Tree and Woodland Management

Cornwall Council is directly and indirectly responsible for the management of trees and woodlands in a number of ways:

  • As landowner/occupier it is responsible for the safety and management of trees and woodlands on its land (a wide ranging portfolio). Cornwall Council is a major landowner and trees are a feature of a significant proportion of these properties.
  • As highway authority it has direct duty to manage trees growing within the highway, whether formally managed trees in the urban environment (Street trees) or other trees within the highway limits (Highway trees) and it also has powers under the Highways Act to require landowners to undertake works to trees that might interfere the safe use of the highway. The council is responsible for a network of approximately 4500 miles of road and nearly 3000 miles of public rights of way and recreational trails. 
  • As planning authority it has a level of control on tree management in Conservation Areas, trees covered by Tree Preservation Orders and through the planning process. For further information please see Trees and their protection
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Trees provide a wide range of benefits to society and will have an increasing role in mitigating the effects of climate change. It is important that the Council manages its tree resource to maximise these benefits. However despite these benefits trees can cause problems through nuisance, damage and injury.

Overall, nationally, the risk of harm from trees is very low. The risk of death from trees has been estimated as 1 in 10 million and that of serious injury as 1 in 1 million. Despite these very low risks the danger from trees is not always perceived as low by the public and the consequences of tree failures can be very newsworthy because of their rarity. Additionally individual trees and groups of trees may have a high risk of causing harm due to their condition and location eg over mature trees in declining health in a busy city centre or beside a busy, high speed road. Full background information, clearly presented, can be found in The National Tree Safety Group Position Statement. and the National Tree Safety Group's publication Common sense risk management of trees.

  • The Council’s trees and woodlands will be managed to a range of objectives.
  • The Council is developing Woodland Management Plans for its significant woodlands that are open to the public
  • The Council is developing a risk based approach to tree safety management where those trees with the greatest risk of causing serious harm will receive the greatest attention and those trees with a very low risk of significant harm may not receive any attention other than reactive
  • The Council will consider requests to undertake works to trees carefully against the risks posed by the tree, any inconvenience caused to neighbours/complainants, the wider benefits the tree has to society, objectives of management and available resources.
  • Normally the Council will not undertake any tree pruning works or remove trees in direct response to any natural or seasonal phenomena, for example:
         Falling leaves
         Sap exudation (honeydew)
         Falling fruits, nuts
         Bird droppings
         Reduction or increase moisture to gardens
         Basal stem sucker growth
         Germinating seeds from council owned trees
         Blockages or obstructions from tree deposits and leaves
         Presence of algae and/or build up of moss

The above are generally considered minor inconveniences, as opposed to legally defined nuisance issues, over which the Council, or any tree manager, has little, if any control. That said, a common sense approach will be adopted when such complaints are received and each individual complaint will be assessed, and determined upon its own individual circumstances and available budgets.

  •  Additionally the Council will not normally undertake any tree pruning works or remove trees in direct response to general shading issues, loss of television signal or shading of solar pv/heat units.

NB. There is a common law right to cut back overhanging vegetation to your legal boundary provided that you offer the arisings back to the owner and the site is left in a safe condition (and subject to other legal restrictions such as Tree Preservation Orders, Conservation Areas or planning conditions etc).  If a tree is on a party boundary then you would be expected to manage the growth on your side of the boundary.

Links to further information: