Council encourages local communities to report incidence of vandalism to trees owned by the Council by contacting the Customer Service Centre 0300 1234510 or by email to

Strategic Tree Planting

Council will actively seek to replace every lost Council tree on a one for one basis. If Council has to fell a Council tree then this will be recorded on our Tree Database and a suitable replacement will be identified and planted in the same area, or as close to the existing area of their tree stock and cost of any remedial works identified.

During the Planning phase of any development, Council will insist that established trees are retained as part of the development. However, if the removal of trees is agreed as part of the planning process as a result of a new housing development then the Service will seek compensatory planting within the development, or appropriate off-site mitigation.

Trees and New Developments

Trees can be overlooked during the construction of new developments and as a result some are either lost or given inadequate protection that results in their demise within a few years. In 2012, the British Standard BS 5837 “Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction - Recommendations” was released and this is now considered the benchmark document for how to successfully retain suitable trees in proximity to development.

Trees have to adapt to their immediate surroundings and any changes will have some effect, therefore, it is essential that a detailed tree survey that complies with the British Standard is undertaken before a scheme is designed. This will schedule the trees according to their suitability for retention and identify the extent of land required to ensure that they have the best chance of survival. Older trees are more vulnerable and they are often the most desirable to retain for both their amenity and conservation value.


For further information on the Policy please contact the Council’s Streetscene Technical Support Team on 0300 123 4510.