Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and Conservation Area Advice

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

Local planning authorities have specific powers to protect trees by making Tree Preservation Orders (TPO).

A TPO is an order made by a local planning authority which in general makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or destroy a tree without the planning authority's permission.

TPO's are designed to protect trees which make a significant impact on their local surroundings. This is particularly important where trees are in immediate danger.

A TPO can be made on any type of tree but not on shrubs or hedges. It can cover an individual tree, a group of trees, an area of trees or woodland.

Anyone may request the local planning authority to make a TPO. They simply need to write to the local authority giving details of the tree and the reasons why they think it should be protected.

 

When is consent required to undertake work on a tree with a TPO?

The owner, not the local planning authority, remains responsible for the tree, its condition and any damage it may cause.

However, the consent of the local planning authority is required before undertaking any work on a protected tree.

Exemptions where consent is not required including the following:

  • Cutting down a tree 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:
    • which is dead, dying or dangerous,
    • in line with an obligation under an Act of Parliament,
    • at the request of certain organisations specified in the order,
    • which is directly in the way of development that is about to start for which detailed planning permission has been granted,
    • in a commercial orchard, or pruning fruit trees in accordance with good horticultural practice, and
    • to prevent or control a legal nuisance.

If you are in any doubt, check with your local planning authority. Please note, even if the proposed work is exempt from the need to obtain permission, it is prudent to advise the local planning authority of your intentions.

 

How to obtain consent

An application under a TPO must:

  1. Be made to the local planning authority on the standard application form published by the Secretary of State,
  2. Include the information required on the form,
  3. Be accompanied by a plan which identifies the tree(s) on which work is proposed,
  4. Clearly specify the work for which consent is sought,
  5. State the reasons for making the application; and,
  6. Provide appropriate evidence describing the damage or defect where the work is proposed to address any structural damage to property or in relation to tree health or safety.

The standard application form is available from your local planning authority.

The local planning authority has no power to require information additional to that specified in the standard TPO application form. If the local planning authority feels they need information or evidence over and above that set out in the TPO application form in order to make a decision, they will be able to request it, but will not have the power to require it.

The local planning authority may grant consent, grant consent with conditions (such as replanting) or refuse consent. If your application to carry out work on a protected tree is refused, or you object to the conditions imposed by the planning authority you may appeal to the Secretary of State.

 

Conservation Areas

In Conservation Areas you have to give your local planning authority six weeks' notice, in writing, before carrying out work on trees, this is known as a section 211 notice. Your section 211 notice does not have to be in any particular format but it must describe the work proposed and include sufficient information to clearly identify the trees.

The local planning authority can neither grant nor refuse consent unless the tree is the subject of a TPO. If the local planning authority feels that the tree should be protected from the proposed works, they must make a TPO to prevent you carrying out those works. If the local planning authority fails to make a TPO within 6 weeks or fails to inform you of their decision within 6 weeks then you can carry out your intended works.

All trees in a Conservation Area, with a diameter of 75mm (3'') or greater measured at 1.5 metres (5') above ground level, are protected. The same exceptions apply to trees in Conservation Areas as they do to TPOs.

 

Penalties for work done without consent

If you deliberately destroy a tree or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000, if convicted in the magistrates' court. 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.

 

References

Protected Trees: A Guide to Tree Preservation Procedures published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Tree Preservation Orders: A Guide to the Law and Good Practice Addendum - September 2008