Trees in public spaces

Report a fallen branch, dead tree or other tree issues.

When we receive a report, we aim for a specialist tree officer to inspect the tree within 5 working days. For emergency or priority cases, this will be sooner. Once inspected, we aim to carry out works on the tree within 12 weeks. This will be sooner for emergency or priority cases.

Our core working hours for dealing with street cleansing and parks issues are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Outside of this we focus on priority areas and emergencies.

To report an emergency tree issue on the public highway out of hours, please contact Hertfordshire County Council.

We will carry out works to trees for the following reasons:

  • For public safety and to prevent damage to vehicles, property or people.
  • If a tree blocks street lights, road signs or traffic lights.
  • Where pruning will benefit the tree or surrounding environment.

We won't prune or remove trees:

  • To reduce leaf/seed fall, sap, aphid or bird droppings
  • Because they are blocking light.
  • To improve television reception.
  • Because they are swaying in the wind.
  • Affecting BT lines (please contact BT about this directly).
  • We can refuse requests for other reasons

We try to avoid pruning trees during bird nesting season, late March to late August, as it's an offence to harm or disturb nesting birds.

Regular tree maintenance

Our contractor Veolia inspects trees on a three-year cycle to identify dead, dying and diseased trees within the council's responsibility.

Works required to trees are then scheduled and completed based on the severity of the issue. Some works will be urgent, others essential but not required immediately, and some will be routine maintenance.

Trees in private ownership

Many trees in Watford are privately owned. All tree owners must keep their trees in a safe condition. If a tree causes damage to a person or property, the tree owner may be liable.

Neighbours and landowners are legally allowed to cut back branches overhanging their boundary, unless the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

We recommend that work is carried out by a qualified tree specialist.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) and trees in Conservation Areas

Some trees in the borough are protected by a TPO or are protected by being in a Conservation Area. Bushes and shrubs are not covered.

A TPO or Conservation Area makes it an offence to cut down, lop, prune, top, uproot, deliberately damage or destroy a tree without written consent from us. As the Local Planning Authority, we have a duty to investigate and enforce breaches to TPOs or Conservation Areas and issue new ones.

For further advice about TPOs or Conservation Areas, please visit the GOV.UK website. To apply for works within A Conservation Area or a TPO, please use the Planning Portal. Alternatively, you can also search our Planning Portal for applications, where you can then comment on these.

Trees on new developments

Watford Borough Council has a duty to:

  • Ensure adequate provision is made for the preservation and planting of trees when granting planning permission for any development
  • Issue TPOs where necessary when considering planning applications to conserve and enhance biodiversity.

Overview of trees in Watford

We are responsible for over 11,000 trees on highway verges and streets, in parks and other public spaces across the borough. The council also manages thousands of trees across 506 hectares of woodland.

Tree planting

We are committed to planting new trees at suitable new sites across the town. Where a tree is lost, it will be replaced, unless there are good reasons not to do so. New trees are generally planted between January and March.

Trees benefit an area by:

  • Improving air quality by absorbing pollutants and trapping dust and other particles
  • Removing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen
  • Reducing the "urban heat island effect" of localised extremes of temperature by absorbing radiation
  • Reducing flood risk
  • Reducing noise pollution by screening traffic of busy roads
  • Creating valuable wildlife habitats and green corridors for animal migration routes
  • Providing more attractive environments to live, work and visit
  • Improving how an area looks and which can increase property values