ASK ROSS: It might be desirable to live in leafy, green surroundings, but it can raise issues for homeowners. This month, Ross explains the effects of legislation designed to protect the natural environment…
Our eminent residential property expert, Ross Ward, answers your questions about moving home. If you have a query about buying or selling, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The property I am buying is in a conservation area. What does this mean?
A local authority can designate a neighbourhood as being of special interest and call it a conservation area.
If a property is within such a place, it means the council will give special attention to any planning applications, to make sure they preserve or enhance the character of the area.
It is always prudent, therefore, when buying land on which you intend to build a house or extend an existing property, to check with the planning department to make sure your proposals are likely to meet with its approval.
The branches of my neighbour’s tree overhang my property. Can I do anything about them?
One way to tackle the problem, which amounts to a legal nuisance, is for you to take the matter to court and ask for damages or to have the branches removed. However, this would be time consuming and expensive for what could be considered a trivial issue.
The first step is normally to ask your neighbour to prune his tree and if he refuses you are then allowed, in law, to cut off the branches. You should return them to your neighbour as they – and any fruit attached – still belong to him.
It is probably advisable to write to your neighbour first, setting out your complaint, giving a time limit by which the tree should be pruned and stating that if this date is not met, you will prune the branches yourself.
If the tree branches do not overhang your boundary but make your home and garden dark, there is no remedy, as there is no legal presumption of a right to light to your property.
My solicitor has told me the search conducted on the property I am buying refers to a tree preservation order. Can you explain what this means?
A tree preservation order is put in place by the council to make it illegal to prune, remove or lop a particular tree.
The local authority always gives notice to the owner of a property if a tree preservation order is made and it is binding on all subsequent titleholders of the land.
Tree preservation orders are revealed in searches, but if there is any doubt about the specific tree to which they refer, you can contact the local authority’s planning department and it will clarify the matter for you. There are strict penalties for pruning or removing a tree covered by a preservation order without consent.