Abbreviated version of the UK government document Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas Published on 6 March 2014.
Links throughout this page take you to the relevant section of the UK-GOV document or to other regulations referred to in it.
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.
Who makes Tree Preservation Orders and why?
Local planning authorities can make a Tree Preservation Order if it appears to them to be ‘expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands in their area‘.
Authorities can either initiate this process themselves or in response to a request made by any other party. When deciding whether an Order is appropriate, authorities are advised to take into consideration what ‘amenity’ means in practice, what to take into account when assessing amenity value, what ‘expedient’ means in practice, what trees can be protected and how they can be identified.
When granting planning permission authorities have a duty to ensure, whenever appropriate, that planning conditions are used to provide for tree preservation and planting. Orders should be made in respect of trees where it appears necessary in connection with the grant of permission.
What does ‘amenity’ mean in practice?
‘Amenity’ is not defined in law, so authorities need to exercise judgement when deciding whether it is within their powers to make an Order.
Orders should be used to protect selected trees and woodlands if their removal would have a significant negative impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public. Before authorities make or confirm an Order they should be able to show that protection would bring a reasonable degree of public benefit in the present or future.
When considering whether trees should be protected by an Order, authorities are advised to develop ways of assessing the amenity value of trees in a structured and consistent way, taking into account the following criteria:
The extent to which the trees or woodlands can be seen by the public will inform the authority’s assessment of whether the impact on the local environment is significant. The trees, or at least part of them, should normally be visible from a public place, such as a road or footpath, or accessible by the public.
Individual, collective and wider impact
Public visibility alone will not be sufficient to warrant an Order. The authority is advised to also assess the particular importance of an individual tree, of groups of trees or of woodlands by reference to its or their characteristics including:
- size and form;
- future potential as an amenity;
- rarity, cultural or historic value;
- contribution to, and relationship with, the landscape; and
- contribution to the character or appearance of a conservation area.
Where relevant to an assessment of the amenity value of trees or woodlands, authorities may consider taking into account other factors, such as importance to nature conservation or response to climate change. These factors alone would not warrant making an Order.
Making Tree Preservation Orders
How are Tree Preservation Orders made?
If a local planning authority makes an Order, it will serve notice on people with an interest in the land, inviting representations about any of the trees covered by the Order. A copy of the Order will also be made available for public inspection. Following consideration of any objections and comments the authorities can decide whether or not to confirm the Order.
Is a site visit needed?
Before making an Order a local planning authority officer should visit the site of the tree or trees in question and consider whether or not an Order is justified. Further site visits may be appropriate following emergency situations where on the initial visit the authority did not fully assess the amenity value of the trees or woodlands concerned.
What evidence should be collected on a site visit?
Where a Tree Preservation Order may be justified, the officer should gather sufficient information to enable an accurate Order to be drawn up. The officer should record the number and species (or at least the genus) of the individual trees or groups of trees to be included in the Order and their location. A general description of genera should be sufficient for areas of trees or woodlands. It is, however, important to gather enough information to be able to accurately map their boundaries.
The officer should also record other information that may be essential or helpful in the future. This may include:
- information on any people with a legal interest in the land affected by the Order (further guidance can be found in paragraph 32 and paragraph 33;
- the present use of the land;
- the tree’s or trees’ importance as a wildlife habitat; and/or
- trees which are not to be included in the Order.
When does a Tree Preservation Order come into effect?
An Order comes into effect on the day the authority makes it. This provisional effect lasts for 6 months, unless the authority first either confirms the Order to provide long-term protection or decides not to confirm it. Further guidance can be found in paragraph 37 and paragraph 38.
Commenting on newly made Tree Preservation Orders
Can people object to, or comment on, a Tree Preservation Order?
People must be given the opportunity to object to, or comment on, a new Tree Preservation Order. Before deciding whether to confirm an Order, the local authority must take into account all ‘duly made’ objections and representations that have not been withdrawn.
Objections and representations are duly made if:
- They are made in writing and:
- delivered to, or could reasonably expected to be delivered to, the authority not later than the date specified in the Regulation 5 notice;
- specify the particular trees, groups of trees or woodlands in question;
- in the case of an objection, state the reasons for the objection;
- In a particular case, the authority is satisfied that compliance with the above requirements could not reasonably have been expected.
- How long should the local authority allow for people to make representations?
The authority should ensure that all notified parties are given at least 28 days from the date of the notice to submit their representations.
Are the reasons for objecting restricted?
Objections to a new Tree Preservation Order can be made on any grounds.
Confirming Tree Preservation Orders
Authorities can confirm Orders, either without modification or with modification, to provide long-term tree protection. They may also decide not to confirm the Order, which will stop its effect. Authorities cannot confirm an Order unless they have first considered any duly made objections or other representations.
Authorities should bear in mind that, since they are responsible for making and confirming Orders, they are in effect both proposer and judge. They should therefore consider how best to demonstrate that they have made their decisions at this stage in an even-handed and open manner.
Is there a time limit for confirming Orders?
Authorities can only confirm an Order within a 6 month period beginning with the date on which the Order was made. If this deadline is missed and an authority still considers protection necessary it will have to make a new Order.
How can the public get access to Tree Preservation Orders?
The authority should make a copy of the Order as confirmed available for public inspection at its offices, replacing the copy of the made Order. In addition, a confirmed Order should be recorded promptly in the local land charges register as a charge on the land on which the trees are standing. It is not a charge on any other land.
Authorities should consider how best to be in a position to respond to enquiries about whether particular trees in their area are protected.
Is permission needed to carry out all work on trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order?
Anyone wanting to cut down, top, lop or uproot trees subject to an Order must first apply to the local planning authority for its consent unless the proposed work is exempt through an exception. Where an exception applies the authority’s consent to carry out works is not needed, but notice of those works may need to be given to the authority.
Tree owners, their agents and contractors, statutory undertakers and other bodies should take care not to exceed an exception. Before carrying out work they believe is exempt, they may wish to obtain advice from a qualified arboriculturist and/or confirmation from the authority of what is and what is not required.
If an authority receives notice of work under any exception it may decide to inform the notifier that it considers the exemption does not apply and, if necessary, seek injunctive relief in the crown courts.
In addition, the authority’s consent is not needed in certain specific circumstances where the Regulations are deemed to have no effect. This will be the case, for instance, in respect of anything done by, or on behalf of, the Forestry Commission on land it owns or manages or in which it has an interest.
What are the exceptions relating to trees subject to an Order?
An exception may exempt landowners or their agents from the normal requirement to seek the local planning authority’s consent before carrying out work on trees subject to an Order. These exceptions include certain work:
- on dead trees and branches;
- on dangerous trees and branches;
- to comply with an Act of Parliament;
- to prevent or abate a nuisance;
- necessary to implement a planning permission;
- on fruit trees;
- by or for statutory undertakers;
- for highway operations;
- by the Environment Agency and drainage bodies; and
- for national security purposes.
Is consent required for work on diseased and/or dying trees?
The local planning authority’s consent is needed for carrying out work on diseased and/or dying trees unless some other exemption applies. One example is work urgently necessary to remove an immediate risk of serious harm. Another example is government authorities requiring the destruction of particular trees to tackle a serious plant disease. If they serve a notice under plant health legislation this would constitute an obligation by or under an Act of Parliament.
What about tree work that may affect birds, bats and other wildlife?
Anyone carrying out work to a tree, even under an exception, should ensure they do not contravene laws protecting wildlife. If in doubt they are advised to seek advice from the authority or Natural England on how to proceed.
Who can apply for consent (to carry out work on a tree) under a Tree Preservation Order?
Anyone can apply for consent under an Order. The applicant will usually be the owner of the tree or trees in question or an arboricultural contractor or other person acting as the applicant’s agent.
Also, a person can apply to carry out work on a neighbour’s protected tree. But such an applicant is advised to first consult the tree’s owner and also notify them promptly after submitting their application. The authority may ask the applicant about their legal interest in the tree and consult the tree’s owner. If the authority grants consent it will be for the applicant to get any necessary permission (for access to the land, for example) from the owner, before carrying out the work.
Protecting trees in conservation areas
What about trees in a conservation area that are already protected by a Tree Preservation Order?
What about trees in a conservation area that are not protected by a Tree Preservation Order?
Trees in a conservation area that are not protected by an Order are protected by the provisions in section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. These provisions require people to notify the local planning authority, using a ‘section 211 notice’, 6 weeks before carrying out certain work on such trees, unless an exception applies. The work may go ahead before the end of the 6 week period if the local planning authority gives consent. This notice period gives the authority an opportunity to consider whether to make an Order on the tree.
The authority’s main consideration should be the amenity value of the tree. In addition, authorities must pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the conservation area.
Even if the tree’s amenity value may merit an Order the authority can still decide that it would not be expedient to make one.
If an Order is made, in addition to fulfilling the usual statutory requirements, the authority should also provide a copy of the new Order to any agent who submitted the section 211 notice. It should also explain to the person who gave notice that an application for consent under the Order may be made at any time.
Enforcing tree protection offences
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.
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’.
More information about tree replacement can be found at paragraph 151.
More information about investigations, injunctions and temporary stop notices can be found at paragraph 148.
Replacing protected trees
What is the decision-making process regarding tree replacement?
Unless stated, this process applies to trees subject to a Tree Preservation Order and to trees in a conservation area that are not subject to an Order.
In addition to possible criminal penalties landowners have a duty, in certain circumstances, to replace trees or to replant in protected woodlands. Also, the local planning authority may impose a condition requiring replacement planting when granting consent under a Tree Preservation Order for the removal of trees.
The authority can enforce tree replacement duties by serving a tree replacement notice.