What are the relevant laws?
The law on Tree Preservation Orders is in Part VIII of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended and in the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012 which came into force on 6 April 2012. Section 192 of the Planning Act 2008 made further amendments to the 1990 Act which allowed for the transfer of provisions from within existing Tree Preservation Orders to regulations. Part 6 of the Localism Act 2011 amended section 210 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 concerning time limits for proceedings in regard to non-compliance with Tree Preservation Order regulations.
What is a Tree Preservation Order?
A Tree Preservation Order is an order made by a local planning authority in England to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands in the interests of amenity. An Order prohibits the:
- cutting down
- wilful damage
- wilful destruction
of trees without the local planning authority’s written consent. If consent is given, it can be subject to conditions which have to be followed. In the Secretary of State’s view, cutting roots is also a prohibited activity and requires the authority’s consent.
What are a tree owner’s responsibilities?
Owners of protected trees must not carry out, or cause or permit the carrying out of, any of the prohibited activities without the written consent of the local authority. As with owners of unprotected trees, they are responsible for maintaining their trees, with no statutory rules setting out how often or to what standard. The local planning authority cannot require maintenance work to be done to a tree just because it is protected. However, the authority can encourage good tree management, particularly when determining applications for consent under a Tree Preservation Order. This will help to maintain and enhance the amenity provided by protected trees.
Arboricultural advice from competent contractors and consultants, or the authority, will help to inform tree owners of their responsibilities and options. It is important that trees are inspected regularly and necessary maintenance carried out to make sure they remain safe and healthy.
How is an application made to carry out work on trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order?
Apart from limited exceptions, permission must be sought from the local planning authority by submitting a standard application form. The form is available from the Government’s Planning Portal or the local authority direct. It is important that the information on the form makes clear what the proposed work is and provides adequate information to support the case.
The chart below shows the procedure once an application has been submitted.
How are offences against a Tree Preservation Order enforced?
Anyone who contravenes an Order by damaging or carrying out work on a tree protected by an Order without getting permission from the local planning authority is guilty of an offence and may be fined up to £20,000 per tree.
There is also a duty requiring landowners to replace a tree removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of an Order. This duty also applies if a tree outside woodland is removed because it is dead or presents an immediate risk of serious harm. The local planning authority may also impose a condition requiring replacement planting when granting consent under an Order for the removal of trees. The authority can enforce tree replacement by serving a tree replacement notice.
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