I Don’t Be-leaf It! 6 Things You Thought You Knew About Trees and Arboriculture - Part 3

Digger Working on Tree

Image of Robert Crussell

Written by
Robert Crussell

June 2017

In the third and final part of our series, we discuss two more misconceptions. Number 5 in our series is "Hollow Trees Are Dangerous" and number 6 is  "Everyone has a Right to Light”

5. Hollow Trees Are Dangerous

This was another long-held belief, and a lot of trees were unnecessarily removed as a result! Then came along a scientist called Clause Mattheck who rewrote the book on Arboriculture. He conducted intensive field studies on tree that had failed due to hollowing and found that trees didn’t start to fail until the degree of hollowness was above 66%. In other words, as long as one third of the stem remains and as long as the remaining wood is healthy, the risks of failure are not greatly increased.

However, there are other factors which will impact the decision (such as what is causing the hollowing, and the rate of hollowing) so if you have any doubt – consult a professional!

6. Everyone has a “Right to Light”

When talking with clients, I frequently hear the term “Right to Light”. Often in the context of – “My neighbour’s tree is too tall, and it is infringing my right to light”. Unfortunately, according the UK’s legislature, no one has an inherent right to light!

Having said that, there are still a few legal methods that will help keep your lighting situation under control, but the best course of action will always be to talk to your neighbours and negotiate a course of action that works everyone, as the methods I’m about to describe are time-consuming, costly, and often ineffectual.

High Hedges Act 2005: In short, if your neighbour has a hedge that is over 2m tall which is affecting your enjoyment of your garden, you are expected to attempt to resolve the matter with your neighbour. If this fails, you may make a complain to the Department of Local Government & the Environment (DLGE), along with a £400+ processing fee. Following this, the DLGE will conduct an investigation (you may have to wait a few months) which may or may not land in your favour.

Ancient Lights law under the Prescription Act 1832: The first challenge here is that you must be able to prove that a given window in your property has had uninterrupted light for 20 years. I will tell you now that this is virtually impossible. If you do manage this, you must then show that the current levels of light are “insufficient according to the ordinary notions of mankind”. What does the court deem as sufficient? If you can read a piece of paper on the table in front of you at midday, you have sufficient light.

To summarise, you don’t have a right to light so be nice to your neighbours!

Call for comments: I hope you have found this entry useful and informative. Any question/comments will be gladly received. Please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us on 01865 662187, 07870916668 or use the the contact form on our site http://www.arbuk.co.uk/contact.html.