Trees on farms – What are your responsibilities?
Trees on farms provide shelter and support biodiversity, but they can also become hazards if left unchecked. Arthur Denton, Claims Team Leader at Cornish Mutual, looks at how to manage trees on your land.
“The key factor in any tree management situation is liability. As a landowner, you have a responsibility to monitor the trees on your land and make sure that they don’t harm individuals or cause damage.
“If you have knowledge that a tree could cause damage and it does, you could be held liable and responsible for paying any costs that result from this. Damage could include people being injured by falling branches, or vehicles being hit by falling trees – the latter can occur on the farm or on any roads bordering the farm which your trees overhang.
“An important element in this is what is considered ‘reasonable’. For example, on a 400-acre farm with countless trees, it may not be considered reasonable to have the farmer manually inspect every tree on the land every year for signs of decay. Conducting a tree survey every three years on the same amount of land may be reasonable, however. If a tree caused damage between these inspections then it wouldn’t necessarily leave you liable, provided that there was a routine inspection plan in place and you were able to provide a copy of the inspection document.
Tree safety – Be aware of the hazards
"There are a number of dangers to watch out for if you are thinking of managing a tree directly, including power lines which could get damaged by a falling tree. If a tree that needs treating is close to power lines, you must contact the local power company before taking action, as there is a real risk of serious injury or even death if you attempt to cut trees or branches that are close to or touching power lines. The local power company will often provide a service to cut trees close to power lines for free, so it is always worth contacting them.
“Dead or detached branches are another danger to watch out for while inspecting – these can sometimes fall straight down and with little warning if vibrations are caused by cutting actions.
“Conservation areas also factor into any potential tree removals – generally you are required to notify your local council 6 weeks prior to taking any action on a tree with a trunk diameter over 75mm.
"If there is ever any question about cutting down or removing a tree on your farm, make sure that you get a qualified, reputable tree surgeon to look at any problem trees. They can assess the situation and propose a course of action; in some cases, the work might only involve removing problem branches from a tree so that it can continue to support the local ecosystem over the years ahead."