Can I chop down that tree?

by Urbane Property

Here in the inner west, we love our trees. Until they’re blocking your view, cutting out your light or preventing you from extending your house, that is. So, is cutting them down always a no-no? 

There may not be much in the way of water views around here, but there are still legitimate reasons why you might want to get rid of a large tree. To ensure a balance between practicality and a green neighbourhood, each Sydney council has its own rules around tree removal. In the inner west, a Tree Management Development Control Plan (DCP) that governs privately owned trees is currently in draft form to unify controls of the now defunct three local councils. Under the terms of this you’ll need to apply for consent to remove ‘protected trees’, which are those with a height greater than five meters, a trunk diameter of more than 300mm; or a canopy spread greater than three metres.

Reasons your application to remove a tree may be granted include:

  • The tree is dead, dying, in poor health or structural condition
  • The tree is likely to cause injury or damage
  • The tree poses an unacceptable risk to property
  • The tree is within 500mm (yep, half a metre) of a house

If you want to significantly prune a tree that hangs over from next door, some work can be done without consent, but you may still need to submit an application. It’s a common mistake to believe that the branches that overhang your property are fair game. (Council requires your neighbour’s consent with the application.)

If you are dead set on removing a tree, your best hope is that it’s classed as a ‘noxious weed’. These trees do not need council approval for removal; if your tree is listed as a weed you can go ahead and remove it without permission of any kind. The list varies from area to area but in the inner west includes (among others): Tree of Heaven, Oleander, Leyland Cypress, African Olive, Willow, Rubber Tree, Running Bamboo, Umbrella Tree, Norfolk Hibiscus and the Cocos Palm.

But chopper beware: the maximum penalty that comes with breaching tree protection controls is $110,000 in a local court or, should it get that far, $1.1 million in the Land and Environment Court of NSW.

Once you navigate the complexities of tree removal, you could consider replacing an old tree with a native plant, to keep the neighbourhood leafy and preserve your home’s liveability. The Inner West Council also has a fabulous initiative to plant more than 1000 trees each year through the Five Million Trees for Greater Sydney Project. If you would like a new tree planted on your street, you can apply online.

NOTE: The information here is of a general nature. Visit your local council website for policy details.

Want to list or view a property in the leafy streets of the inner west? Contact us here.


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