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Can I force the council to prune back a tree to stop it dirtying my car?

Property Clinic: In the spring a sticky substance falls from the branches, making my car very dirty

I have off-street parking on my street. A large tree is growing on the pavement near my parking space. Its branches grow over my property. In the spring a sticky substance falls from the branches on to my car, making it and the windows very dirty. This requires frequent visits to the car wash. In the autumn the leaves fall and cover the vehicle. Do I have any recourse with the local authority to require them to prune back the overhanging branches?

The situation you describe is undesirable and appears to be a nuisance. In looking at your options there are a number of aspects to consider:

(a) The precise nature of your ownership of the parking space

(b) The sticky substance


(c) The falling leaves

Your initial approach should be to determine the tree species or variety and, if possible, some information about the nature of the sticky substance that falls from its branches. When in possession of this information, you should write to, or email, the local authority and set out your concerns and ask them to engage with you in seeking a resolution.

I believe that your recourse to the local authority may be limited as it may wish to avoid creating a precedent by cutting back a tree in a public space because of a complaint by a resident. It will, however, have to consider your concerns. It’s response is likely to be influenced by the case you can make in relation to the nature of the sticky substance, the actual damage, if any, to your car, and the inconvenience and cost of frequently bringing it to the car wash.

In relation to (a), the nature of your ownership is relevant if the local authority does not take any action. If you are the freehold owner of your parking space you are entitled to cut off branches overhanging your property, ie the parts of the branches extending across the property boundary line which is usually along the edge of the road/footpath that adjoins your property.

If you have a leasehold interest in your parking space or if there is an owners’ management company (OMC) involved, you should consult the landlord, or OMC, before taking action such as cutting branches. If the title in your property is registered to the centre of the adjacent part of the public road, as many property titles are, it does not give you any rights in relation to the tree even if it is located on the part of your registered property extending on to the public road. A public road, irrespective of its registered status, is in the charge of the local authority.

In relation to (b), the sticky substance is likely to be sufficiently heavy to fall vertically to the ground. Therefore, if the overhanging branches are removed by either the local authority or you, the substance will no longer fall on your property.

In relation to (c), the removal of overhanging branches would partially resolve the issue of blowing leaves. However, windblown leaves are a natural seasonal occurrence and leaves that blow on to your property are a matter for you to deal with.

The best outcome may be achieved if you can persuade the local authority to co-operate with you so that the tree can be cut back or pruned in such a way that it retains a reasonable shape and continues to contribute to the public amenity, while also avoiding unreasonable nuisance to you.

Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, a chartered civil engineer, and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,

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