Tree Preservation Orders

Before carrying out any tree work it is important to find out whether the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), Conservation Area, or through another form of protection.

You may have already been notified that a TPO covers trees that you own, either when the order was originally served or through a Local Land Charges search carried out by your solicitor prior to you purchasing the property. If you are at all unsure as to whether a tree is protected please contact us for clarification.

Obtaining a Copy of a TPO

While we can give free advice over the phone or via email as to whether particular trees are protected by a TPO, there may be circumstances where a copy of the original legal documents (order and plan) will be required. We operate a chargeable fast-track service for providing these documents within 3 working days of a valid request and payment being received by the Neighbourhoods Team. The current charge for this service is £20 per TPO and the request can be made in writing accompanied by a cheque, or by telephone/email with card payment made over the telephone to ensure timely receipt of your request.

We also operate a free service whereby requests for documents are processed within 20 working days of receipt. Requests made under this service will be dealt with as a lower priority and will therefore generally take the full 20 days to be processed.

TPOs Pre-dating 6th April 2012

On the 6th April 2012 new legislation governing TPOs came into effect, which made changes to the provisions included in new TPOs. It also made equivalent changes to all existing TPOs. If your property is affected by a TPO made prior to this date please read the following document: Icon for pdf Pre 2012 TPO's [58.63KB] . For further information you may also find it helpful to refer to 'The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012' and the 'Planning Practice Guidance for Tree Preservation Orders and Trees in Conservation Areas' , or contact us to discuss anything you are unsure about.

Applying to Carry Out Works to TPO Trees
If you plan to carry out works to a tree or trees that you already know are protected by a TPO then you can make an application by downloading the Icon for pdf Application Form for TPO tree work [406.85KB] and accompanying Icon for pdf Guidance Notes [553.13KB] on how to apply. The form can be filled in electronically and returned via email, to ensure it is processed as quickly as possible.

If you would like help in preparing your application or specifying tree work you should contact a reputable tree surgeon, who will be able to advise on suitable work, how to describe this on the form and will also give you an indication of what the work might cost to carry out. Where required, many contractors will prepare and submit the paperwork on behalf of a householder at little or no extra cost.

It is important that you describe your proposed work clearly, particularly in relation to branch or crown reduction work. The guidance notes cover this in some detail and state that references to percentages should be avoided when describing crown reductions. Also that descriptions of proposed work should instead refer to the intended height and spread of the tree after pruning. The latest British Standard for tree work BS3998:2010 similarly makes clear that references to percentage reductions are "imprecise and unsatisfactory without reference to length, height, spread etc" and goes on to extend this approach to include stating the intended end result for specific branches where necessary. 

It should be noted that where pruning is to achieve clearance from a structure or from the ground, a finished clearance measurement will suffice. For example: "crown lift to achieve 4m clearance above ground level" or "reduction of branches on west side of tree to achieve 3m horizontal clearance from the house".

Please note that any application forms sent to us that quote percentages without reference to finished dimensions will likely be delayed as clarification is sought, and will ultimately be returned as invalid if more precise information isn't forthcoming.

If you need further guidance on applying or clarification of whether the work needs a formal application, please contact us. In some circumstances an exemption may apply (see below) such as for safety reasons, and we also allow certain minor works without requiring an application. These are outlined in the our tree policy documents Icon for pdf 'Part 1' [2.34MB] and Icon for pdf 'Part 2' [2.22MB] and are also shown as diagrams in the application guidance notes.

Register of Applications
Please note that your application and our decision will be included in a Icon for pdf publicly available record of TPO applications [643.01KB]  and in certain circumstances may be copied to neighbours and other third parties. Local Planning Authorities are required to maintain a register of applications received, including the LPA's decision, and to make this register available to the public.

Works urgently required for safety reasons
It is not the intention of a TPO to keep unsafe trees, nor to prevent work that is needed in order to make a tree safe. There are specific exemptions within the legislation, which help to ensure works that must be done to a tree because of an imminent danger are not stopped. Examples are where a branch has split/broken in a gale and is hanging in the tree, or where a tree has begun to uproot and is likely to fall.

Anyone planning to do works under this exemption should first seek the advice of a tree expert and must give us 5 working days prior written notice before carrying out the work, except in an emergency, to avoid the risk of prosecution. Similarly, felling of dead trees can be carried out without an application, but only after giving 5 working days prior written notice, except in an emergency (see above). Any work carried out in an emergency must be followed by notifying us of the work as soon as practicable after the work starts. Anyone carrying out work under this exemption is strongly advised to retain evidence of the emergency (for example photographs), to reduce the risk of prosecution.

Tree felling or damage concerns
If you are concerned that important trees may be at risk of being felled or damaged and are in need of protection, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. We will be happy to discuss your concerns and where appropriate will assess whether a TPO should be placed on the trees. We have strict criteria for where a tree may be eligible for a TPO, and will only make a TPO where the tree is of sufficient size and quality, visible from a public place and is under some threat.

If you believe a protected tree is being felled or damaged please report this to us without delay. We will be able to clarify whether the tree is protected, and if the work contravenes a TPO we will launch an enforcement investigation. Anyone who cuts down, uproots, tops, lops, wilfully destroys or wilfully damages a tree in contravention of a TPO is guilty of a criminal offence and could be liable to a fine of up to £20,000.