Tree Preservation Orders
WHAT IS A TREE PRESERVATION ORDER?
Planning authorities have powers to protect trees by making Tree Preservation Orders.
The issuing of a TPO makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, willfully damage or destroy any protected tree(s) without first having obtained permission from the Local Authority.
All types of tree can be protected in this way, whether as single trees or as part of a woodland, copse or other grouping of trees. Protection does not however extend to hedges, bushes or shrubs.
TPO's are recorded in the Local Land Charges Register which can be inspected at your Council offices.
When purchasing a property the official searches carried out by your Solicitor should reveal the presence of a TPO on the property or whether your property is within a Conservation Area within which trees are automatically protected. [See Trees in Conservation Areas]
A TPO will not prevent planning permission being granted for development. However, the Council will take the presence of TPO trees into account when reaching their decision.
HOW IS A TPO MADE?
If your Council wishes to issue a Tree Preservation Order over a tree (or trees) on your property, they will serve a formal notice on you and write to other interested parties advising them of the making of the Order. A notice will be posted nearby in a position where members of the public can read it.
HOW CAN I OBJECT OR SUPPORT A TPO?
You (or anyone else) have 28 days from the date of the Order within which to object or support the Order. Always set out the reasons for your views and providing any further details concerning the trees covered by the Order.
The Council will take these into account in deciding whether to confirm the Order and may hold a Public Local Inquiry in certain cases.
WHAT ARE MY RESPONSIBILITIES?
Trees covered by TPO's remain the responsibility of the landowner, both in terms of any maintenance that may be required from time to time and for any damage they may cause. The Council must formally approve any works to a TPO tree.
If you cut down, uproot or willfully damage a protected tree or carry out works such as lopping or topping which could be likely to seriously damage or destroy the tree then there are fines on summary conviction of up to £20,000, or on indictment the fines are unlimited. Other offences concerning protected trees could incur fines of up to £2,500.
UNDERTAKING WORKS TO A PROTECTED TREE
Although there are certain circumstances in which permission to carry out works to a protected tree are not required, it is generally safe to say that you should always write to your Council seeking their permission before undertaking any works.
You should provide details of the trees on which you intend to do work, the nature of that work - such as lopping or topping - and the reasons why you think this is necessary.
You may be required to plant a replacement tree if the protected tree is to be removed.
DO I ALWAYS NEED THE COUNCIL'S PERMISSION?
YES, except in the following limited circumstances:-
Where a protected tree is dead, dying or dangerous. Even so, unless the matter is urgent, such as a tree blown down over a public highway, you should still give the Council a weeks notice before you take any action. This ensures that the Council know what you are doing ( thereby avoiding potential prosecution if the Council think the works are not actually necessary) and they can decide whether a replacement tree is required.
Where the tree is a fruit tree and the works (such as pruning) are undertaken for cultivation purposes.
Where works are necessary to prevent or remedy a statutory nuisance. Legal advice should be sought in these circumstances.
Where the tree is to be removed in accordance with a planning permission for development.
Where there is an approved Felling Licence, Forestry Dedication Covenant, or plan of forestry operations approved by the Forestry Commission.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM REFUSED PERMISSION?
There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State which must be made within 28 days of receiving the Councils decision. Details should be sent with the decision notice.
Except in unusual circumstances the appeal will be dealt with on the basis of an exchange of written representations although both you and the Council have the right to elect for a public local inquiry or informal hearing.
The Secretary of State or his appointed Inspector will make the final decision based on an impartial consideration of the evidence.
If consent is refused or granted subject to conditions you may be entitled to compensation from the Council if loss or damage results from the decision. You should write to the Council within 12 months of their decision or the appeal decision if one was heard.
Compensation will not be paid in circumstances where the Council have issued a certificate indicating that their decision was in the interests of good forestry, or because the tree or woodland have an outstanding or special amenity value.