Trees and High Hedges
Trees (Tree Preservation Order)
- The current fee for a high hedges complaint is £450
- If you need to speak to someone about trees and high hedges please contact the Tree and Landscape Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01253 658 446
- If you need to obtain a TPO please contact 01253 658 658
This Section has responsibility for trees in conservation areas and trees subject to a Tree Preservation Order.
Trees in conservation areas are protected, it being an offence to fell, lop or top trees in a conservation area without giving the Local Authority six weeks notice, unless the tree is dangerous and requires immediate action.
Many trees in the Borough either singly, in a group or woodland are subject to Tree Preservation Orders. Tree Preservation Orders are placed on trees which contribute significantly to the local environment and to the amenity of an area and their loss would be detrimental to the character of the area.
Consent is required before any works can be carried out to trees covered by an order, this includes pruning, lopping, topping, felling, crown raising, etc.; if permission is not granted it is an offence to undertake works and prosecution may follow.
Advice is freely available from the Local Plans Section regarding the extent of Tree Preservation Orders in the Borough, the nature of works which would be acceptable or the replacement of trees. In addition, guidance will be given on the planting of trees in new developments and in the countryside. While shrubs and hedges cannot be protected in the same way as trees, the Council often makes the retention of existing trees and shrubs a condition of planning permission as well as the provision of satisfactory landscaping.
Local planning authorities have specific powers to protect trees by making tree preservation orders, although the Forestry Commission is responsible for the control of felling generally. Special provisions also apply to trees within conservation areas designated by local planning authorities.
This leaflet is written for the benefit of tree owners, the general public and amenity groups and answers some of the most common questions about tree preservation procedures. It is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligation's.
1 What is a tree preservation order?
It is an order made by a local planning authority (London Boroughs, district or unitary councils and sometimes county councils) which in general makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without the planning authorities’ permission.
2 What is the purpose of a tree preservation order?
To protect trees which make a significant impact on their local surroundings. This is particularly important where trees are immediate danger.
3 What type of trees can be covered by an order?
All types, including hedge row trees, but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. The order can cover anything from a single tree to woodlands.
4 How can I find out if a tree is covered by an order?
Details of orders are available for inspection at the local planning authority’s offices. 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 tree preservation order (or whether your property is in a conservation area). Make sure your solicitor tells you if any trees are protected.
5 If I see work being carried out on a protected tree, how can I find out if the owner has permission?
Check with your local planning authority. It has a register of application's and decisions which you can look at.
6 There are trees which I think should be protected. What can I do?
Contact your local planning authority giving details of the trees, and the reasons why you think the trees should be protected. However, if the Forestry Commission has given aid under a forestry grant scheme, a tree preservation order can only be made with the Commission’s permission.
7 Does an order come into effect immediately?
The local planning authority may make an order which comes into effect immediately and remains in force for up to six months.
8 How will I know when a local planning authority makes a tree preservation order?
It will write to the owner and other interested parties, enclosing a copy of the order.
9 How can I object to or express support for an order?
If you or anyone else wants to object to or support an order, write to the local planning authority within the period they allow (usually 28 days) saying why and giving details of the relevant trees. The planning authority will take these comments into account when it decides whether to confirm the order. When the authority confirms the order it can modify it, for example by excluding some of the trees.
10 Does the local planning authority then become responsible for looking after the trees?
No. The owner remains responsible for the trees, their condition and any damage they may cause. But the planning authority’s permission is required before carrying out work on them, unless they are dying, dead or dangerous (but see question 13). The planning authority may be able to offer appropriate help and advice on how the trees should be managed.
11 Do I need a Forestry Commission felling licence to cut down trees covered by a tree preservation order?
Whether or not a tree preservation order is in force you must first apply to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence if you want to cut down trees containing more than five cubic metres of wood in any calendar quarter. There are exceptions to this rule which are set out in the Forestry Act 1967 and Regulation's made under that Act. For example, you do not need a licence for felling trees in gardens. If a licence is required and the trees are covered by a tree preservation order, the Forestry Commission will deal with your application in consultation with the local planning authority. Where the Commission proposes to grant a licence it will first give notice to the local planning authority. In such cases the planning authority has the right to object to the proposal and if it does so the application will be referred for decision to the First Secretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Applicants should note that the Commission almost always requires felled areas to be restocked and does not normally grant licences to change woodland to agricultural use.
12 What if I want to work on a protected tree but don’t need a felling licence?
Write to the local planning authority to seek permission, specifying the trees, what you want to do and why. It is important that you specify the work you wish to carry out clearly, especially pruning operation's. In setting out your reasons for a proposal, it is also helpful if you can provide evidence to support your case (such as a professional report into the health of the tree, or in cases of alleged subsidence a professional report on ground movement at the site). You may find it helpful to consult a tree surgeon to clarify what you need to do. The Arboriculture Association has a list of approved tree surgery contractors (telephone 01794 368717 or visit www.trees.org.uk).
13 Do I always need the planning authority’s permission to work on a protected tree?
Yes, except for:
1) cutting down trees in accordance with one of the Forestry Commission’s grant schemes, or where the Commission has
granted a felling licence – see question 11;
2) cutting down or cutting back a tree:
• which is dying, dead, dangerous,
• in line with an obligation under an Act of Parliament,
• at the request of certain organisation's 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,
• to prevent or control a legal nuisance (you may find it helpful to check first with a solicitor).
If you are in any doubt, check with your local planning authority.
14 If I don’t need the planning authorities or Forestry Commission’s permission, do I still have to inform them of any work I intend to carry out?
Except in an emergency you are advised to give your local planning authority at least five days’ notice before you cut down a protected tree which is dying, dead or dangerous. This is in your interests – you could be prosecuted if the authority thinks you have carried out unauthorised work. It could also decide that you do not have to plant a replacement tree. You must remember, however, that you will remain responsible for your trees and any damage they may cause.
15 When will I have to plant a replacement tree? You will have to replant:
1) if you cut down or destroy a protected tree:
• in breach of an order,
• except in the case of woodland, because the tree is dying, dead or dangerous;
2) if the planning authority gives you permission to cut down a protected tree but makes replanting a condition of its consent;
3) in most cases where the Forestry Commission grants a felling licence. Local planning authorities have legal powers to ensure that you plant a replacement tree when required.
16 What happens if I carry out work on a protected tree without permission?
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.
17 What if my application to carry out work on a protected tree is refused, or I object to the conditions imposed by the planning authority?
You can appeal to the First Secretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in writing within 28 days of receiving the decision. The planning authority should give you the address. Appeals are normally decided on the basis of written statement followed by a site visit. The First Secretary of State may allow or dismiss the appeal, or vary the original decision.
18 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 First Secretary of State against such a certificate. Local planning authorities will not be able to issue these certificates under tree preservation orders which are made after 2 August 1999. But they will be able to issue them under orders made before that date. Where a felling licence application has been refused by the Forestry Commission (see question 11) you may get compensation
from the Commission under the relevant forestry legislation. Replanting of woodland: You can also seek compensation from the local planning authority where, on giving permission to cut down protected woodland, it has required replacement planting. But such compensation is only available if the Forestry Commission will not give a grant for the replanting on the grounds that it would not be in accordance with good forestry practice.
19 How do I go about claiming compensation under a tree preservation order?
Write to your local planning authority within 12 months of its decision, or that of the First Secretary of State if you appealed.
20 Are there any extra restrictions in a conservation area?
Yes. You have to give your local planning authority six weeks’ notice before carrying out work on trees which are located in a conservation area but are not yet the subject of a tree preservation order. This gives the authority an opportunity to consider whether an order should be made to protect the trees. You do not need to give notice if you want to work on trees less than 7.5 centimetres in diameter, measured 1.5 metres above the ground (or 10 centimetres if thinning to help the growth of other trees). The exceptions in question 13 and the advice in question 14 also apply. If in doubt, check with your local planning authority.
21 How are trees on development sites affected?
Trees on development sites can be protected by tree preservation orders or by conditions attached to the planning permission, or both. Planning conditions may also require you to plant trees which may be covered by a tree preservation order. The order will take effect once they are planted.
22 Can I carry out work on protected trees which are in the way of proposed development?
You can only cut down or cut back protected trees if they are directly in the way of development which is about to start, for which you have detailed planning permission. You cannot carry out tree work if you have outline planning permission. Check first with your local planning authority. It may prosecute you if it thinks you have cut trees down or cut them back excessively. If the development does not require planning permission (for example, putting up a garden shed) you must apply to your local planning authority for permission under the tree preservation order in the normal way.
23 Can I stop planning permission being granted – or prevent approved development being carried out – by getting a tree
preservation order imposed on trees on the site?
No. A tree preservation order does not prevent planning permission being granted. But a local planning authority will consider the risk to protected trees when deciding planning application's. Once detailed planning permission is granted, any felling may be carried out which is directly required to enable the development to go ahead.
You can find out more about tree preservation orders in the following:
- Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (in particular sections 197-214 as amended)
- The Planning and Compensation Act 1991 (section 23)
- Forestry Act 1967 (as amended)
- The Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulation's 1999 (Statutory Instrument number 1892)
- These are all available through the Stationery Office (telephone 0870 6005522 or visit Office of Public Sector Information) and may be seen at some main libraries.