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Denise in E18

Complete removal of sycamore and risk of heave

Question

Hi

 

I live in north-east London, on heavy clay. My home is a converted flat in a Victorian semi, built in 1879.

 

About 15-20 metres from the house is a mature sycamore. No idea if it pre-dates/matches/post-dates the building of the house, I’m afraid. 
 

In general, my philosophy is to leave trees alone, especially in urban gardens.  However, this is massive and too close to the house for comfort. My garden (the lower half of the original undivided garden) is also down a narrow path (less than a metre wide), and the trunk of the sycamore tree is a significant obstruction.

 

When I bought my flat four years ago, the surveyor said “get rid”. However, my sister (retired insurance claims manager) warned about heave, and advised me to get a tree surgeon to do an assessment. I used an Arboricultural Association approved firm which advised that heave was a risk and that reductions needed to be made in three stages over six to eight years.  It was reduced by about 25% in January 2018.  I didn’t have the funds to do further work last year, and am just gearing up to get it looked at again now. 
 

My neighbour was having a tree surgeon do some work a week ago and I asked him to look at the tree and let me have a price for reducing it by a third.  He looked and said that he’d recommend complete removal now, rather than staggered reductions.  
 

When I mentioned heave as a risk, he said that industry thinking has moved on in the last few years.  His explanation made sense: reduce the tree crown, tree puts out lots of new growth above AND below ground. New growth has significantly higher water-uptake needs and therefore increases the risk of subsidence while the tree remains in place, and increases the heave risk when it’s removed, as there’s greater supply but with the balancing (higher) water uptake by the tree, removed.

 

I’ve been reading conflicting sources of information online since that conversation. I came across this forum and hoped that your combined experience may give me a better framework of questions so that I can make headway with this. 
 

Thanks in advance for your contributions.

 

Denise

 

 

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Denis, have you actually got and visible damage showing yet?  Will think yr house isnt on best foundations (  last job in London i looked at you could push yr hand under the ground floor wall of her victorian house) obviously  that is a mature tree and yrs is a very old house. K

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Advice from tree surgeons? No no no! Pay for a written opinion from a consultant who has no financial interest in whether he/she gets paid tree work from it. Then you have somebody insured to pursue if the advice was wrong.

 

The current view is that staged reductions do not reduce heave. The eventual removal will result in the final amout of heave, if there is to be any. Stages don't change that.

 

Your first tree surgeon's advice was bunkum. Your second one has at least thought about it but it's still bunkum.

 

Decisions like the one you are making are too technical for a lay person and there could be comeback from the other flat owner or neighbours if you get it wrong. And obviously you must follow my advice by ignoring the free advice I have just anonymously given you for free on a free forum...

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Khriss - no visible damage from heave. Original report (done by the 2018 people - so, yes,Jules, a conflict of interest) stated that there was no visible tree root disruption/damage to patios etc. 
 

Jules - is there a recognised “gold standard” qualification or association certification I should look out for, to be sure that I’ve got the right quality standard?  Even if the individual turns out to be a plank?!  You’re absolutely right about the insurance situation. For my sins, as well as owning my flat, I also own (and have the obligation to insure) the entire building’s freehold. This tree is but part of my tribulations on that front.  Being able to claim against someone else’s insurance would make a welcome change, but I’d rather not get into trouble in the first place!

 

Thank you both for your replies. Greatly appreciated. 
 

Denise

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I'm in Scotland where heave cases are incredibly rare, so I don't know of a standard except that within arboriculture there is I think a link with the Council of Mortgage Lenders that has promoted some sort of standard that arbs get training in and work to. I'm pretty sure if you search for arboriculture subsidence report in your area you'll turn up someone, then ask them to evidence insurance and credentials. There can't be many diong reports without insurance, adn the insurers would insist on adequate qualifications.

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Erm, I've jsut realised that all I've said  about qualifications is iffy because you already managed to get someone to give you duff advice in writing in 2018.

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Dear Dennis,  using my extensive knowledge on tree related subsidence which i have practised on many occasions for a well known company which requires me to wear orange - the likelyhood is yr property and that large tree have comfortable co existed for many years and yr property will be safe fr a bit. Otherwise its a site visit and cash monies. K

 

( i wont relate the astonishing bull i have had to defend client against  over the years, but rest assured i was successful) 

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