Trees and structural damage

Trees Section (trees.planning@kirklees.gov.uk) Last updated - August 2011

Damage from neighbour's trees

What is subsidence?

It is ground or foundation movement which normally results in the cracking of external and/or internal property walls.

Can trees cause subsidence?

Yes. When tree roots enter a shrinkable, clay soil, they can take up sufficient moisture to cause the clay to dry and shrink. As a result, any foundation built upon the clay will move or subside.

Can trees cause subsidence on any soil?

No. It has to be a shrinkable clay.

If I suspect tree-related subsidence what should I do?

You should report it immediately to your building insurer. They will carry out further investigations and produce evidence which either blames a tree or identifies other causes.

What is the situation if the tree causing subsidence is protected?

The council has a dual responsibility: to protect trees in the interests of public amenity, but also to try and ensure that no individual suffers undue loss, distress or damage resulting from this.

What information will the council require to support a subsidence-related, tree work application?

The key information the council will normally require to decide the most appropriate course of action is:

  • the age of the property and any extensions
  • the ownership of the tree(s)
  • the nature of the problem
  • details of any historical defect monitoring
  • type and depth of existing foundations
  • details of soil type and composition to a depth of approximately 3m
  • evidence of tree root presence below foundation level
  • evidence that any roots found belong to the suspected trees
  • measurement of subsoil shrinkage potential at and below foundation level
  • a plan showing accurate locations of relevant site features including buildings, drains and trees on, or adjacent to, the site
  • a plan showing the borehole sampling locations

How can I obtain this evidence?

Your home insurer should carry out these investigations, but if not you should employ a building surveyor or a structural engineer who will carry them out for you.

Can tree roots damage drains?

Tree roots will follow drains to exploit any condensation on the outside of the pipes and it is possible that, as they grow they may dislodge pipe joints, enter the drain and block it. However it is more usual for roots to enter an already damaged drain. Once inside a drain, roots are likely to proliferate and cause a blockage.

What can I do if my drains are blocked by tree roots?

The best solution will usually be to repair the drain rather than fell the tree. New drains, well laid, using modern materials and sealants should be immune to tree damage.

What is soil heave?

Heave can only occur where subsidence has occurred before it: the shrunken clay, in re-wetting, returns to its original volume, thus causing uplift to any foundation set upon it. If a tree has not been the cause of clay shrinkage, its removal cannot cause heave - any surplus water will simply drain away.

What if the damage to my property is being caused by council owned trees?

You should contact the Forestry Officer.

Trees contacts

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), trees in conservation areas and tree work applications

To speak to an officer you must make an appointment. To make an appointment please contact Kirklees Direct on 01484 414909 or email .


Report trees causing an obstruction on pavements and footpaths, or obscuring street lighting


Find out who owns trees


Trees owned by the council