Edinburgh caravan park defends approach to overhanging trees at centre of payment row

An Edinburgh caravan park has defended its approach to the maintenance of overhanging trees at the centre of a payment row with neighbours.

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Saturday, 14th August 2021, 10:48 am
Gill Henderson (top left) has safety concerns about the trees overhanging her garden (right) at the boundary wall. Neighbour Hugh Stewart also raised concerns about the overhanging trees in his garden (bottom left). Pictures: Supplied/Lisa Ferguson

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Gill Henderson, of Alnwickhill Court, says bosses at neighbouring Mortonhall Caravan & Camping Park refuse to pay to maintain branches overhanging a boundary wall at the back of her garden. She claims the trees are unsafe and that fallen branches have, in recent years, ripped through an outdoor sail shade and damaged a chiminea in her garden.

It comes after the Edinburgh Evening News reported last week that local resident Hugh Stewart, whose garden also borders the caravan park at Howdenhall Court, says he was forced to pay £600 for someone to cut back the trees about two years ago because the caravan park refused to do so.

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Mr Stewart also believed residents should not have to pay to maintain the trees which belong to the neighbouring caravan park. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Mr Stewart said he had safety concerns and that the grass at the side of his house is “like walking on a swamp” as the sunlight is blocked out by the trees.

Ms Henderson, 48, who runs a dog walking business and also volunteers for a UK-wide dog rescue group, said she was recently quoted £350 plus VAT for the work to prune the trees but said she could not afford it.

She said: “Why should neighbours have to pay to maintain trees owned by someone else?

“It’s been an ongoing issue since about 2014. I am an environmentalist and love the trees and wildlife but I want the trees to be safe. They are huge trees and I don’t want them coming down. I just want the overhanging trees cut back so that it’s not dangerous.

“When I first raised concerns to them (park owners) I had an elderly dog who was in the garden a lot and there were big branches landing in our garden. I was worried about her going out in the garden and a branch landing on her.”

Ms Henderson claims she spoke with a tree surgeon previously sub-contracted by the caravan park who told her the trees had some squirrel damage and broken and diseased limbs.

A letter sent from the caravan park owners to Ms Henderson say the tree surgeon was developing business through “informal networking,” whereas tree safety is assessed by a consultant of the Arboricultural Association who is qualified in the surveying of trees.

Andy Wallis, general manager at Mortonhall Caravan & Camping Park, said an independent and professionally qualified surveyor carried out an initial site-specific study of the trees adjacent to Ms Henderson’s home who reported their condition did not require any remedial action.

Mr Wallis said that, due to her concerns, the surveyor has paid “heightened attention” to the trees in subsequent risk assessments and has reported no deterioration in their condition. He said the condition of the trees is regularly reviewed as part of a risk management strategy.

Mr Wallis understands the trees there are protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and said all pruning work is carried out in line with this.

He said: “As neighbours we have indicated to Ms Henderson that we would have no objection to her carrying out pruning and limbing on overhanging branches as she may believe necessary.

“It might be worth noting that many property owners in the UK have trees overhanging their gardens from adjacent land, and the usual practice by those property owners is to regularly trim the overhanging canopy – or to arrange for this to be carried out - so that it doesn't present a nuisance.

“The caravan park enjoys positive relations with the residents of neighbouring properties and always seeks to respond to any request and to the best of the park’s ability.

“The caravan park management takes a keen interest in looking after the natural environment and has been recognised for its efforts by the David Bellamy Conservation Award Scheme.”

However, Ms Henderson is unconvinced by the frequency of inspections, claiming she has never seen anyone doing this in the 15 years she has lived there.

Other disputes

In June, a row broke out over a divisive tree in part of Sheffield when a neighbour decided to saw it exactly in half after becoming frustrated with branches hanging over his driveway.

Bharat Mistry and his family were left gutted when his next door neighbours called in tree surgeons to cut half the branches of the 16ft tall Fir Tree which stood there for 25 years. Pictures of the tree went viral.

The action came after a year-long dispute between Mr Mistry and the neighbours, both in their 70s.

Mr Mistry said the couple complained birds in the tree were too noisy and making a mess of the drive of their bungalow in the quiet cul-de-sac.

And last October, Harry Potter Author JK Rowling had part of a Capital road closed to traffic - so she could work her magic on a massive hedge surrounding her mansion.

The 30ft tall Leylandii hedge towers over pavements near her 17th century home and helps to screen the property from onlookers.

They required trimming after claims last year that they obstructed street lights.

A team of tree surgeons spent a week trimming the hedge back at the top and sides using an 80ft cherry picker.

The work took place more than a year after officials from Edinburgh City Council wrote to Miss Rowling to ask her to have the trees trimmed as a "matter of urgency".

In 2015, officials at the Deer Park Golf and Country Club in Livingston were told to cut down trees after they had been locked in a dispute with John Cochrane, 64, over claims massive leylandii were ruining his garden and blocking sunlight.

Mr Cochrane had complained the hedges on the course’s sixth hole forced him to switch on lights in his house during the day due to the loss of light.

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