Trees and people have been interacting for many hundreds of years, as the planting and tree management of one generation is appreciated by the next. There is a need to appreciate the life span of trees, which can live for centuries and be appreciated by generations of people. With consideration to this legislation has been developed to protect trees as individuals and in groups for their amenity value or for the habitat which they offer to rare or endangered species.
When trees were an important resource for firewood, tools etc, there were numerous laws on how much wood could be taken and who owned it. Today we are less concerned with the value of wood and trees compared to how they affect our lives in terms of causing damage to our properties, blocking our light and the important visual and wildlife value they possess. People can develop emotional attachments to trees and problems with them can lead to much upset and cost, a lot of this can be avoided by obtaining professional advice.
The law in relation to trees can be separated into two different types - Common Law and Statute Law. Common law is that decided by judges in the various courts of law and has evolved over many hundreds of years. Statute law is that related to Acts of Parliament and can also be influenced by a judge's decision. New laws relating to trees are passed regularly and recently (2003) the Government has attempted to resolve the confusion over high hedges by including them in new legislation, under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003.
"I cut it down, because it blocked
And now the sunshine streams into the room
At noonday; but, at closing in of night,
I hear a ghostly murmur in the gloom -
A ghostly wind that stirs the spectral tree
To scornful whispering of phantasmal boughs -
O foolish man, who thought to murder me;
My live roots still run under your frail house"
- Wilfrid Gibson (The Tree) -
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