Vegetation - hedge and tree maintenance
Hedges and trees grow on the edge of the highway, often to mark the boundary with private property. It is the responsibility of the adjacent landowner or occupier on whose land the hedges and trees are growing to properly maintain them.
Who is responsible for maintenance?
Private landowners and occupiers
To maintain hedges and trees within their property boundaries, particularly where they grow or mark the boundary with the highway (including the footway and drainage features). This includes:
- Ensuring growth does not obscure the view of road signs.
- Maintaining visibility for road users, particularly at junctions and on the inside of bends.
- Ensuring growth does not prevent the passage or affect the safety of people using a road, footway, cycle way or public right of way, including cyclists and pedestrians.
- Removing dead or decaying trees and other growth that may fall across the highway.
- Removing branches and other growth that may prevent the passage of high sided vehicles or obstruct light from a street light.
- Ensuring the highway is left clear of debris from the cutting operations.
- Arranging for hedge and tree maintenance works to be undertaken.
County Council (as Highway Authority)
- Managing and keeping the trees and hedges it owns i.e. those growing within the highway (including verges and footways etc) in a safe condition and ensuring that they do not create a legal nuisance such as causing damage to property or an obstruction on the highway.
- To protect the safety of highway users by ensuring that owners and occupiers carry out their legal duties in maintaining roadside hedges and trees as outlined above. A programme of cyclic inspections is completed covering the highway network in North Yorkshire and, when necessary we will liaise with tree owners to request appropriate work to be carried out.
- To enhance road safety, the County Council often cut hedges on the inside of bends and at junctions on major roads at the same time as cutting the grass verges. Despite doing this work, owners and occupiers are not relieved of their responsibilities.
Timing of maintenance work
Landowners, occupiers and farmers are recommended to undertake trimming in January and February and refrain from cutting back hedges from the 1st April to the 31st July. This is to:
- Reduce the chance of disturbance to breeding birds
- Allow most plants to finish flowering and seeding.
- Allow the availability of berries and nuts for wildlife for as long as possible during the winter.
- Reduce the risk of damage or destruction to the nests of wild birds while they are being built or used (nesting birds and other species such as bats and dormice are given legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
- Reduce congestion and delays as it is likely that there will be less traffic on the roads.
Taking care when maintaining trees
Trees are important for the visual appearance of an area and nature conservation; they should be retained and protected wherever possible. Pruning or felling of trees can be the subject of significant local concern, and should only be done with specialist advice and support. Any works to trees should be carried out by a properly qualified and insured tree work contractor, who can give you advice about your trees, Tree Preservation Order's, etc.
Hedge and tree maintenance - frequently asked questions