Who's responsbility are the neighbouring trees?

Our property lawyer Fiona McNulty answers your questions
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© Merrily Harpur
Question: Four years ago we bought a new detached house, and a side road next to us has some big trees. We have discovered this road was not adopted by the local council after the developer of a neighbouring estate went bust 40 years ago.

A condition in our developer's planning consent made him responsible for the trees for five years after completion. How can we enforce this on an unadopted road outside our development? The trees overhang our back garden and are a danger to anyone in it.

Answer: The developer is in breach of the planning condition for failing to maintain the trees. Notify your council of the situation as they can take action to enforce the planning condition which your developer has breached.

It is surprising that you were not told about the unadopted road when you bought your property. To clarify, an unadopted road or a private road is a highway not maintainable at public expense. There are generally two types of unadopted roads — those on new developments such as housing estates and those which have existed for a long time, often by historic accident.

Responsibility for the maintenance of an unadopted road generally lies with the owners of the properties with frontages on to such roads. It would therefore be the responsibility of those property owners to deal with trees. If they fail to do so then the local authority may intervene, but could recover the cost from the property owners.

As the developer went bust and probably no one knows who owns the road now, you should notify the property owners who have frontages on to the unadopted road, who appear to be the property owners on the neighbouring estate. If collectively the neighbours get the unadopted road up to the requisite standard, they can apply to the local authority for the road to be adopted.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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