Photo: Peter Whiteway

Vegetation obstructing the highway

The Department of Infrastructure has a responsibility to keep public highways open and remove obstructions and encroachments which may affect the use and safety of the highway, and has delegated responsibility therefore, within the Ramsey town boundary, to Ramsey Town Commissioners.

Trees and hedges are the responsibility of the owner of the land they are situated on. The owner has a legal obligation to keep them from encroaching on the highway.

This policy covers matters relevant to this responsibility in regard to vegetation which might obstruct or encroach on the highway or which is likely to become a danger to highway users.

Relevant legislation

Section 51 of the Highways Act 1986 provides power in regard to encroachment of vegetation and dangerous trees to protect the rights of the public to use and enjoy the highway.


Ramsey Town Commissioners, having been delegated by the Department of Infrastructure, will take any necessary measures to ensure that the public maintained highway is safe to use and be enjoyed by the public.

The Commission will undertake regular inspection of all areas within the town and will investigate complaints made about vegetation which overhangs or encroaches on the public highway.

Overhanging trees and hedges

Whenever an encroachment is suspected on the public highway, the Commission will carry out a status check to determine the exact limits of the highway thereby establishing whether an encroachment has occurred.

Where overhanging hedges and trees are found to be obstructing or encroaching on the public highway the Commission will draw this to  the attention of the property owner or occupier and if not attended to will serve a notice under Section 51(1) of the Highways Act 1986 on the owners/occupiers requiring that they are cut back to the property boundary to provide the necessary clearance and abate any nuisance within a period of not less than 14 days. 

Unless there is a traffic order in force restricting the size or height of vehicles that can use a particular road, a vertical clearance of 17 feet (5.20m), considered to be a safe height to permit the transit of a public transport bus, will be maintainable to allow sufficient clearance for vehicles which might ordinarily be expected to use the highway.

Diseased, damaged or insecurely trees or shrubs

In the case of hedges, trees or shrubs that are diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted, and likely to cause danger by falling on to a road or path, the Commission will serve a notice on the owner or occupier of the land, in accordance with Section 51(2) of the Act, requiring them to cut or fell the hedge tree or shrub so as to remove the likelihood of danger within a period of not less than 14 days.

Where the condition of the hedge, tree or shrub is considered to present an immediate danger then the Commission will attend to the matter immediately using either the Commission own staff or a contractor.

Failure to respond to Notice

Where works required under a Notice have not been attended to the Commission will issue an instruction to the Commission's own staff or to a suitable contractor to attend to the required works. 

Recovery of costs

Any costs incurred by the Commission in the exercise of its functions under Section 51 of the Highways Act 1986 will be invoiced to the owner or occupier of the property or land to which the works relate. 

Where an invoice is not paid the matter will be referred to the Courts for recovery.

An information leaflet explaining the Commission's policy can be downloaded here.