Trees can be protected by either a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or by being located within a conservation area.
A TPO generally makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without the local planning authority's permission. You can apply for consent through the national Planning Portal website.
All types of trees can be covered by a TPO, including hedgerow trees, but generally not hedges, bushes or shrubs. The TPO can cover anything from a single tree to woodlands or groups of trees.
The landowner remains responsible for the trees, their condition and any damage they may cause. But the council’s permission is required before carrying out work on the tree, unless they are dying, dead or dangerous. The planning authority may be able to offer appropriate help and advice on how the trees should be managed.
TPOs can be made very quickly and in practice it is normal for a Council to make an emergency TPO in less than a day in cases of immediate danger to trees. The trees need to be worthy and capable of protection, however, if the case is not urgent it will take longer.
When the Local Planning Authority makes a TPO, we will write to the owner and other interested parties, enclosing a copy of the proposed TPO.
Trees in conservation areas
You will have to give us six weeks’ notice before carrying out work on trees which are located in a conservation area but does not have a TPO. This gives the authority an opportunity to consider whether an order should be made to protect the trees. You can apply for consent through the national Planning Portal website.
There are 7 conservation areas in the Borough and trees within a conservation require consent from the Council unless the:
- diameter of the tree does not exceed 75mm
- cutting down or uprooting of a tree whose diameter does not exceed 100mm and is for the sole purpose of improving the growth of other trees.
In both instances the measurement is taken over the bark of the tree at 1.5m above ground level, however, these exemptions do not apply if the tree has more than one stem at a point of 1.5m above the ground level and if any stem when measured over it's bark at that point exceeds the relevant minimum size.
Is permission always required for a protected tree?
Yes, except for:
- cutting down trees in accordance with one of the Forestry Commission’s grant schemes, or where the Commission has granted a felling licence
- cutting down or cutting back a tree
- if the tree is protected by a TPO you must give the council at least 5 days written notice for a dead dying or dangerous tree, Unless the danger is imminent. This would be a risk of all or part of the tree falling imminently or overhanging branches are less than 5.5 meters above a highway therefore causing a hazard to traffic
- where notice isn’t given the onus will be on you to prove the urgency of the works if there are any questions raised. In this case you must notify the council as soon as practical. We advise that you take comprehensive photographs of the tree and seek a report from a qualified tree surgeon
- removal of dead wood from an otherwise healthy tree is allowed
- which is directly in the way of development that is about to start for which detailed planning permission has been granted. Note that this does not apply to outline planning permission or to permitted development rights
- in a commercial orchard, or pruning fruit trees in accordance with good horticultural practice
- you may find it helpful to check with a solicitor first.
Always consult and discuss with your Local Planning Authority first or you may be liable to prosecution.
Find out if a tree is protected or in a conservation area
Our interactive planning online mapping allows you to find trees which are protected by TPOs and trees within conservation areas.
An official search of the local land charges register can also be made before you purchase a property. This should reveal the existence of a TPO (or whether your property is in a conservation area). Make sure your solicitor tells you if any trees are protected.
If you require a copy of the TPO these are available for a fee of £25.
Apply for permission for works to trees in a conservation area or a TPO
Anyone can apply to carry out works. You need written permission to remove them or to do any tree surgery.
You must make it clear exactly which tree(s) you wish to carry out work to and will require a plan detailing location and species of tree involved. You must also describe exactly what work you wish to carry out and the reasons why you wish to carry out the work. Supporting documentation related to the reasons for the work and photographs will help with your application. For example if you give the reason for the work as being safety or damage to property you will need to provide evidence of these problems.
Works carried out on a protected tree without consent
If you deliberately destroy a tree, or damage it in a manner likely to damage or destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000, or twice its ‘amenity value’. The courts will decide which the greater value in the magistrates’ court is. In determining the amount of the fine, the court will take account of any financial benefit arising from the offence.
For other offences you could be fined up to £2,500. You will normally have to plant a replacement tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.
Find out if the owner has requested permission to carry work out on a protected tree.
The easiest way is to check if work has permission is via the interactive planning online mapping.
Can I get any compensation if my application to carry out work on protected trees/woodland is refused or conditions are imposed?
If consent is refused or granted with conditions you can seek compensation from your local planning authority for any loss or damage which results. However, you cannot make a claim where, under the terms of the order, the planning authority has issued a certificate saying either:
- that the refusal or condition is in the interests of good forestry, or
- that the trees or woodland have an outstanding or special amenity value.
You can appeal to the Secretary of State against such a certificate. Local planning authorities will not be able to issue these certificates under TPOs, which are made after 2 August 1999. They will be able to issue them under TPOs made before that date.
Some of the main points relating to TPO’s made after 2 August 1999 are:
- no claim can be made if the loss or damage suffered amounts to less than £500
- no compensation is payable for loss of development value or other diminution in the value of land
- no compensation is payable for loss or damage which, bearing in mind the reasons given for the application for consent (and any documents submitted in support of those reasons), was not foreseeable when the application was decided
- no compensation is payable to a person for loss or damage which was (i) reasonably foreseeable by that person, and (ii) attributable to that person’s failure to take reasonable steps to avert the loss or damage or mitigate its extent
- no compensation is payable for the costs incurred in bringing an appeal to the secretary of State against the councils decision to refuse consent or grant it subject to conditions.
If you wish to make a claim for compensation you should write to us within 12 months of the council’s decision or within 12 months of the Secretary of State’s decision if you appealed.
Copy of TPO certificates
Copy of TPO certificates can be provided by our environmental team on 01952 384384. The cost for each certificate is £22.14.
Last updated: 11.13am on Friday 21 February 2020