The Court of Appeal recently ruled that when a council neglected to reduce the crowns of trees in a park for several years, thus allowing the roots to grow, it was foreseeable that this might result in damage to adjacent properties.
The case involved a woman who owns a property in Kent adjacent to a park. The local council had undertaken work to reduce the crowns of trees in the park in 1998, with a view to limiting the growth of the root systems beneath them. Although it had intended to repeat the exercise in 2004 and 2005, the work was not carried out until 2006.
Even though the trees were situated more than 100 feet from the woman's house, the root systems caused damage to her property. In 2009, she commenced a claim for more than £150,000 in compensation for the damage.
The claim reached the High Court, which concluded that the council (which had faced a similar claim in 1996) should have been aware of the problem and could reasonably have been expected to have undertaken a regular programme of crown reduction to prevent damage to adjoining properties.
The council's appeal against that decision was based on the argument that even if such a programme had been undertaken, it would have been insufficient.
The Court of Appeal rejected that argument, concluding that the council had not taken such steps as were 'reasonably required' to prevent damage being sustained by the woman's property. The failure to undertake crown reduction works between 1998 and 2006 was a breach of its duty to the claimant.