TREES will be cut back before they damage people’s property rather than wait for insurance claims to be made against the council.
The decision was made by city councillors on Wednesday after it emerged that in the last two years there have been 12 claims for tree root damage at a cost of £5,209.68 to the taxpayer.
Now the council has admitted it needs to be ‘proactive rather than reactive’ when it comes to keeping trees in shape in a bid to reduce the number of damage claims.
Councillor Jennie Dallimore (C, Podsmead) said: “This has been my number one frustration in Podsmead. Residents love tree but not when they are twice the size of their house.
“Moving from a reactive to proactive stance is brilliant. We shouldn’t be waiting for damage to be done.
“I am relieved by this and hoping this will now put us in a position to carry out the work that is needed.”
Councillor Colin Organ (C, Tuffley) said: “Trees are so important for breaking up bricks and mortar, but we don’t want it to happen literally.
“This has got to be welcomed. There has been a misunderstanding and some confusion within the public about this and this just clarifies what can be done and when.”
Councillor Saj Patel, cabinet member for the environment, said: “Currently the guidelines say we will only carry out works to trees where damage to property has already occurred. This basically results in claims being made against the council.
“Now we want to make the process more proactive.”
Tree officer Justin Hobbs warned in a report to councillors that the council only acting when damage has occurred would be seen as less ‘positive’ than taking action sooner.
He added: “The city council receives a significant number of requests to prune and remove trees due to alleged tree root related subsidence to buildings.
“The council position of undertaking works once damage has occurred can be seen as a reactionary stance. A more proactive approach is therefore proposed.”
Of the 12 claims against the council, four were successful but it is thought that the added cost of dealing with problem trees earlier will be mitigated by the reduction in payouts for claims made against the council.
Mr Hobbs added that the current system ‘can lead to unnecessary distress for owners of property where damage is very likely but has not actually occurred yet’.