Tree Preservation Orders
What is a Tree Preservation Order?
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an order made by a Local Planning Authority which in general makes it an offence to cut down, lop, top, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without first getting permission from the Local Planning Authority.
Tree Preservation Orders are usually made to protect trees which make a significant contribution to the amenity of an area. They may particularly be made when it is felt that a tree may be under threat.
What types of tree can be covered by a TPO
All types of trees, including hedgerow trees, may be the subject of a TPO. A TPO can not protect hedges, bushes or shrubs.
How can I find out if a tree has a TPO?
Contact your local council with details of the address, location and species of the tree. They will be able to tell you if the tree is protected.
When you are buying a property the presence of a TPO should be revealed by the search of the local land charges register.
Who is responsible for maintaining a tree with a TPO?
The owner of the tree is responsible for maintenance of a protected tree, for its condition and for any damage which it causes. However, they will need to obtain permission from the local council before carrying out most types of work.
Tree work is a dangerous and highly skilled operation and tree’s are complex structures which are easily damaged by poor or ill advised work. You are strongly advised to engage a professional tree surgeon or arborist to advise you and undertake any work needed.
Can you recommend a good tree surgeon?
You can find advice on finding a tree surgeon here.
How do I get permission to work on a tree covered by a TPO?
If you wish to carry out work to a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order you must apply to the local council. The application must be made on a standard application form which you can get from your council or from the Planning Portal. You can also submit your application electronically via the Planning Portal.
An application must be accompannied by a plan showing the locations of the trees. This need not be to scale. You must also indicate exactly what sort of work you wish to carry out and the reasons why you wish to carry out the work. If your reasons relate to the condition of the tree or to alleged damage to buildings you must also submit supporting evidence.
It is often helpful if you ask your tree surgeon to make the application on your behalf.
The local council will usually write to confirm the receipt of your application and will then consider it and let you know their decision within eight weeks.
If I am refused permission can I appeal?
Yes. If your application is refused, or if you do not receive a decision within eight weeks, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. The council should send you details of how to appeal along with the decision notice.
You may also appeal if the council grants permission but attaches conditions to it.
During the appeal process your application and the council's reasons for refusal will be considered by an independent inspector.
Can I get compensation if my application is refused, or if conditions are attached?
It is sometimes possible to make a claim for compensation if you are refused permission to carry out work to a protected tree, or if conditions are attached to the permission. The details of compensation arrangements are complex and vary depending on the date on which the TPO was made. You are strongly advised to seek legal advice before making a claim for compensation.
Some of the main points 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 reasonably 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 council’s decision to refuse consent or grant it subject to conditions
If you wish to make a claim for compensation you should write to the council within 12 months of the council’s decision, or within 12 months of the Secretary of State's decision if you appealed.
When can I work on a tree without permission?
There are a few circumstances in which you can carry out work to a protected tree without gaining permission first. These include:
- If the tree is dead or the work is necessary to remove an immediate risk of serious harm. The risk must be immediate and the onus will be on you to prove this if there are questions. You must let the Council know in writing that you propose to carry out work on this basis at least 5 days in advance unless the danger is imminent. In this case, you must notify the Council as soon as practical. Removal of dead wood from an otherwise healthy tree is also allowed.
- If you are obliged to carry out work by an Act of Parliament. Most commonly, this applies to trees that overhang a public road where you have an obligation to maintain reasonable clearance above the road. This usually means 2.5m above a footway or 5.5m above a vehicular carriageway.
- Where the work is absolutely necessary in order to implement a detailed planning permission. Note that this does not apply to outline planning permission or to permitted development rights.
- If the tree is a fruit tree and you prune it in accordance with good horticultural practice, or if the tree is a fruit tree situated in a commercial orchard.
- If the work is to be carried in accordance with a Forestry Commission grant scheme or if a felling licence has been granted by the Forestry Commission.
What are the penalties for working on a protected tree without without permission?
If you deliberately destroy a protected tree, or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 if convicted in a magistrates court. Serious offences may be referred to a crown court which can impose an unlimited fine. For other offences you can be fined up to £2,500. Furthermore, you will normally have to plant a new tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.
Will I be told if a TPO is made on a tree on my property?
Yes. When the council makes a TPO it will send copies to the owner of the property and any one else with a right to prune the tree or mine the land.
Does a new TPO take effect immediately?
Yes, TPOs take effect as soon as they are made. This initial protection lasts for six months.
A new TPO must be made permanent, known as 'confirming', within 6 months of being made, otherwise it will lapse. Owners of affected properties will be notified when the TPO is confirmed.
How can I object to, or express support for, a new TPO?
To object to a new TPO, or to express your support for it, write to the local council within the time allowed, usually 28 days, after the order has been made. The council will consider your comments when deciding whether or not to confirm the TPO.