Protected trees

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a special form of control that applies to certain trees. TPOs are used to protect trees that are particularly attractive and contribute to the appearance of an area. It is illegal to cut down, prune, or otherwise damage a tree protected by a TPO without the Council's consent. The unauthorised lopping or felling of a tree is a serious criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to 20,000. TPOs are made by the Council when trees are under threat of being cut down or damaged.

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What is an Area TPO?

An Area (or 'blanket') Tree Preservation Order protects the trees located within an area defined on a map.

An Area TPO applies to all the trees that were in existence at the time the TPO was made, so it is often necessary to establish the age of a tree to know whether or not it is protected by an Area TPO.

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What is a Conservation Area?

A Conservation Area is an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve. Trees often make an important contribution to the appearance of Conservation Areas, and so are given special protection. Permission is required for the pruning or felling of any tree within a Conservation Area greater than 7.5cm in diameter (as measured at 1.5m above ground level). The penalties for unauthorised felling or lopping of trees in Conservation Areas are the same as for trees protected by TPO.

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What types of tree are protected?

Any species of tree, including fruit trees, can be protected by a Tree Preservation Order. If a tree is healthy and stable, visible from a public place and potentially under threat it is a candidate for a TPO, regardless of species. The Council's criteria for selecting trees for inclusion in a TPO can be viewed here. Trees within a Conservation Area are also protected.

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Are fruit trees protected?

Fruit trees may be included in TPOs , but the Council's consent is not required to prune a fruit tree where that tree is cultivated for the production of fruit in the course of a business or trade and such work is in the interests of that business or trade.

A fruit tree is defined as a tree cultivated for the production of fruit, such as apples, pears, plums and cherries. Whilst a number of trees produce 'fruit' that may be eaten (such as walnuts, sweet chestnuts and mulberries), they are rarely cultivated specifically for the production of fruit and would be protected by a TPO. Ornamental crab apple trees, cherry and pear trees are also included.

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Trees protected by Planning Condition

The Council, when granting Planning permission for development, may require existing trees to be retained as a condition of the Planning permission, even if they are not protected by Preservation Order or Conservation Area. If a tree is located in the grounds of a property that was built or extended within the last five years, it may be protected by Planning Condition. Please refer to our website if you are unsure whether a Planning Condition applies to the trees in your garden.

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How do I find out which trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area?

Find out if the trees at a property are protected by Conservation Area or TPO using Your Local Services.

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How can I get a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order?

The Council will only make a Tree Preservation Order if it can be demonstrated that the tree is under threat. If this is the case and the tree looks healthy and stable, is visible from a public place and its removal would significantly harm the appearance of the area, please contact us. Our Tree Officer will look at the tree to see if it qualifies for protection by TPO and advise you accordingly.

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You will need to fill in an application form. However, if you wish to undertake felling or crown reduction it may be advisable to discuss your proposals with us prior to submitting the application. We may be able to advise you on alternative works that will solve the problem, but that will not conflict with our policies on tree protection. It usually takes six weeks from the receipt of your application until a decision is made.

The forms can be completed online. Alternatively use the link below to download the form:

Application form
Tree works: works to trees subject to a tree preservation order (TPO) and/or notification of proposed works to trees in a conservation area Advice

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Can I appeal against the Council's decision if my application to carry out work is refused?

Appeals are dealt with independently byThe Planning Inspectorate.

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Is there a charge for making an application?

There is no charge for making a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area Application.

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Will the Council pay for my protected tree to be pruned?

The Council will not pay for works to protected trees. All landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe and any pruning work required will be at the landowner's expense.

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Am I able to claim compensation from the Council if a protected tree causes damage?

All landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe regardless of whether they are covered by a Tree Preservation Order or not. Healthy trees do sometimes fall down and it is worth checking your household insurance and/or having an independent report done on the risk they might present to property. Such a report can be compiled by an Arboricultural Consultant. Details of tree consultants operating throughout the UK are available from the Arboricultural Association.

If permission is refused to remove a tree causing damage to drives, walls, etc. you may only claim compensation for the damage that occurs in the 12 months following refusal. You will need to have the problem fixed and then bring a claim within 12 months. We will treat each claim for compensation on its own merits.

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Will the Council accept responsibility for my tree if I am not allowed to cut it down and then it causes damage to my neighbour's property?

Although damage from subsidence and heave or to drains is very unlikely, property can be at risk if a tree becomes diseased or is damaged in bad weather. If the Council refuses permission to fell a protected tree, it has been assessed and deemed safe at the time of application. However, trees do change over time and they are the responsibility of the landowner regardless of any Tree Preservation Order. If you are worried about the condition of your tree and feel it poses a risk contact a tree consultant who will advise you on what you can remove from the tree in order to make it safe.

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I think my tree is dead. Can I remove it?

Any protected tree that is dead can be removed without the need to submit an application. However, the onus of proof rests with you. If you plan to remove such a tree you must provide us with at least five days written notice. We will then make a site visit to check that the tree is dead and if this is the case, it can be removed. There is a legal duty to plant a replacement tree under these circumstances.

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I think my tree is dangerous.

Where works are urgently necessary to remove an immediate risk of serious harm, this may be done without prior notification to the Council. However, you must notify the Council in writing as soon as is practicable after the works become necessary. You must also provide evidence (e.g. photographs) that the tree was an immediate risk of causing serious harm.

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What is a felling licence, and when do I need to apply for one?

The Forestry Commission controls the quantity of timber that can be felled at any time, by issuing felling licences.Trees in private gardens are exempt from this control.

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Can protected trees be felled to enable development to take place?

If an application is received to develop on land affected by a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area the impact on the trees will be part of a whole assessment of the proposal. We will take into account details such as the proximity of the proposed buildings, the health and stability of the trees, their contribution to the character of the area and the value in retaining them.

If a site is not the subject of a Tree Preservation Order and a development looks likely to threaten healthy, stable and visually significant trees, the Council may consider creating a Tree Preservation Order in order to safeguard the trees.

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What do I do if I think someone has damaged or felled a protected tree?

Contact us. We can check to see if they are acting on permission, or undertaking work to material that is dead, dying or dangerous. If we have no record of work taking place, and the trees appear to be protected we will inspect them within 24 hours of the initial enquiry, and often much sooner.