Monday, 30 May 2011

Love thy neighbour?

As many of you may well be aware, we have an unusually large garden for one so close to a town centre. It also runs parallel to a road, with all the gardens backing onto ours, so consequently we have 14 neighbours. Most of them are great - Tony next door is a joy, but the odd ones can be erm.... shall we say, a tad trying at times! There's 'Mr.Grumpy' at the bottom of the drive, 'Mrs. They've-Built-Another-Bloody-Eyesore' by the tea house and 'Mrs. Whinging-Bag' ("your trees have dropped their pine needles in my pond again") up at the top! But the ones we never expected any hassle from were 'that nice couple with the young children....I think he's a policeman' about halfway up the garden.

When I got a phone call from the local Council 'Tree Man' saying he needed to discuss an issue about our trees with me, I assumed Mr.Grumpy had been on at him again to try to get the Tree Protection Orders (TPO) rescinded on the two trees on our boundary by his house, but no!

"What was it then?" I hear you ask - go on then, ask!
Turns out that he'd had an email from someone - he wasn't allowed to tell me who (but it wasn't exactly difficult to work it out!), asking if the oak tree in our back garden had a Tree Protection Order on it because if it hadn't then the email suggested that they wanted to appeal to have it chopped down. The reasons for them wanting this were unclear at this point as the tree is neither dangerous nor dead, so.......

Once I'd calmed down a bit and started breathing again, the very nice Tree Man offered to pop round, have a look at the tree and discuss the options with me. I snatched his hand off and he was there within 10 minutes - who says the Council can't move swiftly when they need to? ..... and it was a Friday afternoon!!!

Here's my beautiful oak tree, as seen from Last-Born's bedroom window. It's slightly lopsided because 'that nice couple...etc' had asked permission from us to 'trim back' an overhanging branch, but then had lopped it so badly that we'd had to get our Tree Surgeon to sort it out - by taking the whole branch right back to the bole :(

The Tree Man estimated that the oak is around 90-100 years old and, although they usually only put TPO's on trees in front gardens where they enhance the neighbourhood, he suggested putting a TPO on the oak tree to protect it. I jumped at the chance and by Tuesday of the following week, the paperwork had arrived with a 6 month temporary TPO for the oak tree.

Now we Brits just LOVE paperwork, but the Council excelled themselves this time! There were 14 (yes, 14) pages in the main document and 3 pages in the subsiduary document! The bits I liked best were:

TOWN AND COUNRTY PLANNING (TREES) REGULATIONS 1999, As amended by the Town and Country Planning (Trees) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2008. TREE PRESERVATION ORDER

Prohibited acts in relation to trees
4. Without prejudice to subsections (6) and (7) of section 198 (power to make tree preservation orders) or subsection (1) of section 200 (tree preservation orders: Forestry Comminssioners), and subject to article 5, no person shall -

a) cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy; or
b) cause or permit the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilfull damage or wilfull destruction of,

any tree specified in Schedule 1 to this Order or compromised in a group of trees or in a woodland so specified, except with the consent of the authority and, where such consent is given subject to conditions, in accordance with those conditions.

I kid you not - this a word for word transcription. The other 13 pages list the exemptions, specifications, appeals system etc, etc, etc.

The photo below shows our garden (with the wobbly black outline - which kind of mirrors the wobbly boundary fencing!). It's the 1994 map showing the 13 trees in the front garden which were given TPO's at that time. The little circle marked T1 in the back garden is the oak where 'that nice couple..etc' might live?!

The 3 page Formal Notice states:

The Council have made the Order because:
1. It comprises one specimen tree, which significantly enhances the character and appearance of the locality. This tree is in a promininet position and can be seen from surrounding residential properties and from --------- Lane and ------- Road and as such it is considered an amenity to be enjoyed by the general public.

2. The tree is located in the rear garden of 41 --------- Lane and although not in full view from the public highway it is a tree of good shape and form and which contributes to the general amenity of the area.

3. The tree can then be retained as an amenity and effective control can be maintained over any future intentions for pruning or felling which may be proposed.

RESULT!! I just love TPO's!

It's a 10 minute job to fill in the form for permission to do any work on the protected trees, about a week or so for the written permission to come back from the local Counciland about 3 months before our Tree Surgeon gets round to coming to do it, but that's another matter!! The work is then checked by the Council Tree Man as the Tree Surgeon is working and, as they say round here, job's a good 'un!

Here's another photo of our lovely oak towering above the Copper Beech (which is particularly gorgeous this year). I was standing on the Land Rover bonnet in front of the garage when I took this one - as you do!

Oooops, forgot to tell you why they wanted the oak tree chopped down ........ apparently they don't like clearing up the leaves!!!

But it turns out that their selfish laziness has got them exactly what they didn't want and has ensured that the tree will remain standing long after they've gone.

Be careful what you wish for!

The neighbour popped out to talk to me just now as I wandered up the garden. He wanted to apologise ...turns out it was "all a big mistake and a misunderstanding". He says he'd only asked the Council about TPO's because he'd wanted advice on trimming back branches overhanging his garden (and we all know what happened last time he did that!) and apparently the Council had ''misinterpreted'' it as him wanting the tree chopped down!
He was suitably apologetic and didn't want me to think he'd gone behind our backs or anything.....! Anyway, the Tree Man has been to see him and explained the procedures for any work on a tree with a TPO on it. He feels happy with that and he's not going to appeal against the TPO as he doesn't and, according to him, never did want the tree felling.
So there you go! :)


Liz said...

Hi Liz,

I've love to reply to this with a whole line of expletives at the idiocy of people.
I'm always speechless when people cut down trees, my dad has cut down so many at their house including a greengage that it pains and saddens me to see their garden, and I know it deeply upsets mum too, so we're going to get some more.

I told himm that if he's to chop them down because they're 'too near the house' or whatever rubbish excuses he's used then to at least blimmin' replace them with something else!
He's even ripped Ivy off a stone wall, so now it's a total eyesore as well as chopping so many trees/shrubs down that you can see everything the people behind them are doing! It's awful, dunno about you but when I'm in my garden I like to think I'm in my own little world, not with everyone watching me!

Arghhhhhhhhh. Cannot believe someone would request to have an Oak of all things cut down. Honestly.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Funnily enough I used those very words that you end with on another blog earlier today. I can never understand anyone disliking any aspect of a tree - they are almost like humans and the certainly live longer, so have more right to be here.

becky3086 said...

Wow, what a lot of mess to go through just to keep a tree. Here in the US if the tree is on your property no one can have it cut down but you. I happen to live in the woods anyway and we have no shortage of trees here. I sure would hate to have to go through a bunch of paperwork to protect each one, lol.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

So they wanted the tree cut down? Oh my, and here in White Rock we thought we had problems.

Can't believe people.

Good for you.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

RobD said...

Oh dear, I just don't know what to write... I hate the way people get so worked up about trees for no good reason, but glad you got the TPO, but why is it only for 6 months? Will it get extended or can the 'neighbours who cannot be named' appeal?

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Liz - I think I would be despairing of my dad too if he did that! I know what you mean about being in your own world in your garden - the only garden we can see into is 'that nice couple' because I dug up a huge laurel that was too dominent and the new stuff hasn't grown enough to fill the space yet, but it will have by next year!

Hi Weaver. My thoughts exactly! That tree was here long before they were and if they didn't want a tree at the end of their garden they should have moved into a new estate with no trees and no soul!!! Actually, their garden is souless anyway - very bland!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Becky. Short of them climbing over the fence and cutting it down, they can't physically do anything - but they can complain to the local Council, claim it's unsafe, etc.etc, which the Council would have to investigate - and would most probably refute anyway but the TPO prevents that.

The vast majority of trees DON'T have TPO's on them and people can do what they want with them. We have so many TPO's on our trees at the front because we are on top of a hill, with the trees visible for miles and an important part of the skyline - indeed, if you look at the map, you'll see that our 2 neighbours also have several protected trees each for the same reason.

I didn't have to do any paperwork to get the TPO - the Council do all that - it's just ploughing through it all reading it that takes time ...but once you've read one TPO document, you've pretty much read them all!!!
I only need to fill one form in to get permission to do any work on the protected trees, so it's not a problem - and I'd rather have protected trees than no trees! :)

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Jen. It's such a lovely tree too! Andy and I often sit leaning on it having a beer at the end of a day's gardening....and I've just finished clearing the old border under it so that I can grass all round it to make it stand out even more - they'll love that!!!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Rob. The TPO is only for 6 months in case there are any appeals - but the Tree Man felt fairly certain that it'd be made permanent at the end of the 6 months anyway as our Council have got a very good record in looking after our trees - so even if they did appeal, I doubt if it'd make any difference! :)

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Coz they can't be (((arsed))) to clear up the leaves!

I hope the TPO becomes permanent and the tree leafs out a treat and sheds millions of acorns.


Lori E said...

As Charlie Sheen would say...not that anyone cares what he would say...WINNING!!!!!!
I live next to a green belt area and would never ask for any trees to be cut down unless they were dangerous. They have grown so big most of my garden is shaded now but too bad for me. I should have thought of that before I moved here 30 years ago.

Nutty Gnome said...

Dead right Rob!
They are so obviously NOT gardeners - I've never seen such a bland, boring garden. I know they have 2 young children, 1 of whom is a football mad 6 year old, but even with children gardens can be interesting, fun places to be!
They have grass,a football net, a trampoline, a defunct shed and our leaves and our acorns!!! :)

Hi LoriE - yep, I'm happy with the result and I'm sure the TPO will be made permanent! It's not as if the tree was exactly small when they moved in either! I work round the shady areas in my garden (of which there are many!)and make them interesting rather than just chopping the trees down. Any we have chopped down - mainly conifers, have been replaced by fruit trees :)

RobD said...

Maybe he reads te blog ;>)

joey said...

Yippee! A job well done, dear Liz. Long live the stunning tree! Believe me, I so identified with your journey. We have neighbors to the south where we share an easement. Our home is over 70 years old and built on a hill with old trees and then again plantings we put in years ago (have been here almost 40 years). Hang over major pruning is always an issue with them (previous owners have always been friends and stellar) ... I fear for the life of my old maple and apple tree!

Nutty Gnome said...

Maybe he does Rob, maybe he does!

Nutty Gnome said...

Oh Joey, neighbours eh?! The trees were here long before us and support so many birds, animals and insects, so I just can't understand why people want to get rid of them!
Some people really out to live in a concrete desert!

Anonymous said...

I am really confused. Without the TPO, your neighbors could have cut down a tree on your property? Here in the US, trees are not well protected. On the other hand, neighbors really don't do anything to other people's trees.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Carolyn.Sorry, I didn't make that bit very clear! You're allowed to chop back any overhanging branches/pick overhanging fruit up to your boundary fence, but you can't chop down anything that's in someone else's garden.
What you can do is petition the local Council to try to get them to make the tree owner chop a tree down - if it's dangerous/dead etc.
The neighbour appeared to have tried that route, but after he talked with the Tree Man, he realised that he was onto a looser so has backed down!

mangocheeks said...

Fantastic and insightful post into peoples behaviour.

Your right, be careful what you wish for.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Mangocheeks and welcome to my blog - nice to meet you. Thank you for your kind comments :)
I'll be over to your blog shortly!

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

What a beautiful tree, and how extraordinarily wonderful to have an oak tree in your garden. Thank goodness it is now protected for future generations. And that - probably - "that nice couple" are nice and not would-be tree-murderers.
PS I love your copper beech too, you are the kind of neighbour I dream about - our next door neighbour on one side has pretty much covered his entire garden with paving, a huge "conservatory" and extra shed-like structures...

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Janet - what fun it would be if we were neighbours!! Your neighbour sounds like a nightmare with that lot in his garden :(
Our 'nice couple' have actually always been quite nice in what little dealings we've had with them - which is why this came as a suprise. still, at least it's sorted now!

Sue@Green Lane Allotments said...

There lovely trees and your neighbour can always make leaf mould with the leaves in his garden,

We have a witch living next door. Our front garden is open plan and being in a corner the front bit has always been sort of shared. Then one day whilst we were at work she decided to cut diagonally through the shrubs that had been planted for years in our half and erect an ugly looking fence. She said her deeds said that it was her land! Ours didn't! We could have gone through legally ranglings but in the end decided not to.

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Liz,
Always love a happy ending! :-)

None of my neighbors can complain about raking leaves, because we EACH have a TON of them in the fall, due to those towering Oak trees! And don't we LOVE our trees?

Happy Day!

Anonymous said...

My husband would have a coronary with 14 neighbors. He cannot take the three we have. Great you filled out the extensive paperwork to save the tree. What a shame if it could not be done.

Pondside said...

Good for you! It's wonderful that the authorities were able to work so quickly on getting that TPO. We have only two neighbours, but one of them was so horrid over our rooster (we live in the country) that we had to do away with him (rooster, not neighbour!)
I'm sorry to hear that you had a virus and I hope you're up and about and enjoying some good weather in your garden.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

A huge branch (like 15 ft long and 3-inch caliper) fell off my neighbor's cottonwood into my garden the other day. They are completely useless for doing any kind of physical labor, and since I'm strong and stubborn, and the branch was on my flower bed that I didn't want neophytes trampling on, I moved it myself. I live near a natural area so just had to drag it into the existing trees. When it dries up, I can break it down more. I swear someone should create a neighborhood only for gardeners. All my gardening friends are equally frustrated with neighbors! :)

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Sue - given how bland our neighbour's garden is, I really don't think he'd know (or be interested in knowing) how to make/use leaf mould!
Your witchy neighbour sounds like a nightmare!

Hi Shady - yes, I do indeed love a happy ending and this was the best possible outcome as far as I'm concerned! I've finally managed to finished clearing the decrepit old ramshakled border around the tree and seeded it with grass seed this weekend. We'll be able to walk/sit all round the tree now ....and our neighbours will have a much better view of it too! :P

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Gardenwalkgardentalk and welcome. We see very little of most of our neighbours because we have high fences or large bushes ensuring our privacy. We can only see into 'the nice couple..'s garden because I dug out the huge laurel that was there and the new stuff hasn't filled out yet!
The tree is TPO'd for 6 months for starters and we're fairly sure it'll be made permanent....but having listened to our neighbour squirming his apologies, I don't think we'll be having any more problems from him now! :)

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Pondside - I was VERY impressed with the speed at which everything was done too - especially considering it was started on a Friday afternoon! :P
LOL - I thought at first that you'd done in your neighbour! I do get really narked by people moving to the counrty and complaining about the noise!!!
Thanks - the virus really knocked me for a six. I rarely take to my bed and I can't remember when I last lost my voice for 3 days ...although it appears that I have been wrongly blaming my daughters for all the noise in our house all these years!
I'm still croaky, but my energy levels are slowly building up again - I'm up to about 75% of normal now, but being careful! Boring!

Nutty Gnome said...

Ah Monica - a woman after my own heart, a kindered spirit, a soil sister! I had to laugh at your comment because it's exactly what I would have done too!!!

There are certain people who should go and live on estates in identical box houses with astroturf lawns and plastic flowers for their gardens and leave us gardeners to get on with looking after the real world!:D

Thomas said...

Seriously? That's like having your dog put down because it poops. Are people insane???!!! Especially when something is about 3-4 times as old as they are? It seem reasonable to request that a tree be trimmed up but this is just crazy-talk.

Question - who would have born the expense of having the tree cut down?

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Thomas ...I know - mad! They are not gardeners, but even so! They messed up trimming back a branch last time, so we'll remain in charge of any trimming in future (and would do so even with the TPO after that debacle!).
I have no idea who would have born the cost of chopping the tree down - and I suspect we wouldn't have found out because we would have fought tooth and nail to prevent it!
I have done a bit of research and they wouldn't have been able to get us to chop it down because:
1. It's on our land
2. It's not dead, diseased or dangerous
3. It does not block light into their house
and they seem to be the main criteria. They could have done what they liked if it had been their own tree though!
Good job it's ours!!!

Woody Wilbury said...

All's well that ends!

Casa Mariposa said...

I'm lucky to have great neighbors but always worry that if anyone moves I'll end up with a jerk who hates my trees. It cracked me up that your neighbor came by with a false apology. How ludicrous to be so lazy you can't clean up leaves!!

Nutty Gnome said...

Ey up Woody, sorted!

Hi Casa. I must admit to having to hold back the sniggers and smirks when he came to apologise! :P
The are just so NOT gardeners and have the world's blandest garden (apart from one beautiful Acer which I suspect was there before they were!). One tree's worth of leaves is hardly a big issue ...they should try our garden and drive - there are so many trees there I've never bothered to count them!!!

altadenahiker said...

My hero! It's a beautiful tree and well worth slogging through all that absurdity to save. California is usually found on the wrong side of environmental preservation, but at least all our oaks are protected.

Kathryn said...

Oh, Liz, Wow. He didn't know what (who) he was up against! GOOD FOR YOU!! Oh, and I LOVE TPO's. I think the closest thing we have is little plaques that they put on Historical Register that certain very old trees are not allowed to be cut down. But I wish we had TPO's. How handy. And how very nice of the man to apologize. Hope it was sincere and that's that. One for the lovely tree. :) xoxo

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Altadenahiker - nice to see you again :)
It was all a bit daft ...I suspect a storm in a teacup really, but at least the tree is safe for posterity!
Are all your oaks automatically protected then?

Hi Kathryn. TPO's are great! Some people moan about them, but I've always thought that they serve the very important purpose (even before I had 17 TPO'd trees!)of stopping idiots randomly chopping beautiful old trees down just because they don't happen to like them!
I'm an optimist, so I'm choosing to believe that his apology was genuine! :D xxx

Andrea said...

Congratulations for the one problem down! How lovely it is if in this world we can choose neighbors. I envy the advance countries how they protect wildlife including plants and trees. In countries like ours, the government have more pressing problems on their hands that this problem is not really very well prioritized. Anybody can do anything if the tree is in his own land, and trees in public lands are sometimes sacrificed for so called 'developments', and i think that is pure stupidity. Now that we have extreme flooding, people learn but they forget so quickly. GRRRR!

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Liz, Missing your posts. I suppose you are working on your tea house? Or your potting shed? Or mending fences between you and neighbors??? ;-)

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Andrea. My neighbours aren't bad - they're just not gardeners!I guess your government sees sorting out the economy, health etc as more important than saving trees...and rightly so,but you're right about the stupidity of chopping so many trees down and the effect that has on the envirnoment. I remember seeing your horrendous floods on the BBC news. They were devastating but people didn't seem able to make the link between chopping trees down, soil erosion and flooding. You are right to be angry - and frustrated!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Shady - more posts will be coming soon ....I have a whole sereis of them in my head but lack the time to get them onto the keyboard at the moment! :P

We're preparing for a huge party here next month, so that has kind of focused our minds on actually getting things finished!!!

The tea house, pond and the whole garden have been having some major fettling (finishing-off and general sorting out).

It's all looking really good and hopefully the blog posts will reflect what we've been up to! Hang on in there my friend and all will be revealed! ;D

Diana said...

All I can say is "you go girl"! What possesses a person to want to be rid of something that has taken 90-100 years to grow, a beautiful specimen? Am looking forward to your next post and will wait patiently. ;) It has been difficult posting on this end too... regular garden, vegetable garden, processing the harvest, dh had surgery but on the road to recovery now... but life is good and our priorities are straight. :)
PS: love you header photo of the Laburnum... looks much like ours did this year.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Di. I know - I sigh in despair at people sometimes!

Glad you're perpared to wait for the next post - it's all been a bit hectic here as you know....but the wait will be worth it, I promise!

I'm so pleased that dh is recovering well from his surgery. It does rather make one re-evaluate life's priorities doesn't it?!

Yes, the laburnum was quite superb this year - I think the really hard winter got it worried! :)

Cathy and Steve said...

Congratulations on getting the TPO. I am continually astounded by the brash laziness of some people!

Our neighbors have a weeping willow that is just inside the property line and sheds a great deal of leaves and branches into our swimming pool. We are constantly cleaning up after that tree but don't even give it a thought. It's a gorgeous tree, a part of the landscape around here, and we would feel bereft if it were to be felled!

We planted a tree grove here, and made sure to plant trees in areas that would assure their long term survival. Our city has a tree ordinance and any tree that is at least 8 inches DBH and is within 10 feet of a property line or street requires the tree warden's approval for cutting... kind of like an automatic TPO!

Good for you! Enjoy your tree!

healingmagichands said...

If only it were possible to get TPOs here! Your "nice neighbor" should get a garden and become instructed in the value of mulch and compost and suddenly he would LOVE clearing up the leaves from your oak.

Long may it stand!

BilboWaggins said...

Thank Crunchy for TPOs and sensible council officers. Your neighbour seems to me to be a lying g*t, "misunderstanding" my left-foot! Serves him right though, with a TPO now on the tree (which is quite lovely, by the way) it is now protected from any future idiocy on his part.

Don't envy you 14 immediate neighbours. We only have one, but as a Peeping Tom in training he's not on the top of my Christmas card list.

BTW, on the plan, what's a G1 at the front of your plot?

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Bilbo - I totally agree with you about my neighbour being a lying git, but it was easier to bite my tongue and smile sweetly at him knowing that we've got the upper hand AND the tree is safe!

Fortunately, we've got high fences, laurels etc, so the only neighbour who can see us is the lying git - and that's only because I chopped down the laurel on our border and the new stuff hasn't grown enough to block him out yet! :P Mind you, there was not one single complaint from anyone about our rather raucous party and the music going on 'till 1.30am, so the neighbours aren't all bad!

The G1 in the front garden is a group of 3 Horse Chesnuts. The other trees aren't classed as groups even though they're close together, because they are all different varieties of trees - silver birch, ash, beech, etc.

BilboWaggins said...

Wot ho matey, am just about to start the 'requesting a TPO' process with our local council.

Did yours get made permanent?