Tree preservation orders
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is made by the Council to protect specific trees or a particular woodland from deliberate damage and destruction. TPOs prevent the felling, lopping, topping, uprooting or otherwise wilful damaging of trees without the permission of the local planning authority.
They can be made very quickly and in practice it is normal for the Council to make an emergency TPO in less than a day in cases of immediate danger to trees - although obviously the trees need to be worthy and capable of protection anyway. However, if the case is not urgent it can take longer.
Making TPOs is a discretionary power: this means that the Council does not have to do it. It may choose to make them, or it may not. Even if the most wonderful tree in the area is under threat, there's no legal reason why the Council has to make an order. But once one is made, the Council has a duty to enforce it.
Once a TPO is made it is usually takes immediate effect, but can be confirmed or terminated at any time up to six months time, with or without modifications. Modifications can be a change in description or map details, or a removal of certain trees from the order, but cannot include extra trees to be protected - if the Council wants to add trees to the order as originally made it is usually necessary to make a new Order.
The landowner is still responsible for the trees, their condition and any damage they might cause at all times.
Details of Orders, applications for work and decisions are kept by the Council and are available for public inspection. A landowner is also served notice if a new order is made on their land. It is normal, but not required, for other interested parties (for example neighbours etc) to be sent copies of new orders too.
There is no requirement for applications to do work to protected trees to be advertised, although many authorities choose to do so.
Find out if your trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order. You can search by either address or postcode. Clicking on the TPO record when found will provide you with details, and to view a copy of the actual Order, click on MORE INFO.
If your trees are protected, you need written permission to remove them, or to do any tree surgery. If you remove trees or do work to them without permission you could be prosecuted. You or your tree contractor can usually apply for work to protected trees on standard forms or apply online via the Planning Portal.
You will usually receive a decision within 6 weeks for Conservation Areas and 2 months for TPOs and planning conditions. If you want to remove trees, you may be required to plant replacements of the same species and in the same location.
Which trees can be protected?
Although it is possible to make TPOs on any trees, in practice they are most commonly used in urban and semi-urban settings, for example gardens and parkland. A TPO is to protect trees for the public's enjoyment. It is made for the amenity of the tree or woodland, and this can include its nature conservation value but more often means its visual amenity.
TPOs can be placed on any trees including hedgerow trees but not hedges themselves. According to current guidance, the term 'tree' is not defined, for these purposes, but the High Court has held in 1980 that a 'tree' is anything which ordinarily one would call a tree.
The working definition, in line with Government guidance, is that it should be a single-stemmed woody perennial plant. This can be a tiny shoot as well as a full-grown tree. It can therefore exclude multi-stemmed trees such as coppiced hazel in some circumstances, although it could, on the other hand, arguably include shrubs which can get to be the size of a tree such as elder and lilac.
The following are exempt from TPOs and cannot be protected under an Order, even if one is made.
- Works approved by the Forestry Commission under a felling licence or other approved scheme
- Felling or working on a dead, dying or dangerous tree. (Written confirmation should be received from the Council before undertaking any work)
- Where there is an obligation under an Act of Parliament
- Works at the request of certain agencies or organisations which are specified in the Order
- Works where there is a direct need to work on the tree to allow development to commence for which detailed planning permission has been obtained
- Works to fruit trees cultivated in the course of a business for fruit production, as long as the tree work is in the interests of that business. This means that fruit trees are not automatically exempt unless they are actively being used for a business
There are presently four types of TPO, although any one Order can contain any number of items which can be of one or more types. The types are as follows:
- Individual: can be applied to an individual tree
- Group: can be applied to a group of individual trees which, together, make up a feature of amenity value but which separately might not
- Area: a type of TPO not normally made now but still common, as formerly this type was used frequently. It covers all trees in a defined area at the time the order was made
- Woodland: covers all trees within a woodland area regardless of how old they are
TPOs are public documents and can be searched for and viewed on our website. Attached to the TPO is usually a schedule and a map. The schedule shows the type/s of TPO which make up the order, and often gives details of the species of trees affected. The map gives the location of the TPO, and, if appropriate, individual trees or areas. If you believe any of this information to be incorrect, please contact Planning Admin.
Conservation Areas are areas designated by local authorities for building and landscape conservation, not nature conservation. However, to work on trees within a Conservation Area a landowner needs to give six weeks notice in writing to the Council.
The relevant regulations can be found on the Governments Legislation website.
Further advice is contained within the Planning Practice Guidance