A Guide to Tree Preservation Procedures
Local planning authorities have specific powers to protect trees by making tree preservation orders.
Special provisions also apply to trees within conservation areas.
This is for the benefit of tree owners, the general public and amenity groups and answers some of the most common questions about the tree preservation procedures. It is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligations.
What is a tree preservation order?
It is an order made by the Council which in general makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without the planning authority's permission.
How can I check if a tree has a preservation order placed on it?
You can check whether a tree has a preservation order placed on it by visiting Tameside's Interactive maps. Click on Tree Preservation Orders and the right hand side. There is also an option to search via an address.
If in doubt, contact us (details below).
What is the purpose of a tree preservation order?
To protect trees for the public's enjoyment. This is particularly important where trees are in immediate danger.
What type of trees can be covered by an order?
All types, including hedgerow trees, but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. The order can cover anything from a single tree to woodlands.
If I see work being carried out on a protected tree, how can I find out of the owner has permission?
An official search made before you purchase a property should reveal the existence of a tree preservation order (or whether your property is in a conservation area). Make sure your solicitor tells you if any trees are protected.
Also, see a register of applications and decisions relating to protected trees.
There are trees which I think should be protected. What can I do?
Contact us giving details of the trees, including a map if possible, and the reasons why you think the trees should be protected.
Does an order come into effect immediately?
The Council, if it chooses, make an order which will come into effect immediately and will continue for six months, or until it is confirmed, whichever comes first.
When the planning authority confirms the order it can modify it, for example to exclude some of the trees.
How will I know when a local planning authority makes a tree preservation order?
We will write to the owner and other interested parties serving notice of the making of the order. We will also leave a copy of the order at a convenient place for public inspection.
How can I object to or express support for an order?
If you or anyone else wants to object to or support an order, contact us (details above) within 28 days of the service of the notice saying why and giving details of the relevant trees.
The Council will take these comments into account when it decides whether to confirm the order. If appropriate, it may hold a public local injury.
Does the Council then become responsible for looking after the trees?
No. The owner remains responsible for the trees, their condition and any damage they may cause. But he must get our permission to carry out work on them, unless they are dying, dead or dangerous (but see question 12).
We may be able to offer appropriate help and advice.
What if I want to work on a protected tree?
Use the on-line form to seek permission, specifying the trees, what you want to do and why.
You may find it helpful to consult a tree surgeon to clarify what you need to do.
The Arboricultural Association (www.trees.org.uk) has a list of approved tree surgery contractors. You can write to it at Ampfield House, Ampfield, Romsey, Hants SO5 9PA, telephone (01794) 368717.
Do I always need permission to work on a protected tree?
Yes except for:
Cutting down any tree under a forestry dedication covenant or a plan of operations approved by the Forestry Authority, or where the Authority has granted a felling licence - see question 15.
Cutting down or cutting back a tree:-
- which is dying, dead or dangerous, or
- where there is an obligation under an Act of parliament, or
- at the request of a certain government department that is about to start for which detailed planning permission has been granted, or
- which is a fruit tree cultivated for fruit production, or
- to prevent or control a nuisance in the legal sense (you may find it helpful to check first with a solicitor).
If you are in any doubt, check with us.
If I don't need permission, do I still have to inform you of any work I intend to carry out?
Except in an emergency you should give us at least five days' notice before you cut down a protected tree which is dying, dead or dangerous. This is in your interests - you could be prosecuted if we think you have carried out unauthorised work. We could also decide that you do not have to plant a replacement tree. You must remember, however, that you will remain responsible for your trees and any damage they may cause.
When will I have to plant a replacement tree?
You will have to replant:-
if you cut down or destroy a protected tree:
- in breach of an order, or
- except in the case of woodland, because the tree is dying, dead or dangerous, unless the planning authority says you need not, or
if you are given permission to cut down a protected tree but replanting is a condition of its consent, or if you own protected woodland and permission is given to cut down trees, except where this is for thinning, making way for approved development, or the replanting requirement has been waived by the Secretary of State. Local planning authorities have legal powers to ensure that you plant a replacement tree when required. The original tree preservation order will normally cover the replacement trees.
Do I need a Forestry Authority felling licence to cut down trees covered by a tree preservation order?
Whether or not a tree preservation order is in force you must apply to the Forestry Authority for a felling licence if you want to cut down more than five cubic metres of timber - or sell more than two cubic metres of the exempt amount - in any order calendar quarter. There are exceptions to this rule which are set out in the Forestry Act 1967 and Regulations.
Where trees are covered by a tree preservation order and a felling licence application contains proposals for replanting the Forestry Authority will pass your application to the local planning authority, together with its comments, for decision under the order.
However if the purpose of the licence application is to discontinue the use of the land as woodland - or the intended use is not stated - the Forestry Authority will consider the application itself. Applicants should note that the Authority does not normally grant licences to change woodland to agricultural use. (Where, exceptionally, it does propose to grant a licence to fell woodland protected by a tree preservation order it will first give notice to the local planning authority. In such cases the planning authority has the right to object to the proposal and if it does so the application will be referred for decision to the Secretary of State.)
What happens if I carry out work on a protected tree without permission?
If you cut down, uproot or wilfully destroy a tree, or wilfully damage, top or lop a tree in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 on a summary conviction, or on indictment be liable to an unlimited fine. In determining the amount of the fine, the court would take into account of the actual, or likely, financial benefit arising from the offence. For other offences you could be fined up to £2,500.
You will normally have to plant a replacement tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.
What if my application to carry out work on a protected tree is refused, or I object to the conditions imposed by the planning authority?
You can appeal to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in writing within 28 days of receiving the decision.
The appeal will normally be decided on the basis of written representations. Both you and the local planning authority have the right instead to a public local inquiry or hearing.
The Deputy Prime Minister may allow or dismiss the appeal, or vary the original decision.
Can I get any compensation if my application to carry out work on protected trees/woodland is refused or conditions are imposed?
If consent is refused - or granted with conditions - you can seek compensation from your local planning authority for any loss or damage which results. However, under the terms of the order, the planning authority has issued a certificate saying either:-
- that the refusal or condition is in the interests of good forestry, or
- that the trees or woodland have an outstanding or special amenity value.
You can appeal to the Deputy Prime Minister against such a certificate.
Where a felling licence application has been refused by the Forestry Authority (see question 15) you may get compensation from the Authority under the relevant forestry legislation.
Replanting of woodland: You can also seek compensation from the local planning authority where, on giving permission to cut down protected woodland, it has required replanting (see question 14) but where the Forestry Authority will not grant aid such replanting because the conditions set by the planning authority do not meet the conditions and objectives of the Authority's grant scheme.
How do I go about claiming compensation under a tree preservation order?
Write to your local planning authority within 12 months of its decision, or that of the Deputy Prime Minister if you appealed.
Are there any extra restrictions in a conservation area?
Yes. The usual provisions apply to tress protected by tree preservation orders. For others you must give your local planning authority six weeks' notice in writing if you want to carry out work on them. You must not carry out any work during that period without permission. If you do, you could be fined as described in question 16. You may also have to plant a replacement tree.
But you do not need permission if you want to cut down or work on trees less than 7.5 centimetres in diameter (measured 1.5 metres above the ground), or 10 centimetres if this is to help the growth of other trees.
The exceptions in question 12 also apply. If in doubt, contact us.
How are trees on development sites affected?
Trees on development sites can be protected by tree preservation orders or by conditions attached to the planning permission, or both. Planning conditions may also require you to plant trees which may be covered by a tree preservation order. The order will take effect once they are planted.
Can I carry out work on protected trees which are in the way of proposed development?
You can only cut down or cut back protected trees if they are directly in the way of development which is about to start, for which you have detailed planning permission. Check first with your local planning authority. It may prosecute you if it thinks you have cut down or cut back excessively.
If the development does not require planning permission (for example, putting up a garden shed you must apply to your local planning authority for permission under the tree preservation order in the normal way.
Can I stop planning permission being granted - or prevent approved development being carried out - by getting a tree preservation order imposed on tree on the site?
No. A tree preservation order will not prevent planning permission being granted. But a local planning authority will consider the risk to protected trees when deciding planning applications.
Once planning permission is granted, any felling may be carried out which is directly required to enable the development to go ahead.
You can find out more about tree preservation orders in the following:-
Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (in particular sections 197-214 as amended)
The Planning and Compensation Act 1991 (section 23)
Forestry Act 1967 (as amended)
Statutory Instruments numbered SI 1969 No. 17, SI 1975 No.148, SI 1979 Nos. 791 and 792, SI 1981 No. 14, SI 1985 Nos. 1572 and 1958, SI 1987 No. 632 and SI 1988 Nos. 963 and 970.
These are all available through HMSO and may be seen at some main libraries.
You may also find it helpful to send off for a copy of the Forestry Authority booklet Tree Felling - Licences and Permissions. Write to:
Forestry Authority, 231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, EH12 7AT.
The contact information below may be used to enquire about trees in Tameside. Please note that we are unable to answer enquiries or provide advice on issues outside of Tameside.