In the interest of protecting the ‘amenity’ of trees, local planning authorities have the power to make a Tree Preservation Order (sometimes called a TPO) for trees, groups of trees, or woodlands. A Tree Preservation Order can prevent you from carrying out actions such as topping, lopping or felling the tree that’s subject to the order.
Granting a Tree Preservation Order
The process for granting a new tree preservation order can be started by the relevant local planning authority or after a request from a third party. The local planning authority will need to serve notice on landowners and make the order available to the public. They may also arrange a visit to assess whether a tree preservation order is needed. If they decide one is, then the order will apply provisionally for six months from the date it is made, during which time the local planning authority can confirm the Tree Planning Order. If it isn’t confirmed within this time, it will cease to apply after those six months are up.
Objecting to a Tree Preservation Order
Before confirming a Tree Preservation Order, the local planning authority should give members of the public at least 28 days in which to raise comments or objections and they need to consider anything that’s raised during the period when they are deciding whether to confirm the order.
Find out if tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order
Enquiries should be raised with your local authority to confirm whether a particular tree, group of trees or woodland area is subject to any TPOs.
Requesting permission to cut a tree
You can apply to your local planning authority using a standard form (available through the Planning Portal website or from the local planning authority directly) for permission to carry out work to a tree that’s subject to a TPO. You will also need to provide a plan identifying the relevant tree; details of the proposed work; the reason for your application; and evidence of relevant factors, such as damage to property or health and safety concerns. To streamline the application process, it’s useful to talk to your local planning authority before you seek formal permission.
Consequence of breach
It is a criminal offence to contravene a Tree Preservation Order. Anyone who destroys a tree that’s under a TPO could be found guilty of an offence and be liable for a fine: in the most serious cases, this can be unlimited. Even someone who commits a less serious offence – for example where there’s been a minor breach of an order but no significant damage has been caused – could still be liable for a fine of up to £2,500.
There are some exceptional circumstances. For example, if a tree is dead, has become dangerous or is causing damage, you may not need permission before you carry out work, even though it’s subject to a tree preservation order. However, even in exceptional circumstances such as this, you may still need to notify the local planning authority about any non-urgent work.
When in doubt, you should always take legal advice before attempting to carry out any work on a tree which may be subject to a Tree Preservation Order. Lyons Davidson’s Civil Litigation team can assist; for more information call 0344 251 0070 or email [email protected].