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Whose job is it to trim trees near power lines?

A full-grown tree can be a thing of beauty, but not if it’s sitting directly underneath an overhead power line. In this situation, overgrown trees can quickly become a public safety risk and interrupt the supply of electricity, especially in severe weather. In this article, we assess what to do if one of your trees is growing near a power line and who’s responsible for dealing with it.

Checkatrade Tree Expert Andy Baverstock from Acorn Tree Specialists Ltd recommends:

Firstly, any professional tree specialist company, like those found on Checkatrade, will automatically know what to do when you ask them for advice regarding tree growth near power lines. Power lines can be deadly so we recommend you always contact a professional regarding any planned works near power lines. A knowledgeable tree expert will check the lines to see if they are insulated, again this is something for an experienced specialist who will know the dangers and understand from experience what to look for!

Andy highlights the importance of contacting your local electric company early as it takes considerable time to get assistance:

The second option before any planned works is to call your local electric company for help. They will send someone out to look and make sure any work can take place next to them. If not, then they will close down power whilst the works take place. This would normally take 6-8 weeks depending on how busy they are. Again, this is all a free service and no fees are to be paid for this. Make your plans first as you may not be able to commission an expert to do any work for many weeks.

How far should trees be from power lines?

It all depends on the type of tree and the height to which it will eventually grow. In Britain, the typical height of a power line ranges from 15 to 55m. There are several trees native to the UK that will reach or exceed this height. It’s important to maintain a safe clearing distance between the tree and the power line at all times. If a tree does start getting too close to the power line, then it’s important to have it trimmed.

This safe clearing distance varies depending on the voltage of the power line and whether the tree is climbable. In general, for lines with a voltage, less than 33kV the clearing distance should be 3.0m, but only if the branch can support a person’s weight. Similarly, the clearing distance should be 0.8m on any tree that’s unable to support a person’s weight.

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power line overheadHow do I report a tree on power lines?

Legally, the owner of the property has the responsibility to trim a tree should it look like it’s about come into contact with power lines. If this is the case, it’s always best to contact the energy company which operates the power line as they might be willing to cover the costs associated with bringing in a tree surgeon. If they don’t, you’ll be required to have the tree trimmed, which can be dangerous, so we’d always recommend hiring a qualified arboriculturist.

Likewise, if you notice a neighbour has a tree on their property that is nearing a powerline, then it’s important to speak to them and remind them of their responsibilities. It’s important to remember that if the tree was to bring your neighbourhood’s powerline down, then everyone could be without power for a prolonged period of time.

Can a power company cut a tree on my property?

Yes, if your tree begins to interfere with the power lines above it, then the power company which operates the system has a legal right to have the tree trimmed. However, it’s important to approach the power company before they’re forced to take action into their own hands. Many operators will cover the costs of tree surgery, should it affect their power lines. However, if the company has to act without your consent and if the tree causes damage to the power line, you might end up footing the bill.

Who do I call if my tree falls on power lines?

If you’re concerned about a tree falling on a power line, or if your tree has fallen on a power line than its important to contact the company which operates the power line. Speak to the energy company about the issue, who will guide you on what to do next. Most companies offer this service for free, especially as it’s likely to cost them less than what it costs to replace the power line.

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