A Tree Preservation Order is a legal order made by local planning authorities to preserve important trees, groups of trees or woodlands that have a public amenity. It is illegal to cut down, prune, or otherwise damage a tree (this includes the roots) protected by a TPO without the Council's consent. Upon receipt of your completed application form, the Council will endeavor to make a decision within 8 weeks of the registration date. Delays may occur when applications are unclear or if there is a lack of sufficient information.
Prior to a decision being made, a Tree Officer will inspect the tree(s) and may seek further information from the applicant. The unauthorized lopping or felling of a tree is a serious criminal offence and can result in a fine of up to £20,000. TPOs are mostly made by the Council when trees are under threat of being cut down or damaged.
The owner of a tree subject to TPO is responsible for its maintenance, as is the case if a tree is not subject to TPO. The owner of a tree is the owner of the land on which the majority of the stump/base is situated. If a tree is on the boundary of two properties the deeds to those properties should be referenced to establish the property boundaries. If the tree is on land of no apparent ownership, it may be necessary to consult the Land Registry which is the government department that keeps records of land ownership.
A Conservation Area is an area of special architectural or historic interest. Making an area a conservation area is intended to protect and preserve the character or appearance of the designated area. Trees often make an important contribution to the appearance of Conservation Areas and so are given special protection. Six weeks written notification is required before pruning or felling of any tree within a Conservation Area with a stem over 75mm in diameter (as measured at 1.5m above ground level).
The Council has only three options when in receipt of notice to undertake work to a tree within a conservation area. The council can grant consent, allow the 6 week period to expire when the work can be carried out without consent, or if the proposed work is considered unsuitable and the tree is of public amenity, the Council will make the tree(s) the subject of a Tree Preservation Order. The penalties for not giving notice of felling or pruning of trees in Conservation Areas are the same as for carrying out unauthorized works to trees protected by TPO.
Any protected tree that is dead and /or imminently dangerous can be removed without the need to submit an application to gain permission from the Council. If a part of a tree poses an imminent danger ie split or hanging limb, that part which poses the danger may be pruned without first making an application to gain permission. However, the onus of proof that a tree was dead or imminently dangerous rests with the tree owner. It is often difficult to tell a tree was dead or dangerous from the stump remaining after felling.
If you plan to remove a tree without an application, and if safe to do so, it is advisable to give the Council five days notice. This will give the Tree officer an opportunity to make a site visit to check that the tree is dead or imminently dangerous and confirm that it can be removed without consent. If the Tree Officer has not visited the site prior to a trees removal it is a good idea to take a photo of the tree which shows its condition.