Know Your Rights!
gets to grips with the peculiarities of the law in relation
to your house and garden and reveals some rather surprising
"The law is an ass" so the saying goes, although I've
always thought that's a typo. When it comes to us and
our gardens, there are some quite ludicrous laws and
one thing that never ceases to amaze me is that we're
actually meant to look after burglars who come into
The traditional first line of defence in the past has
been to cement shards of broken bottles on to the top
of your wall. But what if a hapless thief accidentally
slashes his arm and severs a tendon while he's grappling
with your Venus de Milo? Well it seems that,
if you have an "unlawful visitor" on your property and
he or she gets injured, you are liable "if you were
aware of the danger". The chances are that you were
because cementing broken bottles on to your wall isn't
the sort of thing you forget doing.
You would also be
liable if "the danger is such that you should have offered
some protection against it". So you'll be okay if you
leave out a ladder and a nice thick pair of gloves for
the burglar. And finally, you're liable if "you should
have known that an unlawful visitor would come in the
vicinity of the danger". In other words, you obviously
knew you'd be burgled or you wouldn't have put glass
on top of your wall. Therefore you're liable.
So basically as long as you leave your gate undone and
put up a sign saying "Please take what you fancy, but
mind yourself on the holly on the way out", you'll be
fine. Heads they win, tails you lose.
When it comes to the Town and Country Planning Act there
are at least parts of this law that make excellent sense.
A Tree Preservation Order or TPO is a legal order placed
on a tree or group of trees by a local planning department
to prevent them from being felled or unnecessary work
being carried out. Anyone can request an order and a
provisional TPO can be slapped on the tree in seconds
if you see someone firing up a chain saw next to the
Once an order is
on a tree the owner can't even prune a branch off without
permission unless there are mitigating circumstances,
for example, that it's dead, dying or dangerous. And
even then you have to give five days notice to the council
unless it's an emergency.
The fines for contravention of an order are massive,
up to £20,000 or even higher if someone, namely a property
developer, is deemed to be making a profit from it,
in which case getting banged up isn't out of the question.
If a neighbouring tree overhangs your property and causes
damage, or just restricts the growth of your plants,
you can chop branches off in line with the boundary.
You can also tackle the roots, but don't get too carried
away because if you destabilize the tree or kill it,
you become liable. However, you must give the branches
back because otherwise this is theft. This last bit
is clearly daft but I can imagine the satisfaction felt
when you hurl the branches back over the fence. It also
applies to fruit, so in theory you have to give back
all the apples and plums and stuff that fall into your
garden. The law doesn't seem to mention leaves though.
The Right to Light
is a funny thing. This is the one that people bang on
about with the ongoing leylandii debate. The thing is,
there is no automatic right to light and in order to
get a neighbour to chop down a tree or hedge you have
to prove a real loss. This doesn't mean if you haven't
been able to get as good a tan as last year because
the hedge has grown another foot, it has to be something
like not being able to make your livelihood market gardening
anymore. There is no 'Right to a View' either.
There is legislation
afoot to combat the dreaded leylandii plague but the
drafting of it is a bit tricky. Defining a hedge is
hard and there are plenty of significant large hedges
around the country, like the 100ft beech hedge in Perthshire,
that need protecting and then of course it's got to
be enforced by local authorities at great expense. In
short, if you're suffering from leylandiitis don't get
your hopes up.
The premium rate Tree Helpline 0906 5161147 is an excellent
service for anybody who has a tree-related problem.
See also the Helping Hands workshops:
to prune and trim a hedge
to make your garden secure
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com