Bristol City Council’s Tree Management Policy, has it changed? Still trying…

Last year, in our 2020 Newsletter – Bristol City Council’s Tree Management Policy – has it changed, or did we misunderstand it all along? – we described a situation where a resident had been given consent to have a tree that the Council owned in a Conservation Area, pruned so that the light into her garden was improved. To us this seemed contrary to the Council’s Tree Management Policy (TMP) which stated that “We do not prune or remove a council owned tree to improve natural light in or to a property including solar panels.”

In our article we suggested that the Council’s TMP should be reworded to make it clear that residents willing to do the work themselves, or pay someone else to do the work, could now get consent to have Council owned trees pruned for Light – not that we approved of pruning trees for Light!

In a desperate attempt to get clarification I submitted a Question to Council in March 2021.

“Mr Mayor, The wording of the Council’s light policy towards trees it owns seems straightforward enough – “We do not prune Council owned tree for light”.
Residents have interpreted the Policy over the years as meaning that Council-owned trees do not get pruned for Light under any circumstances.
My question is: Does this Policy apply regardless of who does the pruning?”

The written answer to the question was as straightforward as the question:

“The council does not prune its trees for light, and we would not give consent to a third party to do that either. Private landowners have a common law right to prune back other’s trees and foliage that overhang their property to their property ownership boundary line. The Council’s Tree Management Policy Framework and more detailed information on what is permitted and not permitted is provided online: Tree+management+policy+2016 (bristol.gov.uk)” (red font, our emphasis).

Having written about the Decision to permit the crown lift (a form of pruning) in the 2020 BTF Newsletter, and having had an answer to the question which cast some doubt on the validity of that Decision, I wrote to Bristol City Council asking if there was now a reason to amend the wording of the Light section of the Tree Management Policy, to make it more clear to everyone who might have need to refer to the Policy, that neither the Council, nor anyone else, could prune Council owned trees for Light, and they would not be given consent so to do.

I have written twice but had no reply.

In the absence of any answer or any rewording of the Tree Management Policy, which we feel is currently capable of being misinterpreted, we feel we have to publicise the Council’s clear reply to the question posed – namely The council does not prune its trees for light and would not give consent to a third party to do that either.  At the moment only people who have read the Minutes of the Full Council Meeting of 16th March 2021 have (maybe) seen that answer.

This answer was most reassuring. We all own these trees. We have paid dearly for them and their maintenance. We do not want to see them pruned by anyone not under the direction of the Council Tree Officers, who design the contracts and supervise the work done on the Council’s behalf, should any work need to be done to them. Nor do we think they should be pruned for Light. “High Hedges” are a different matter and are subject to national regulations.

Stephanie French

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