A Guide for Residential Tree Owners in the London Borough of Ealing


Ealing's urban tree stocked has been estimated to be more than a quarter of a million trees with about 160,000 of those trees thought to be on private land, largely in residential areas and owned by homeowners or businesses.

All Ealing tree owners have a duty of care towards other people or their property to ensure that the trees they own remain safe. For example, if a branch falls on the head of a passer-by and injures them, the tree owner, in a court of law could be considered negligent, thus leading to severe consequences. This duty of care extends to visitors to your property or business, including trespassers.

It is, therefore, crucial that all tree owners inspection their trees, at least, a once a year, looking for signs of damaged, weakened branches, ill health, etc. In the last few years, many trees have been completed uprooted due to the sudden and gale force winds we have all started to experience, making checking trees more essential than ever.

If you see anything that concerns you, then a local tree surgeon will happily come and inspect your trees and advise you of any necessary steps that need to be taken.

Depending on the type, height and position of your tree or trees it may be prudent to employ the services of a local tree surgeon once a year to give your trees an annual health check for you and by choosing a registered, fully qualified and insured tree surgeon with a checkable address. This will typically ensure that they would not recommend work to be carried out unless it was really necessary, after all, they have their reputation to maintain.

Pests & Diseases Affecting Ealing's Trees

Many of the UK's trees are now under threat from new pests and diseases which often arrive here on plants, timber or other goods that have been imported from outside the United Kingdom.

Our changing, warmer climate seems to suit these new arrivals and most do not have any natural predators here either to help reduce their numbers.

Pests and diseases that are of most concern and are currently affecting trees in Ealing are:

Oak Processionary Moth (OPM)

The Oak Processionary moth was first identified in Richmond back in 2006 and although every effort has been made to eradicate it, unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful and now each council affected is concentrating on containing its spread.

It is the caterpillar of the Oak Processionary moth that does all the damage to oak trees, causing devastating defoliation as it feeds on the leaves, which then causes the tree to become weakened and vulnerable to disease and even death. The caterpillar is also highly poisonous and potentially toxic to humans and pets. You are most likely to see the caterpillar from early spring to early summer as it starts to move about in a nose to tail procession and they are easily recognised by the noticeable long white hairs on their backs which contain the toxic poison.

If you should see either the caterpillar or their nests in your tree do not attempt to remove the nests or touch the caterpillars yourself as they need to be removed and destroyed by a qualified professional. Remember to keep children, visitors and pets well away from the area and contact a local tree surgeon, as many now offer an oak processionary moth nest removal service.

Although generally only found on oak trees, when large populations entirely defoliate oak trees in their local area they will begin feeding on other trees and they have now been spotted on birch, beech, hazel, hornbeam and sweet chestnut trees. Should you have any of these trees in your garden then do keep an eye out for them, particularly from early spring to early summer and again, do not attempt to remove them yourself but contact your local tree surgeon.

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner

The horse chestnut leaf miner was first seen at Wimbledon in 2002 and it is the caterpillar of the horse chestnut leaf miner that actually causes the damage as it mines within the trees leaves. When their numbers are high, this mining quickly destroys most of the leaf tissue with this activity happening on a yearly basis. You can easily tell when they have been at work as the leaves to the horse chestnut tree will become discoloured and fall earlier than they would normally.

Although the health of those horse chestnut trees which come under attack from the horse chestnut leaf miner do not seem to be affected unduly, it is not known what the long-term, year on year attacks may cause.

If your horse chestnut tree is attacked each year and to help reduce future damage, remove all fallen leaves throughout the autumn and winter and then compost them thoroughly. If you do not have a compost, then collect the leaves up into smaller piles and then cover with a good layer of soil or other plant material as this will prevent the adult from emerging in the spring.

Bleeding Cankers to Horse Chestnut Trees

This disease was first reported in Britain in the 1970s and is rapidly increasing with around half of all horse chestnut trees found in Britain showing some form of symptoms. Ealing has already lost several horse chestnut trees to this disease.

Horse chestnut trees of any age can be affected and may even die. The cankers, along with bark cracks may be seen to the stem of the tree, with bleeding on the trunk and branches. Mainly affecting horse chestnut trees, other tree species can also be affected by bleeding canker.

Future Threats to Ealing's Trees

The following have all been noted as possible future threats to trees in the London Borough of Ealing. Luckily, except elm yellow phytoplasma where there have been just a couple of isolated incidents, all the pests below do not seem to have made it here from Europe yet.

  • Asian longhorn beetle
  • Citrus longhorn beetle
  • Eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle
  • Elm yellow phytoplasma
  • Emerald ash borer
  • Pinewood nematode
  • Pine Processionary moth

Trees with Preservation Orders on them in Ealing

Many trees in the London Borough of Ealing have Preservation Orders on them and this means that they cannot be cut down or have any other works carried out to them (this also includes willful destruction or damage) without first obtaining permission from Ealing councils tree department.

Most people know if they have a tree with a preservation order on it but if you are unsure and are planning on carrying out work yourself, then do check with the council first before you proceed, completing the necessary planning application if it is required before starting any works.

Alternatively, if you are not sure but are employing the services of a tree surgeon they will find out for you and if needs be they will complete the planning application for you too. Tree surgeons are well versed in the sort of work that can be carried out to protected trees and by how much a tree can be reduced. Therefore, they're completing the application form for you will generally result in a more favourable outcome.

People carrying out permitted development to their property where there are trees with preservation orders on them may also need permission before starting the development if the work may cause those protected trees to have their roots or branches severed.

Once an application form has been submitted a decision is typically made within eight weeks.

Carrying out works to protected trees without permission or allowing someone else to do the job for you can result in fines of up to £2,500 while deliberately destroying or damaging a protected tree which leads to its destruction could make you liable to an unlimited fine.

A few exemptions where formal authorisation may not be necessary would be where a tree is either dangerous or dead.

The burden of proof, however, falls to the landowner and Ealing Council recommend providing them with evidence by way of tree reports and photographs for example, as soon as possible. Failing to adequately justify the exemption would be considered by the council as being in breach of their regulations and may lead to prosecution.

Trees in Ealing's Conservation Areas

Some properties and therefore the trees found on them are in Ealing's designated conservation areas.

Not everyone realises they fall into a conservation area so if you are undertaking the work yourself do check that you are able to do so without needing permission before you start.

As a guide, any tree that is growing in a conservation area when its trunk, when measured at 1.5m above the ground, is more than 75mm in diameter, then permission to carry out works will be required from Ealing council.

It is the tree owner’s legal duty to inform Ealing Council six weeks before carrying out any works to trees when those trees are protected by conservation area legislation. Carrying out works without seeking and waiting to receive permission could result in your prosecution leading to an unlimited fine.

For those who don't know but are employing the services of a tree surgeon, then they will find out for you and fill in the necessary application form as well. They know how to word the forms correctly and this should help get the application passed.

Once the application has been received it generally takes about six weeks to either receive consent to carry out the works, be served with a tree preservation order which will prevent the work being carried out or be asked to discuss and come to an alternative agreement to the type of work that should be conducted.

You will receive a receipt to acknowledge your application which will also inform you of when your notice period ends, after which, if you do not hear further from Ealing's planning department, then you may proceed with your intended works as soon as the notice period ends. Should you not receive your acknowledgement then you will need to contact the planning department.

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