A “TPO”, or a Tree Preservation Order, is an order made by a local authority to protect specific trees, groups of trees or an area of woodland, by making it an offence to carry out certain works to the tree(s) without the authority’s permission.
Local authorities can make a TPO if it appears to them to be ‘expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands in their area’ (s198 Town and Country Planning Act 1990). Put more simply, a local authority may make a TPO if they consider that a particular tree, a group of trees or an area of woodland brings significant amenity benefit to the local area, and their damage or removal would have a negative impact on the local environment.
How do I know if a TPO has been made?
When a TPO is made, the local authority will write to those who may have a right to work on the tree, which will generally be the landowner and / or tenant, and sometimes neighbours.
Enquiries can be made at the local authority to establish whether any TPOs have been made in respect of any trees within your property. If a TPO has been made, copies of the TPO will be available for inspection at the planning authority’s offices, and electronic copies can also usually be obtained for a small fee if requested.
Works on trees subject to a TPO
A TPO prohibits the:
- cutting down;
- wilful damage; and/or
- wilful destruction
of trees without the local planning authority’s written consent. However a TPO does not impose an absolute prohibition of such works, and a TPO may be made subject to exceptions (e.g., permitting specified work).
If you want to carry out work on a tree subject to a TPO an application must be made to the local planning authority for permission to do so. The standard application form is available from the Planning Portal (www.planningportal.gov.uk) or the local authority.
The local authority may provide consent to certain works subject to certain conditions, such as requiring trees to be planted, or limiting the duration of the consent.
If you see work being carried out on a tree which is subject to a TPO, and you have reason to believe that the person carrying out the work does not have the relevant permission to do so, you can contact the Tree Officer at the local planning authority, who will have a register of applications, orders and decisions and will be able to check the status of the tree.
There are a limited number of situations whereby permission need not be sought, notwithstanding the imposition of a TPO. The exceptions are as follows:
- Cutting down trees in accordance with one of the Forestry Commission’s grant schemes, or where the Forestry Commission has granted a felling licence.
- Cutting down or pruning a tree:
- which is dead – this includes the removal of a dead tree, or of dead branches from a living tree. Although the local authority’s consent is not required if the tree or branch is dead, you must give five working days’ notice to the local authority prior to carrying out any work, unless the work is urgently needed because there is an immediate risk of serious harm;
- which is dangerous and presents an urgent and serious safety risk – a tree may present a serious safety risk by virtue of its size or position, or because of disease, for example. You must give notice to the local authority as soon as practicable after the work becomes necessary, and you can only carry out work to the extent that it is necessary to make the tree safe and remove the risk;
- which is necessary to implement planning permission – this exception will only apply if the work is necessary to implement a full planning permission. The local authority’s permission will be required if the planning permission has expired and it is not necessary to carry out works on the protected tree(s) in order to implement the planning permission;
- in a commercial orchard – this applies to fruit trees cultivated for the production of fruit in the course of a business or trade and where the work is in the interests of that business or trade;
- to prevent or control a legal nuisance – which we would be happy to advise you on should you wish to seek legal advice;
- in line with an obligation under an Act of Parliament; or
- by or at the request of certain organisations listed in the regulations – the organisations listed in the regulations include the Environment Agency, water or sewerage undertakers, gas transporters and electricity providers.
Responsibility for trees protected by a TPO
The owner will remain responsible for trees protected by a TPO – responsibility does not pass to the local authority when a TPO is made. The owner must therefore ensure that the appropriate permission is sought and obtained before carrying out, or permitting any work to be carried out, to the protected tree(s).
However there are no statutory rules setting out how often or to what standard trees protected by a TPO must be maintained, and the local authority cannot require maintenance work to be done to a tree just because it is protected. However, the local authority will encourage good tree management, and this will be taken into consideration by the local authority when determining applications for permission to carry out works to trees protected by a TPO.
Consequences of carrying out work without permission
Anyone who deliberately contravenes a TPO by damaging or carrying out work on a tree protected by a TPO, or by permitting such damage or works to be carried out, without obtaining the relevant permission, will be guilty of an offence and may be liable to pay a fine.
For more information please visit: