Cutting tree unregistered land

Dear Forumites


I have read through previous discussions on a similar topic on MSE Forum, but could not quite find an answer to my specific set of questions (


For the last half a year I have been trying to find the ways to trim (or cut) a tree that is next to our house. The tree is overhanging the public road (low branches obstruct public buses) and our property. The tree has grown so much that it is very close to our house, and the branches fall in the wind, one of the them falling very close to our children. Few years ago another tree next to the one I am describing fell in a storm, blocked the road and fell into our property. The local council came and cut it down as it was a hazard.

I spoke to a tree surgeon and they said cutting down just the branches on one side of the tree, which is within our property limits, would imbalance the tree and it can fall onto the other side (the road). In this case we will be liable for any damage caused. So, the tree needs to be trimmed on both sides, which would cost several thousand pounds.

I have been in touch with the local Council asking them to cut the overhanging tree, but after a long investigation they informed me that the tree is un unregistered land (after a land registry search they completed). I would be grateful for advice on how I can proceed and cut the tree:

1.      Can I persevere and make the Council to cut the side of the tree that obstructs the traffic?

2.      Taking into account earlier incident with the neighbouring tree, can I get the council to cut down the tree as it is a potential hazard to my children and our property?

3.      Can I cut down the tree altogether (with me bearing the full cost of it) if it is on unregistered land?

4.      Slightly off the topic - Can I purchase/come into ownership of the unregistered land?


Thank you for your advice,



  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,822 Forumite
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    edited 8 March at 8:28PM
    The tree isn't yours; if you cut it down, you risk the owner seeking damages from you. Only you can judge whether this is a likely outcome or not.
    You are perfectly entitled to trim the branches that overhang your garden, and I would be surprised if this made you liable for the tree falling in the other direction; but I'm no expert. Do you have legal assistance cover included in your home insurance? You could call their helpline and get a considered opinion.
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  • Reed_Richards
    Reed_Richards Posts: 4,163 Forumite
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    If land does not have a registered owner it may well still have an owner.  You are required to register land if it changes hands by way of a sale, swap, gift or inheritance but my understanding is that if the land has been in continuous ownership since before 1990 it is quite likely to be unregistered.  Maybe you should ask around and see if anyone who has lived in your area for some decades can identify the owner?

    If you believe the land is not owned you could try to take ownership by adverse possession.  But that is a long term strategy, your children could be grown by the time it comes to fruition.  
  • theoretica
    theoretica Posts: 12,303 Forumite
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    Did the tree surgeon see the tree, or were you just discussing it remotely?  If you had a report from a tree surgeon that the tree is a danger it might be useful to keep if anyone in future complains about you cutting the tree.

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  • Grumpy_chap
    Grumpy_chap Posts: 14,881 Forumite
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    If you had a report from a tree surgeon that the tree is a danger 

    If the OP has a report from a tree surgeon that the tree is a danger (which the OP will likely need to pay for), then the OP may be able to gain more traction with the Council to do what is necessary to trim or cut down the tree.  Unlike the OP, the Council can serve notice on the land owner or, if the land owner cannot be identified, complete the works under statutory powers.  Obviously, Council budgets are finite so tree work on trees that don't have to be done by the Council is not a priority.

    However, as I read the OP, the tee surgeon had not said the tree was unsafe now but, if the OP cut the branches on one side, that would possibly make the tree unsafe (imbalanced).
  • Boudouche1
    Boudouche1 Posts: 151 Forumite
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    @OrizB. Thank you for your advice. We cannot identify the owner of the tree, and the Council could not either. I do not know if we can be liable for the tree falling on the public road, but a tree surgeon told us we can be liable. We can speak to our home insurance – but will it not complicate things (i.e. can the insurance raise premium or consider the house non-insurable if the issue cannot be resolved? Some of the branches of the tree almost touch our house, which is 2-3 meters away from the boundary with the unregistered land.

  • Boudouche1
    Boudouche1 Posts: 151 Forumite
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    @Reed_Richards. Thank you for your advice. The Council could not identify the owner of the land after completing the land registry search. We have spent some time asking around and trying to identify the owner, but did not succeed (we had two leads, but the potential owners said the land was not theirs). It sounds like the adverse possession pathway is not for us ☹

  • Boudouche1
    Boudouche1 Posts: 151 Forumite
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    This is a sketch of the area where the overhanging tree is:

  • Boudouche1
    Boudouche1 Posts: 151 Forumite
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    @theoretica. Thank you for your advice. Yes, we had several tree surgeons coming to see the tree, and they said the tree is dangerous. We have not asked them to write a report though – could this be a way forward?

  • Boudouche1
    Boudouche1 Posts: 151 Forumite
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    @Grumpy_chap. Thank you for your advice. I do not have a report from a tree surgeon. We had several tree surgeons coming, but they did not provide reports (only comments and suggestions, not in writing). What is the work under statutory powers that you mention? How can we make the Council cut the branches of the tree that overhand the road? I attach the map of the area (above). The unregistered land in question is a small piece of land wedged between the Public road 1 and our driveway. This land is accessed by the public (mostly dog walkers), council cuts grass on it regularly, and there is a gas pipeline running underneath. You are correct, tree surgeons told us that if we cut the branches on our side (within our boundary), it will imbalance the tree and it can fall on the public road (the other side).

    Can I use the precedent of the council cutting the neighbouring tree and make them cut this tree? Can I have any support elsewhere (bus company, local MP?) to make a case about the tree obstructing the traffic? What else would you advise me to do?

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