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How to Tell If a Tree is Safe or Needs Felling

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 18 Jul 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Trees Tree Felling Fell Felled Safety

There are many reasons for felling trees and just as many for keeping them as long as possible. Safety is one of the main reasons for felling trees though, probably second only to household insurance claims, but there are a number of checks that need to be made before a tree can be felled.

Tree Safety Example

Quite often a tree can be felled because it is simply the wrong tree in the wrong place. An excellent recent case of this was an Australian Eucalyptus in a small, steeply banked garden in a small town in Oxfordshire. Some varieties of these tall, thin trees can grow to heights of well over 80m and this one, probably about thirty years old, had reached at least 45 feet.

The tree swayed alarmingly in the wind, worrying neighbours, and the roots had pushed out the wall at the end of the garden. This was a retaining wall for the slope of the hill and eventually cracks at either end of it alarmed one set of neighbours so much that they forbade their children from playing in their garden.

Eventually the landlords were persuaded to fell the tree and rebuild the wall but they first had to check with the District Council that felling the tree was permissible.

Tree Preservation Orders

Many trees or woodlands in urban areas are under Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) to prevent them from being felled unnecessarily. After all, the green lung that trees provide are a vital part of the main cycle of life on our planet, the conversion of the carbon dioxide that animals expel, back into oxygen.

There were changes made in October 2008 to the way that TPOs are processed so if you are considering felling a tree it's important to make sure you are following up-to-date guidelines. Most local planning authorities will have an application process to go through in order check if a tree is protected by a TPO.

Legislation Covering Tree Felling

A tree covered by a TPO can still be felled if there is a significant danger to the public but most local authorities will insist that the tree is then replaced, probably with something indigenous and smaller than the tree that had caused the problem.

There are other areas of legislation that might affect tree felling, one being the Habitats Regulations, EU-derived rules to protect the environments of endangered species. The other is the administration of Felling Licences. These are administered by the Forestry Commission and are applied for when it is considered necessary to fell protected trees.

Self Pruning Trees

Left to themselves trees will prune themselves by shutting off nutrients to old limbs, allowing newer ones to grow higher up. This means that trees that aren’t pruned regularly will have dead limbs that can fall off at a moments notice. If a tree gets into such a state that it has many dead limbs still attached, a strong wind can topple the tree.

So it's a good idea to keep on top of the pruning process so that this is less likely to happen. If the state of a tree concerns you, take the advice of a local tree surgeon as well as the local authority.

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