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Farmers Advised to Check the Safety of Their Trees
04/06/07

Farmers and landowners are being advised to check the safety of trees on their land or they could end up facing prosecution. 

parkland

Owners of land where there are trees are normally liable to third parties for any loss or damage caused by falling trees or branches.
Jonathan Thompson from law firm, Smithson Clarke (with offices in Alnwick and Newcastle), specialising in agricultural law matters, says: “In a recent court case, a motorcyclist won substantial damages after suffering serious injuries when he collided with a tree that had fallen from land belonging to Viscount and Viscountess Asquith.  

“The landowners were found liable even though they employed a forestry inspector to inspect the trees.   The inspector had relied on drive by inspections and if he saw an obvious problem with a particular tree, he would carry out a closer inspection and then take action to make the tree safe.  It turned out that the tree that fell, although it looked outwardly healthy, was suffering from fungal decay.  The court decided that an expert would have realised that the tree was suffering from fungal decay and that the landowners had failed in their duty of care to the motorcyclist by not using a specialist.”

Mr Thompson concludes: “It is important to remember that ‘public highway’ means not only roads but also public rights of way.  You should arrange regular inspections of trees situated on your land that might fall onto the highway and arrange for any necessary tree surgery.  It is also important to ensure that branches from trees overhanging the highway do not obstruct traffic or obscure signs and you should have dead trees and broken branches, which could cause a hazard to highway users, removed.”

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