Trees and vegetation

Information for landowners

All hedge cutting and tree works on the highway should be done safely and by those qualified to work in accordance with the recommendations in Chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual.

When working on the highway the person responsible for the work, or their contractor, must have Public Liability Insurance cover for working on the highway for a value of £5 million.

Vegetation should be cut back to maintain the minimum required clearances for roads and footways:

  • 5.2m height clearance for vegetation overhanging roads
  • 2.1m height clearance for vegetation overhanging footpaths
  • 2.5m height clearance for vegetation overhanging cycleways.

Working on hedges

Hedges must be maintained to ensure that the highway remains accessible and safe. Appropriate hedge management can also be of great benefit to Devon’s biodiversity. For more information about managing and protecting the hedgerows on your land see Hedgelink.

Older hedgerows are important features of the landscape and their conservation is vital; this may involve specialist maintenance techniques such as hedge laying. For more information and advice contact The Devon Hedge Group.

Working on trees

If you need to carry out work on trees you should talk to your local city or district council before pruning or tree felling as their consent may be needed if the tree has a preservation order or is in a conservation area.

The Forestry Commission can give you advice if you need to fell a large number of trees. You would need to obtain a licence from them if the volume of timber to be felled exceeds five cubic metres. The Arboricultural Association has a directory of qualified tree surgeons who can safely undertake work on trees.

The National Tree Safety Group and The Forestry Commission provide further information about safely managing your trees.

Disturbing wildlife and nesting birds and the law

If tree works are likely to disturb wildlife you may need to apply for a wildlife licence.

We may request that works are carried out on trees covered by Preservation Orders when they present an urgent and serious safety risk. The Department for Communities and Local Government provides guidance to landowners with protected trees. Please contact your local planning authority for information.

The RSBP provides advice on the best time of year to carry out any trimming to avoid the nesting season.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibits damaging the nests of wild birds in use (or under construction) and their eggs. However, there are notable exceptions to this. We only request that landowners work on hedgerows during nesting season when works are necessary to ensure public health and safety.

Work near sites of historical significance

If work may affect a scheduled Ancient Monument contact English Heritage for further advice.