We have powers to issue tree preservation orders (TPOs) to control work on trees that make a significant contribution to a public amenity, or to the character of an area. They are likely to be issued when it is felt that a tree may be under threat.
The owner of a protected tree is responsible for its maintenance, condition and any damage it causes. However, permission must still be sought from us before carrying out most types of work.
It is a criminal offence to lop, top, cut down, uproot, wilfully damage or destroy a tree covered by a TPO without formal consent. If you destroy or instruct the destruction of a protected tree, or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 and will be required to plant a new tree.
Before starting work on any tree, we strongly recommend that you contact us to check its status, then ask a professional tree surgeon or arborist to advise you and undertake any work needed. You can find out how to check if your tree is protected and request a copy of an existing TPO on our 'Find out if a tree is protected' page.
All types of trees – native, ornamental and fruit, including hedgerow trees – can be the subject of a TPO, although hedges, bushes, and shrubs cannot.
Trees in conservation areas have a level of protection similar to trees covered by a TPO. You must notify us of intended works to trees in conservation areas. The process and form are the same as for applying to do works to a tree protected by a tree preservation order.
Apply for permission to work on protected trees
If works to protected trees are needed, an application (for trees covered by a TPO) or notification (for trees in conservation areas) is required.
We encourage you to submit your application or notification online via the Planning Portal website, which will take you through the process step-by-step.
When we receive your valid application or notification, we will consult adjoining land owners. Public notices may be placed locally and we will take any views or representations into account when reaching a decision. Some works will be decided by officers, while others may be referred to the Planning committee.
For trees protected by a protection order we will confirm receipt and registration of your application, and let you know our decision within eight weeks.
If your application is refused or granted subject to certain conditions, or if you do not receive a decision within eight weeks, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. We will provide you details of how to appeal with the decision notice.
Notifications of work are required for all trees in conservation areas if they have a stem diameter of 75 millimetres measured at 1.5 metres from ground level. We will confirm receipt and registration of your notification, and let you know our decision within six weeks. We use this time to decide if the tree(s) should be protected from the proposed work by a preservation order.
We do not offer pre-application advice. The Arboricultural Association can provide advice about finding an arborist, and some useful information is provided in our guidance notes (above).
In some circumstances you may require a felling licence from the Forestry Commission before removing trees, although this is unlikely to apply to a normal domestic garden.
New preservation orders
When we plan to issue a new tree preservation order, we will send a copy to the owner of the property and any adjoining properties that are affected, to give them an opportunity to object or support it.
You can ask us to issue a new order to protect a specific tree. Your request should include your name and address, your reasons for thinking the tree should be protected, and the location of the tree and species type, if known.
Circumstances where permission is not required
In some circumstances you can carry out work to a protected tree without first seeking our permission. For example:
- If the tree is dead or dangerous. The danger must be imminent (the onus will be on you to prove this if the facts are questioned) and you can only carry out work required to remove the danger. You must notify us at least five days in advance unless the risk of harm or damage is immediate, in which case you must do so as soon as possible afterwards. Removal of dead wood from an otherwise healthy tree is considered to be covered by this exemption, but you are not required to notify us of the removal of dead wood
- If you are obliged to carry out work by an Act of Parliament. Most commonly, this applies to trees overhanging a public highway where you have an obligation to maintain reasonable clearance above the road. This usually equates to 2.5m above a footway or 5.5m above a vehicular carriageway
- Where work is absolutely necessary to implement a detailed planning permission. This does not apply to an outline 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 it is a fruit tree 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
Other protection for trees
In addition to tree preservation orders and the rules covering trees in conservation areas, there are various other factors that can constrain work to trees. For example:
- Felling which involves more than 5m³ of timber, or more than 2m³ if sold, may require a felling licence from the Forestry Commission
- Many wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. This includes bat roosts and the nests of wild birds. If a tree contains a protected habitat, work may have to be delayed or may require a licence from Natural England
- Trees can sometimes be protected by conditions attached to planning permission
- Occasionally, covenants attached to the deeds for a property may restrict what work can be undertaken to trees
- Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (in particular sections 197-214 as amended)
- The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012
- Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas. Planning Practice Guidance