Question: I live in a terrace house and all the gardens have trees at the bottom which have been pollarded or replaced over the years. However, one neighbour refuses to touch his original 100-year-old plane tree. Despite writing to plead with him and offering to share the cost of having it cut back, about six houses surrounding him get no sunlight in their gardens in the afternoons. Is there anything we can do?
Answer: This is a common problem that can be difficult to resolve. The first thing to do is to contact your neighbour, which you have already done with no success.
It is not possible to acquire an easement in the form of a right to light to a garden — although it is possible to acquire a right to light to a defined aperture, such as a window. Your complaint seems to be a lack of light to your garden generally rather than to a specific window or windows. There is sometimes confusion about whether the local council can help in these matters. If a high hedge is blocking out light to a house or garden, a complaint can be dealt with by the local authority under the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003. However, the high hedge has to consist of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs in a line, so this doesn't apply in your case.
If the tree was unsafe and the neighbour refused to do anything about it, the local council could tackle the problem and could bill the neighbour for its costs.
There is little more you can do apart from considering moving if the lack of light really affects your wellbeing.
Neighbour disputes, even if they are eventually resolved, can be very draining and upsetting and should be avoided wherever possible.