Council considers risk from trees and their branches

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 January 2011




NORTH Somerset Council is set to adopt a risk management plan to reduce the threat that trees and their branches can pose to public health and safety.

The unitary authority has explored the dangers that the greenery poses to passers-by as it feels it has not been carrying out ‘reasonable management’ of the situation and is failing in its duty of care in that area.

At the moment the council responds to hazards as they are discovered, but it feels that trees and their branches can fall to the ground so it needs to change its policy.

The new management plan, if adopted, will allow the council to carry out regular risk assessments on trees and look at how long people spend beneath the foliage, the size of the part of it that could fall and the risk of a branch falling to the ground.

An executive decision set to be signed off by executive member for environment, Councillor Carl Francis-Pester, says: “Trees provide many benefits, including making the landscape more attractive, contributing to wildlife, absorbing pollution, helping us adapt to climate change and even adding value to the price of property.

“Trees and their branches fall to the ground, so it is important that while we maximise their benefits we also take precautions to keep the risk they pose to people and property to a minimum.

“If an accident or injury arises then the question becomes, in liability terms, ‘was the council careful enough in how it managed that tree?’”

Sites would be surveyed according to how busy they are, but the council says absolute safety from a tree falling is not financially viable.

It says an ‘acceptable risk’ is what it is aiming for.

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