Building near trees

July 18, 2019

In the era of intense building developments, tradespeople across the county are increasingly faced with a difficult obstacle to overcome; trees. While most trees that grow near buildings cause no damage, some require further attention. In this blog, we provide an overview of the possible implications of building around trees.

What are the implications of building around trees?

The main issue associated with building near trees is subsidence. Tree roots surrounding property can significantly influence the likelihood of subsidence occurring, as they can cause the shrinkage or reduction of the soil beneath the foundations by extracting water. This is mostly an issue on properties built before the 1950s, which have comparatively shallow foundations. Fortunately, thanks to advancements in structural design, modern homes are seldom at risk of suffering from subsidence.

Aside from this, the main problems associated with building near trees are related to branches. Branches have the potential to damage roofs and guttering systems and must be removed if they’re growing too close to either of these structures. Similarly, roots can enter drains and cause blockages, which can lead to leaks and water overflow. Likewise, if roots begin to expand, then they can lift paving and lightweight structures, which can also cause structural problems.

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What is the safe distance to plant trees away from buildings?

It’s important to remember that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to the safe distance of planting a tree. In general, the safe distance to plant a tree is related to the tree’s height. Even so, all trees are different and defining the ‘safe distance’ relies on several factors. With this in mind, it is essential to speak with an arboriculture professional to ensure that you get the measurement entirely right.

What is a tree preservation order?

Simply put, a tree preservation order is an order made by an English local planning authority that protects specific trees, or woodlands in the interests of the amenity. If a tree is subject to a preservation order, then it prohibits:

• Cutting down
• Topping
• Lopping
• Uprooting
• Wilful damage
• Wilful destruction

If you wish to work on one of these trees, then it’s essential to get written consent from the local planning authority first. Beginning work without written consent is a prosecutable offence and should always be avoided. Even if you do receive permission, you’ll often find that working on these trees is subject to several conditions.

How do you dig around tree roots?

It’s essential to think long and hard about digging around tree roots, as the task puts the roots at high risk of being accidentally damaged. Damaging a tree’s roots can affect the vital functions of the tree and lead to severe issues down the line. That’s why it’s always best to consult a professional arborist before beginning the process.

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