As part of our legal requirement to keep the network safe, we carry out regular inspection of trees on or near the highway throughout the year.
These inspections identify trees that may pose a safety risk to road users on or adjacent to the highway.
The inspections take place on foot and also using a specially adapted bus to identify low hanging branches that may pose a risk to high-sided vehicles using the highway.
We follow strict processes in order to survey, identify, inspect and carry out any necessary work to trees that pose a danger to highway users.
Wherever possible, we will seek to prune or lop (e.g. overhanging branches) to make the tree safe. However, in some circumstances, particularly if the tree is damaged, structurally unsound, dead diseased, or dying, it is necessary to remove the tree itself.
If a tree poses an immediate risk
If a tree poses an immediate risk to highway users then Island Roads has a duty to take the necessary action to make that tree safe, including the removal of the tree if required, without making any form of application to the council. This is the case even if the tree is protected by a Tree Protection Order (TPO) as it effectively becomes exempt from the necessity to make an application under the Town and Country Planning Act Chapter 8.
If further works are required relating to issues not in themselves an immediate risk to highway users – for example improving the shape of a protected highway tree – then an application to the council for these works would, however, need to be made.
If the tree is not protected, is within the highway area and poses a less imminent risk, then Island Roads will, working under the guidance of expert arboriculturalists, take steps to make the tree safe. This might involve pruning and lopping the tree, if that course of action is sufficient, or felling and removing the tree if for example, the tree is diseased, dying or unstable.
If an unsafe tree is protected but does not pose an immediate risk, then we will also consult with the council’s tree officer before any action is taken. The consent of the IW Council is required before a protected tree can be felled, lopped or pruned. However, the removal of branches when they are seen to obstruct the highway and do not give the necessary 5.5 metre clearance over the road or 2.5 metres over the path are exempt from such applications to the council and Island Roads are able to take the necessary action required to address this issue.
Island Roads employs tree experts to advise on issues where there is a protected tree or when unusual circumstances exist.
We also use experts to inspect the trees for any signs of wildlife or nesting birds using the trees as a habitat. In some circumstances, we may need to delay works if trees are found to be inhabited. In these situations, any necessary steps to make the tree temporarily safe (e.g. propping the tree or temporary closure of public access eg if near a footpath) will be made until such time as the works can be carried out. See example here
Replanting (Public Highway)
Where a tree is removed from the roadside within an area of the public highway, usually a replacement tree is planted in the same, or nearby location, during the planting season (typically in the autumn). For ecological and practical reasons sometimes it is not advisable to replant in exactly the same place, but the location is considered carefully before replanting. These new trees have a girth of around 14-16cm girth and between three and five metres in height, to ensure they have a robust start in life. We also try to match the type of tree to the one removed, where it is possible to do so.
Trees on private land
On private land, the inspection, maintenance and or removal of trees is the responsibility of the landowner and we have issued advice and guidance to assist landowners in understanding their responsibilities to ensure trees on their land do not pose a risk to highway users. We have also worked closely with the Island branches of the National Farmers Union and Country Landowners Association to enlist their help in ensuring this information reaches Island landowners.
This information can be found here
Under Section 154 of The Highways Act 1980, Island Roads has powers to take action in respect of trees that affect the highway network. Under the legislation we are empowered to act as follows:
“Where a hedge, tree or shrub overhangs a highway or any other road or footpath to which the public has access so as to endanger or obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians, or obstructs or interferes with the view of drivers of vehicles or the light from a public lamp, or overhangs a highway so as to endanger or obstruct the passage of horse-riders.”
When a tree on private land is identified as being a risk to public safety, Island Roads will seek to identify the landowner through formal land registry searches and by making local enquiries and take steps to contact them to discuss the work required.
Under the Highways Act, if a tree is on your land and is a safety risk, Island Roads can serve a legal notice requiring you to undertake the necessary remedial work within specified timescales. This work may include the instruction to cut back, remove, and/or make safe any vegetation that does, or has the potential to be in contravention of the Act.
If Island Roads do not identify a landowner, or if the landowner refuses to undertake the work, then Island Roads will take steps themselves to undertake the necessary work to ensure the tree does not pose a safety risk. Island Roads also has the ability to charge the landowner for these works.
Any subsequent replanting on private land is the responsibility of the landowner.