Residents can’t see the wood for the trees

Lynda Read underneath the towering trees in her Primrose Street garden.
Lynda Read underneath the towering trees in her Primrose Street garden.
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Residents of three Lancaster roads say their lives are being blighted by 60ft trees which are dangerously close to their homes.

The trees, which affect houses in Primrose Street, Aberdeen Road and Quarry Mount Mews, had Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) put on them about 25 years ago.

But the trees, situated around Scotch Quarry, are now towering over homes, leaving residents concerned about potential damage.

Some have already had to pay to repair damaged garden sheds and walls after branches have fallen.

And another was told roots from the trees had grown under her house and damaged the foundations.

However, because Lancaster City Council does not own the land, they are not responsible for the upkeep of the trees, despite issuing the TPOs.

Yet if any of the homeowners try to trim back the trees to make them safer, they can be fine up to £20,000 by the council.

Lynda Read, who has lived in Primrose Street for 30 years, said residents were “banging their heads against a brick wall” trying to find someone who could help them.

“We are all at the point of not knowing where to turn,” she said.

“We have to ask permission of the owner to cut them but we can’t find the owner and no one seems to care.

“The trees are hanging up to 30ft over our properties, which only have a 40ft rear area.

“Our homes are being damaged due to roots and falling branches, and our insurance won’t cover that.

“I have already had to pay £1,500 for a new garden wall and £180 for a roof on our outhouse.”

“Why should we pay to maintain what’s not ours?”

Lynne Jones, who lives in Aberdeen Road, said: “Nobody will take ownership for these trees.

“I don’t know what the answer is because the council just doesn’t want to know.

“No one is saying they want the trees cut down, but they need managing.”

Neighbour Joe Riley said he fears the trees behind his Aberdeen Road home could come down in a storm.

“I am glad our children have a bedroom at the front because one of the trees could easily come through the house,” he said.

“I don’t even like them playing in the back yard really because some of the trees just don’t look safe.”

Andrew Dobson, chief officer (regeneration and planning), said: “Circumstances such as this are unfortunately not uncommon and we recognise that it can be frustrating trying to find a solution, but this is essentially a private matter between the property owners.

“Whilst the city council has responsibility for the protection of trees subject to conservation area constraints and Tree Preservation Orders, it does not have responsibility for trees and land which it does not own.

“As the council does not own the land and trees in question it cannot legally carry out any works itself, or provide permission, without certain legal procedures being followed.

“We would be happy to receive a written application for works to the trees and on receipt will determine it in line with our usual procedures. However, the applicant would also have to seek consent from the land owner, or seek independent legal advice where the ownership remains “unknown”.

“As the trees are subject to Tree Preservation Orders, undertaking works, except removal of deadwood, is a criminal offence and the council is duty bound to point this out to residents so they can avoid falling foul of the law.”

A council spokesman added that it has a duty to make and serve TPOs where it considers it appropriate to protect trees and the landscape in the interest of public amenity.

The owner of the land on which a tree is situated is responsible for its maintenance, its condition and for any damage it causes.

If a solicitor is not willing to take on the case a qualified arboriculturist may be able to provide further help and advice on submitting an application for tree works.