Einformation – Tree Removal outside 41A Farrar Lane

Publisher: Cllr Barry Anderson:

Some of you may have noticed that an oak tree has been removed outside of the above property and this action has caused concern with a number of local residents as to why this was allowed to proceed.

I was first notified about this at 8.30am on 7th December by a local resident. I took this up with the Council’s Forestry section who are the Department that usually authorise work that is done to Council Highways trees as based on the information made available to me I made the assumption that the tree was on Highways land. As a result of my enquiry Mr. Rolf Neugebauer the Arboricultural Officer visited the location very quickly to ascertain what was happening.

In précis Mr. Neugebauer advised me of the following:

  1. The owners of the property contacted the Council’s Sustainable Development Unit who are responsible for issuing Tree Preservation Orders to ensure they did have permission to remove the tree and this was given.
  2. The reason the request was put forward in the first instance was that there was subsidence at this property and Mr. Neugebauer had seen this for himself and did consider it to be of a serious nature.
  3. It had also come to light that in Mr. Neugebauer’s opinion that despite information given to the owners to the contrary that the tree is on Highways land and he has undertaken to ensure that the definitive map of the area is updated accordingly but this will entail obtaining proper legal confirmation of the land ownership but in the meantime it was his view that the owners of the property had taken all required steps and these had been duly authorised.

Since then I have been in touch with the house owners and have been furnished with the following information:

  1. The text of a letter from the house owners

“Dear Neighbour

As you may have noticed, the oak tree outside of our house (41A) has been removed. It is with regret that on the advice of our insurance company and a structural engineer we had to take the decision to remove the tree due to the huge amount of damage it was causing to our house.

The tree and its roots were taking so much moisture from the ground that the house was suffering from severe subsidence causing significant cracking to the front of the house, both downstairs and upstairs, because the house was being pulled towards the tree. The subsidence has been so bad that at its worst during the summer, we could see the outside world through the gaps in the window frames in the upstairs bay because the front of the house moves according to the amount of moisture being taken out of the ground.

Oak trees can drink up to 2000 litres of water a day and the roots can extend up to 3 times the size of the tree’s canopy which means that the tree could also have been affecting your property. If you have ever experienced large cracks in your walls which fluctuate in size throughout the year then it is likely that you have had subsidence caused by the oak tree. We are not yet sure whether or not the roots have affected the drains but we will let you know if this is the case and if it is likely to affect your property.

We made every effort to find out who owned the tree contacting both the council and Land Registry but neither of them could provide us with any answers. Having done all we could to establish ownership, it seems that under certain legal presumptions the area up to the middle of the road belongs to the adjoining householder, which is why we have had to assume responsibility for the tree.

We hope that you understand why we were left with little choice other than to remove the oak tree. We really didn’t want to have to do so as we loved the tree but in the end it came down to a choice between our home or the tree and we chose our home. We hope that you would’ve done the same.

If you would like to talk to us about anything, please feel free to call in.”

  1. It is my understanding based on contact with the house owners that they carried out the following actions:

They contacted their house insurer who sent a surveyor and in his report he concluded that the house is suffering from subsidence caused by the close proximity of the oak tree and its roots and that the only way to remedy the situation would be to remove the oak tree. As a result, the house owners contacted the council and the land registry to find out who owned the tree and the land which the tree stood on. The council confirmed that the council did not own the tree, there was no TPO on it and that consent was not needed from the council to carry out any work to the tree. The land registry also confirmed that they did not know who owned the land.

Hence based on the information above and the comments by the Council they instructed their contractors to remove the tree.

As stated above I am aware that this action has caused some residents to become very concerned at this action and why it occurred and the hope that it does not set a precedent for the future and this point has been made to Mr. Neugebauer who has confirmed he will be taking the appropriate steps to sort out the misunderstanding that has occurred within the Council and caused the problem that was not of the house owners making. The problem was one of the fact that two Council departments did not speak to each other and there has been an obvious gap in the process within the Council’s internal procedures.

I hope the above goes some way to explain what happened and the major point I have made to the Council as a result of this is that they need to get their procedures sorted out. They need to improve the accuracy of their database as I had always been told they did not put TPOs on Council-owned trees and this had been accepted by myself and residents, in good faith, who had tried to get TPOs put on to trees they felt might be in danger. In order to ensure that something is done I am trying to set up a meeting between myself, Mr. Neugebauer and Robert Dracup who is the officer responsible for TPOs in the city so that I can point out to them the problems they have caused in the area.

I’m also trying to identify some funding sources so that a number of new trees can be planted in the area covered by the Cookridge Garden Covenant as for many and varied reasons a number of trees have been lost recently.