Property Clinic


Letting the light shine - the rules and rights 

Q What is the minimum/maximum distance that a neighbour can plant trees with regard to a habitable structure?

A There is no minimum/maximum distance that a neighbour can plant trees close to a habitable structure. Unfortunately this is one of the principal grievances between neighbours. It mainly results from a lack of knowledge regarding the chosen tree species and its ultimate height and canopy spread. People plant the wrong tree in the wrong place instead of the right tree in the right place.

For example, there is no point in planting an oak tree in an average suburban garden as in time it will outgrow its living space, putting pressure on the tree itself and causing disputes between neighbours.

Q Is there a right to a view?

A There are no specific guidelines or regulations in terms of a right to a view. The planning legislation stipulates that only views and prospects that are protected cannot not be detracted from but this generally applies to the built environment. As far as trees are concerned, there are no specific guidelines. It goes back to proper tree selection – that is, knowing what you are planting.

Q What are the regulations for a “right to light”?

A Again, the planning guidelines deal with this issue in the built environment,however in Ireland there are no specific guidelines/

regulations when it comes to the right to light. Under the new proposed legislation, high trees and shrubs that overshadow an adjoining garden would be actionable in the courts.

In the civil courts there may be case law dealing with disputes between neighbours, where someone has enjoyed uninterrupted light for a period of time then a neighbour plants a fast growing hedge which eventually blocks the light, however there are no specific regulations dealing with this. If an overhanging limb is blocking light then the homeowner is allowed to prune the overhanging limb back to the boundary.

The overhang can only be cut back from ground level. The tree cannot be climbed or mechanical lifts used, the tree cannot be de-stabilised in any way and the health of the tree cannot be compromised.

Before removing any overhanging limbs it is best to consult with the tree owner.

Q Where branches overhang a neighbour’s property, is it the responsibility of the neighbour to cut back the branches and maintain the trees?

A Where branches from a neighbours tree overhang into another property, the overhang can be cut back to the boundary wall and all branches must be returned to the tree owner. Again, it is best to consult with the tree owner before taking action.

Q Is there any regulation with regard to the height a tree that is sited on the boundary line of a neighbour’s house may grow?

A The simple answer is no. Confusion may arise here due to the fact that there is such a bye-law in parts of the UK, where there is a restriction on the height certain species can grow, for example Leylandii Cypress must be maintained to a height of 2m in urban areas. However, in Ireland there is no such bye-law. It goes back to proper tree selection. Unless the tree can be deemed hazardous there is no restriction to height. Proposed new legislation may introduce a maximum height rule.

Michael Garry is a consulting arborist and proprietor of Arbor-Care Professional Consulting Tree Service


It is essential when choosing a tree for your garden to formulate a basic plan. This can be achieved by undertaking a few simple tasks.

Firstly, decide why you want to plant a tree. Is it to attract wildlife into your garden? Will it be used for screening, will it be for autumnal colour or general attractiveness?

When you have answered these questions, decide where best to plant the tree and what space is available to you and the position of the sun and soil conditions.

What is surrounding your chosen position? Are there surrounding buildings, overhead wires, etc?

Finally, when you have decided on the type of tree you want, after going through the above process read up on your tree or visit your local garden centre and find out its ultimate height and crown spread, its preferred growing conditions and the maintenance it requires.

Crann produce a good booklet called The ABC of Planting Trees. This is a very helpful guide that provides information on selecting the right tree for the right place.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of correct tree selection as planting the wrong tree in the wrong place will result in the tree being removed in the long term.

Trees to avoid in the average suburban garden

Poplar – weak structural species with an extensive rooting system

Sycamore,Beech and Oak – too large and cast a dense shadow

Leylandii/Cypress – too fast growing, difficult to maintain, grow too tall

Lime – too large, cast a dense shadow, attract lots of green fly

Trees suitable for an average suburban garden

Silver Birch – attractive, dapple shade, high biodiversity value

Mountain Ash – attractive to wildlife, grow to a height of 8-9m

Whitebeam – attractive leaves, medium-sized tree

Bird Cherry – attractive flowers, attracts birds

Common Alder – likes damp soils

Send your queries to or to Property Questions, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought