Garden magnolia tree in France saved by children’s love letter

Owners of the property next door said tree blocked light to their new extension and wanted it felled

A judge ordered the tree should not be cut down, leaving it free to bloom for years to come
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A magnolia tree at the centre of a neighbourly dispute has been saved by the courts after the two children of the tree’s owners wrote of their love for it.

The tree, which is more than two metres high, sits next to a border wall in the garden of a property near Nantes. On the other side is a property which is hosted on the short-term let site Airbnb.

The owners of this other property had built an extension in their garden that partially fell under the tree’s branches and, after construction was complete, complained that the magnolia was blocking the amount of sunlight to the extension.

The tree is relatively young so does not fall under the usual environmental protection laws. As it is so close to the property the owners expected that it would have to be cut down.

Children’s letter convinces judge

However the couple arrived at court bearing a letter from their two young children who love the tree and did not want it cut down.

The judge ruled against its destruction, saying it “is a bonus to the community through its environmental benefits” and therefore should not be cut down.

He argued that reducing the tree to two metres in height would cause ‘environmental damage’ as detailed in Article 1247 of the French Civil Code.

“Every person has a duty to take part in preserving and improving the environment,” the judge concluded.

Tree too young to be covered by other protective laws

The tree had only been planted 15 years ago whereas most environmental laws protect trees in neighbourly disputes from the age of 30.

In addition, the tree’s proximity to the border wall (closer than two metres) and height gave the adjacent property owners the right to demand that it be cut down.

Read more: French law: Can I cut an overhanging branch from neighbour’s tree?

The owners were not expecting it to be saved.

It is worth bearing in mind that in disputes such as this circumstantial evidence can be used in the ruling.

Rules on neighbour disputes cases have changed

For future cases involving neighbourly disputes, most will require the input of a mediator to try to find an amicable solution before being taken to court.

If proof that an amicable solution has been attempted cannot be produced, the court can reject the case.

These changes came into effect from October 1, see below.

Read more: How you must try to resolve neighbour disputes amicably in France