We’re fortunate to have wonderful trees in our gardens (yes, I’m a very keen gardener!), however, few of us know what the law requires us to do to ensure our trees do not cause injury or damage.

A recent High Court case spells things out (not for the first time I might add):

  1. As “ordinary landowners”, we must carry out “regular preliminary/informal inspections” of trees on our property, especially if they border a railway, highway or another property.
  2. As “reasonable and prudent landowners” (again, that’s you and me) we’re not obliged, as a matter of course, to employ an arboriculturalist to periodically inspect our trees. However, if we are away for long periods, are physically unable to inspect the trees, or are not knowledgeable enough (or as the judge put it “so completely ignorant of trees that [we] would be unable to carry out a meaningful inspection, even if such an inspection was just preliminary or informal”) then we should employ a specialist. The point was made however that this last scenario was expected to be unusual.
  3. We should also employ a specialist if an informal inspection reveals something of concern.

If you want to read the case it is Stagecoach South Western Trains Limited v Hind and another. The case involved Mrs Hind, a keen gardener with a working knowledge of trees who was sued by Stagecoach for £325,000 for damage to a train which collided with a branch which had fallen from her ash tree. Fortunately for Mrs Hind, common sense prevailed and she successfully defended the case.