Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)
What is a Tree Preservation Order?
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a ruling made by a local planning authority (a department from the local borough or district council) that is used to protect a tree(s) or woodland from being damaged (this includes protection from cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, willful damage, or willful destruction of trees) without the local council's consent. (The law is found in Part VIII of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.)
A TPO can cover single standing Trees & Woodland, potentially including trees growing within hedges (or old hedges that are of a considerable height and have become a line of trees & is not currently managed as a hedgerow).
When a council decides whether to make a TPO on a tree it must demonstrate that if the tree(s)/woodland were removed it would have a significant impact on the local environment and people and that the public would benefit from it being preserved.
The local planning authority must show that the tree(s) or part of the them are visible from a public space; that they have either present or future value; they can hold intrinsic value in their beauty or provide a more practical service such as screening; their value can be increased by scarcity or if wildlife use the tree(s) as a habitat. Once a tree has a TPO the council’s consent has to be obtained before it can be worked upon.
There are various different rules regarding trees growing in land owned by the Forestry Commission, Crown Estate and Local Authority Land and details can be found in the Tree Preservation Orders: A Guide to the Law and Good Practice -http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/tposguide.pdf) & Tree Preservation Orders – A guide to the law and good practice
Step 1: You want to protect a tree (that may or may not be threatened)
Does the tree in question have a ‘Tree Preservation order’?
As only local planning authorities can make TPOs, they legally must hold the details regarding any trees that are preserved within their council boundary. When a tree is given a TPO its location is marked on a map and the local authority have copies of these available at their offices for public inspection free of charge and may also provide information about TPOs over the phone or internet to members of the public.
Therefore, to find out whether your tree(s) in question have a TPO you will need to contact (or visit) the local authority that the tree is situated within to speak with the local planning authority (For example, in the London Borough of Lambeth you will need to contact the Town Planning Advice Centre - http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/Services/HousingPlanning/Planning/TownPlanningAdviceCentre.htm however some councils now publish up-to-date lists of their TPOs on their websites).
Provide them with the location details of the tree and they will let you know if it is already preserved.
If the tree does have a Tree Preservation order how is it protected?
If the tree(s) does have a TPO then the council has control over whether any work can commence on it and also ensure the planting of new trees to replace trees that are removed if deemed suitable. If the tree that is preserved is cut down or damaged deliberately then the person responsible may be prosecuted and liable to pay a fine of up to £20,000.
The local planning authority therefore has the ability to impose conditions on a planning permission with regards to trees that have TPOs and also to refuse development on the ground that it may disrupt trees that have TPOs.
However, the council is not responsible for the maintenance of a preserved tree; the responsibility still lies with the owner of the land but the council may be able to offer help and advice on the trees management.
Step 2: If the tree does not have a Tree Preservation Order what do I do next?
You can apply to the local planning authority of which the tree stands within providing details of the tree that you think should be preserved as well as the reasons why you feel a TPO should be made and they will consider whether to enact a TPO.
When providing reasons why a tree should have a TPO you should think about what kind of value the tree brings to the local environment and people now and in the future, such as the importance the tree has in terms of its location or setting (how visible is it to the public and whether it provides a service), its beauty, rarity and historical or wildlife significance.
See step 1 for how you can find the contact details of the local borough or district council’s planning authority that you will need to send your application to.
The application process for getting a tree a Tree Preservation Order:
Only a local authority can make a TPO and so the local authority will send out a qualified officer to make a site visit to the tree(s) in question to gather all the data needed to prepare and enact the TPO. This can involve visiting any site.
The local authority will send notice of the TPO to the land owner and then they will have 28 days to send any objections to the LA about the preservation of the tree(s). Notice of the TPO must also be sent to the adjoining land owners of the areas where the tree(s) in question are situated. The TPO will also be made publicly visible at the local planning authority offices’ and if necessary display a site notice at a convenient place in the local area.
If you have expressed an interest to the local planning authority that a tree is given a TPO then they should let you know (as a party of interest) in writing if the tree has been granted a TPO.
Step 3: If you are planning on development that may affect a tree(s) with a TPO what do you need to do?
Before work can commence on or near a tree with a TPO you must apply for planning permission from the relevant local authority through their planning permission forms provided along with a site plans and description of the development. However, it is advised to speak with the local authority first regarding the application so that an understanding of the position of the nature of the preservation order is achieved before applying. Consideration should be given to the protection of the tree(s) within the landscaping of the site and planning.
If the work to a tree with a TPO is refused then you have 28 days from the receipt of the notice to appeal the decision to the Secretary of State by contacting the Planning Inspectorate.
Step 4: Various exemptions from having to obey a TPO
There are certain circumstances under which work can be carried out on a tree with a TPO without gaining consent from the local authority. These include:
Dead, dying or dangerous trees under the right circumstances and if they present a danger to people in the present or near future may be worked upon however the local planning authority must be given 5 days notice before work is carried out (except in an emergency).
- If trees are regarded a ‘nuisance’ (in legal terms – see A Guide to Law and Good Practice document)
- If full planning permission has been granted (which involves the consideration of trees that have TPOs) for a development then preserved trees can be cut down. But only if the removal of the tree is required.
- Fruiting Trees that have TPOs can be harvested and pruned without permission as long as good practice is followed.
- Statutory Undertakers & other bodies: Certain Transport, utility and civil aviation organizations do not need LPA permission before removing preserved trees on their land if it’s in the interest of safety, carrying out repairs etc.
- Ancient Monument and church lands may contain trees with TPOs. If in doubt please consult the guide to TPOs or the local planning authority.
Tree felling licenses have to be applied for through the Forestry Commission before the LPA can refuse or grant work on trees with TPOs.
The main cases where a felling license is not required, but where consent under a TPO is required, are for:
• The topping or lopping of trees,
• The felling of trees in gardens, orchards, churchyards or public open spaces,
• The felling of trees with a diameter of 8 centimetres or less (measured at 1.3 metres from the ground), or 15 centimetres in the case of coppice or underwood
• The thinning of trees with a diameter of 10 centimetres or less.
If in doubt, contact the Forestry Commission - http://www.forestry.gov.uk/.
Guidance and information taken from the Communities and Local Government documents: Protected Trees – a guide to tree preservation procedures (http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/tposguide.pdf) & Tree Preservation Orders – A guide to the law and good practice (http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/protectedtreesguide.pdf)