When Trees Affect Property Values

by Mike Hardwick
20th August 2018

This month on the website we’ve been discussing trees, planning permission and TPOs. The issue of what to do with trees when starting a self build or extensive renovation is a frequently asked question to the experts at the Build It Live shows.

There’s clearly a lot of misunderstanding as to what’s allowed when it comes to lopping or felling, so hopefully my article will throw some light on this.

I’ve come across some really frustrating tree cases in my time. The worst was probably a project in Berkshire, where the self builder wished to replace his home with a new dwelling.

However, there was a mature willow tree in the middle of his front lawn – what had probably started off as a nice ornamental feature had now grown to be a 12m high monster with a root system causing structural damage to the driveway and garage.

Trouble arose when a neighbour, having found out about the plans to fell it, successfully applied to the local authority for a tree preservation order (TPO). It took two years and an appeal to the Secretary of State to finally get permission to take it down; despite the fact it was causing so many problems for the owner of the land where the tree stood.

The best place to see the battle of the trees in action is surely on the south coast, where sea view property prices are considerably higher than the rest. The town of Sandbanks in Dorset is probably one of the most expensive areas outside London. It’s a delightful spot overlooking Poole Harbour, covered with mature conifer and redwood trees.

However, homeowners in the area have tried to find ingenious ways to remove greenery obstructing the sea view for years. It’s not just about being able to overlook the coast, but about adding thousands of pounds to the value of their houses, too.

A few years ago, for instance, a local went off on holiday abroad and upon his return found that his neighbour’s ancient tree had been felled – an act that miraculously freed up that elusive sea view.

It soon transpired that he had paid someone to sneak in and do the deed, naively thinking he wouldn’t get blamed as he was out of the country. Wrong! It was pretty obvious which house benefited from the felling, so he was successfully prosecuted.

Not only was he fined, he was also obliged to pay for the increase in value to his property that the act had generated, which was a substantial sum.

Reports of tree vandalism in the area abound to this day, from subtle poisoning with rock salt or cleaning fluid through to the blatant use of chainsaws in the middle of the night.

Some locals don’t appear to be overly concerned, though. Earlier this year, one owner on the shore of the peninsula reportedly declared “all my dreams have come true!” after Storm Eleanor blew over a conifer interrupting the sea view of four luxury homes.

This one act of God supposedly increased the value of each home by £250,000. I’m not condoning this sort of behaviour in any way, but it’s easy to see why it continues to happen.

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