Trees are important, so much so that a tree can be protected.
A tree preservation order (TPO) is an order made by a local planning authority to protect specific trees. Some trees are centuries old, for example, and will have a tree preservation order stating they can’t be removed, damaged or altered in any way, except under the specific conditions stated in an order.
Where a TPO is in place, cutting trees in any way without the local planning authority’s prior written consent is prohibited. If remedial work is required on a tree that’s subject to a TPO you’ll need to contact the local authority to get permission.
A TPO can also refer to groups of trees and entire woodlands as well as specific trees and is made by the planning authority itself or can be made upon request by a third party.
Writing on the subject these solicitors Chelmsford explain:
“TPOs prohibit the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilful damage and/or wilful destruction of trees without the local planning authorities written consent. Consent to carry out works on a protected tree may be given, subject to conditions which must be followed.
The causing, permitting or the carrying out of the aforementioned prohibited activities is an offence under section 210(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 this carries a higher penalty than any other works carried out in contravention of a TPO which is an offence under 210(4) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.”
It is a criminal offence to carry out any prohibited work on a tree that’s protected. And if you own a protected tree you are responsible for not allowing anyone to breach a TPO without the consent of the local authority.
If found guilty you could be liable of a summary fine of up to £20,000 or on conviction of an indictment, the fine is unlimited.
On occasions the law allows you to carry out work on a tree that has a TPO without consent, however it’s always worth getting in touch with the planning authority to let them know.
For example, where the tree is dying, dead or dangerous you would not need permission. Or if it was being removed as part of a development where detailed planning permission has been granted. Professional orchards are expected to maintain good horticultural practise, even where TPOs are in place.
If the local authority believes you have carried out prohibited work, you can still be prosecuted.
Does Your Property or Land Have a TPO in Place?
Trees can be protected in different ways depending on their age, size and location among other things.
So, if you want to work on a tree on your property, how do you know if there’s a tree preservation order in place?
When a TPO is made the local planning authority should notify parties interested in the land or those affected by the order, that the order has been confirmed. A copy of the Tree Preservation Order will also be available for public inspection at the local authority.
Some local authorities have maps so you can check to see if a TPO is in place for a tree or trees or if the tree is in a Conservation Area. Alternatively, talk to your local authority.
If a tree is removed, cut down or destroyed without proper consent, you may be required to plant a replacement tree or as mentioned in some cases be subject to criminal proceedings.
When it comes to protected trees it’s always best to check first. Because of their role in our environment trees are given special consideration in planning processes across the country. The financial consequences can be massive if you carry out work on a tree that’s protected. And people have been fined for carrying out prohibited work.
A call to the local authority will usually be enough to uncover whether a tree has a preservation order and understand what work can and can’t be carried out.
Conversely, if you feel a tree needs protecting, you can request a TPO be made. Again, this would be through a request to the local authority.
The local authority also has the power to change or revoke a tree preservation order.