NUISANCE: 70ft tree designated “antisocial hedge”
When is a tree not a tree? When it’s a “hedge” that’s deemed to be a nuisance under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act.
At least, that is according to Bristol City Council which has sparked a row after issuing a notice to chop down a pair of 70ft evergreens on the grounds that they are legally defined as a hedge under the same laws covering Asbos.
Residents in Horfield have criticised the decision and labelled the authority “ridiculous”.
They say the trees-cum-hedge are popular with children who play in them and that they are teeming with birds, squirrels and other wildlife.
A tree-felling notice stapled to them says: “Trees causing a nuisance as defined by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act – High Hedges section 8.”
The council says it is just following national legislation which “designates this type of tree as a hedge”.
It says it is taking the action to remove the trees, which overlook back gardens of properties in Rodbourne Road, following a complaint.
But neighbour Chris Coldbreath, who lives opposite the is-it-a-tree-or-a-hedge in Druetts Close, says the decision is a “travesty”.
The 64-year-old grandad said: “It is ridiculous that the council can designate these two massive trees as an antisocial hedge.
“I’ve read the definition in the act and it is so broad that yes, they can do this.
“But let’s be realistic, the intention of the act is to stop the spread of 10ft hedges along borders.
“It wasn’t intended to chop down 70ft trees that have been in an open area for years, trees full of wildlife.
“The council seems to have chosen to use the broadness of the definition to designate the trees as an antisocial hedge to allow it to cut them down.”
He said he believed the local authority was flouting its own policy on felling trees which said it did “not remove or prune a council-owned tree to improve natural light”.
The policy says that “in law there is no general right to light” and that “if natural light is being blocked by the growth of a hedge then action may be taken to reduce the problem under the High Hedges [section] of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act”.
Mr Coldbreath said: “The reality is they may block a little light to a few homes but the policy is clear – no felling.
“I just cannot understand why they would want to do this when it is against their own policy.
“The whole thing is a travesty.”
Bristol Tree Forum says the Anti-Social Behaviour Act has a very unusual definition of a high hedge which is different to other accepted definitions in that it includes a “line of two or more evergreens”.
Forum secretary Vassili Papastavrou said: “In general, deciduous trees – which lose their leaves in winter – are a better choice in an urban situation close to existing buildings.
“They provide shade and cooling in summer when it is most needed and don’t block the light in winter.
“However, trees like this can still be an asset in the right circumstances.”
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “The action being taken is not a matter of council policy but is to ensure compliance with national legislation, which designates this type of tree as a hedge.
“We are responding to a complaint about the hedge, in line with the legislation, and have reviewed the options available to us.
“Reducing these trees to the necessary size would leave them unlikely to survive and removing and replanting the tree has been agreed as the best option.
“The local councillors have been kept informed of these developments and we have received a number of comments from local residents supporting this approach.
“We’re also investigating and offering further tree-planting spots to bring us closer to our aim of doubling the city’s tree canopy by 2046.’’
The council confirmed that “removing and replanting” meant chopping down the pair of trees and planting replacements of a type and a location to be decided.
Words: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter
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