What is a Tree Preservation Order?
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a written order made by a local planning authority which, in general, makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree protected by that order without the authority’s permission. A TPO can cover any individual tree, groups of trees and woodland areas.
In our district there are a large number of trees and woodlands that are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPO). These trees may have been threatened in the past or be of high amenity value and afforded special protection.
A TPO prohibits work being carried out to a protected tree without consent from the council. It also makes it an offence to wilfully damage or destroy a protected tree.
Hedges are not covered by TPO legislation.
How can I find if a tree has a TPO?
If you wish to find out if a tree has a Preservation Order on it, you should contact the planning department by emailing email@example.com.
Copies of TPOs are available and these can either be emailed as PDF attachment for a fee.
If you wish to look up the details of a tree with a TPO and you know the TPO number, you can search our planning database using the advanced search and the TPO number.
If you are looking to carry out work to TPO trees you will need to get consent from the Council. The best way to apply is online using the Planning Portal which will allow you to complete the relevant form and attach your documents. There is no fee.
If you would like the Council to consider a tree for a TPO please contact the planning department with details of the tree, why you think it is important and why you think it might be under threat.
Anyone can ask for a tree or woodland to be protected under TPO legislation however in most circumstances TPOs are only issued where there is a clear threat and it is expedient to do so.
Upon application we assess the application either through desktop or a site visit using industry recognised methods for evaluation. If the tree or woodland scores highly enough and it is appropriate to do so, a TPO may be issued.
The information under the header Making a Tree Preservation Order provides further information on how you can submit and application.
TPOs are made in accordance with Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended by) The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012.
We will only make a TPO if it appears to the Council that it is expedient and in the interests of amenity to do so. The Council may consider it expedient to make TPOs where there is either:
- Clear evidence of the intention to remove trees of public visual amenity in an excessive or uncontrolled manner.
- Other clear threats to trees of public visual amenity from a range of activities such as wilful damage or destruction; inappropriate pruning; felling or disturbance of the rooting area
It may be expedient to make an Order if the Council believes there is a risk of trees being felled, pruned or damaged in ways which would have a significant impact on the amenity of the area. Each case is assessed on its own merits and, where appropriate, a site visit will be carried out to formally assess the suitability for a TPO.
In the interests of consistency and defensibility, the Council employs a recognised evaluation method (TEMPO) which takes into account the following points:
- Condition and suitability for TPO*: An assessment is made taking into account obvious defects, site constraints and unsustainable relationships with adjacent structures. Trees exhibiting signs of foreseeable unmanageable hazards or in unsustainable locations will not be considered for a TPO
- Retention span (in years) and suitability for TPO: Trees that have a foreseeable limited lifespan will not be considered for a TPO. However, in some circumstances, valuable trees that can be retained using specific management techniques to prolong their retention, such as veteran tree management, may still be considered appropriate for a TPO
- Relative public visibility and suitability for TPO: Trees and woodland, 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. The Council would not normally make TPOs in private gardens unless there are exceptional circumstances
- Other factors: Trees that exhibit exceptional form or size; or have identifiable historic, commemorative or cultural importance or irreplaceable habitats, such as Ancient Woodland; Veteran Trees; Wood Pasture and Historic Parkland, may have enhanced weight in a TPO assessment.
*(NB: Trees and their safety are the responsibility of the landowner and the TEMPO assessment is in no way linked to this responsibility)
Following a site visit, the completed TEMPO assessment will help to inform the Council of the expediency of making a TPO.
This will be subject to approval from the Head of Planning and Environmental Services and in line with the Council’s scheme of delegation. In very exceptional situations and where it is justifiable to do so, a TPO may be made without a previous site visit having been made. TPOs are made on a provisional basis for 6 months and representations may be made supporting or opposing the order.
These representations will be given due consideration by the Council before making a decision to confirm, modify or allow a TPO to lapse.
Making TPOs on Development Sites:
In some circumstances it may be prudent to make use of TPOs in development situations. However, applications for planning permission will, in all cases, be required to consider trees and woodlands at the initial stage of the development design as they form a material consideration in the planning process. Therefore all landscape features should be protected through good design.
This approach is supported by Government guidance and policy. It is unlikely that a TPO will be made on development sites pre-emptively, where there is no evidence of threat or inappropriate management, or in situations where tree related conditions have been made as part of an approved planning permission. A Tree Preservation Order cannot be made specifically to thwart future development.
Section 210(1) and section 202C(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provide that anyone who, in contravention of a Tree Preservation Order, cuts down, uproots or wilfully destroys a tree; or tops, lops or wilfully damages a tree in a way that is likely to destroy it; or causes or permits such activities is guilty of an offence. This also applies to cases where unauthorised works are carried out resulting in the tree/s being rendered useless as an amenity or as something worth preserving. Penalties for these offences include, upon conviction in the magistrates’ court, a fine of up to £20,000.
In serious cases, at Crown Court, if convicted, an unlimited fine. This may also include a proceeds of crime assessment. Lesser offences are liable to a fine of up to Level 4 (currently £2,500) and there is also a duty requiring landowners to replace a tree removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of an Order.
Council protocol for TPO requests. The Council prioritises the making of Orders as follows:
- Emergency – Trees being worked on, or where people on site are about to carry out work.
- Priority – Clear and identifiable threat that work is about to be carried out in the near future.
- Low – Concern relating to land where its use/management is not defined, such as vacant land or where there is a change of ownership. Requests for TPOs based solely upon perceived threats or hearsay information are unlikely to be taken forward to formal assessment.
It should be noted that a TPO does not offer unassailable protection to a tree in perpetuity. In certain cases full planning permission, if granted, can override existing TPO status and major changes or deterioration to the public visual amenity value of a tree/s could lead to the TPO being modified or revoked. The Council seeks to ensure that TPO protection is afforded to the most deserving cases and that the tests of defensibility and expediency are always completely satisfied.
In situations where the Council receive multiple TPO requests, Council resources will prioritise trees/woodlands providing the highest amenity value and/or greatest expediency.
To request an assessment for a TPO, the following is required:
- A description of the tree(s) e.g. ‘two mature English oak to the east of the shed’
- A plan of the trees’ location
- Information on why you are requesting a TPO (information suggesting tree removal is imminent etc.)
- Information on who owns the tree(s) if possible
- Photograph(s) of the tree(s)
You can email this information to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Conservation Area is an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.
All trees within the designated Conservation Areas of the district are automatically protected and controls similar to TPO trees apply.
If you are looking to carry out work to trees that are in a Conservation Area you will need to get consent from the Council. The best way to apply is online using the Planning Portal which will allow you to complete the relevant form and attach your documents. There is no fee.
Additional government guidance is published on Trees within a Conservation Area (external link).
To find out if a tree is in a Conservation Area area, you can use our online mapping system.
To search enter the address or postcode in the search box, then click on map features on the menu bar located in the top left hand corner of the page and navigate to the Heritage and Conservation tab and choose the relevant option .
You can also check whether Trees are in a Conservation Area by emailing email@example.com.
If you believe unauthorised works are taking place to a tree with a TPO or to trees within a Conservation Area you can check the online register of applications and decisions to check if an application has been received or contact the Planning Department by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an emergency and during office hours you can call us on 01892 653311.
Unless work is urgently necessary because there is an immediate risk of serious harm, five working days prior written notice must be given to the authority before cutting down or carrying out other work on a dead tree.
Where a tree presents an immediate risk of serious harm and work is urgently needed to remove that risk, tree owners or their agents must give written notice to the authority as soon as practicable after that work becomes necessary. Work should only be carried out to the extent that it is necessary to remove the risk and/or make the tree safe. Any additional work must be agreed through the tree work application process.
Anyone wishing to cut down trees containing more than five cubic metres of wood in any calendar quarter (except in gardens) are required to obtain a felling licence. Five cubic metres is roughly equivalent to one large oak tree or 50 thin chestnut coppice trees. Felling Licences are issued by the Forestry Commission and applicants should note that there is almost always a requirement to restock felled trees and licences are not normally granted to change woodland to agricultural use. Further details of this process can be obtained by contacting Forestry Commission (external link).
The authority’s consent is not required in certain circumstances for work carried out by, or at the request of, those statutory undertakers listed in the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012 (external link). These statutory undertakers, or contractors working at their request, are advised to liaise with local authorities prior to carrying out work to trees protected by an Order. It is expected that all vegetation control is carried out in accordance with best arboricultural practice. They should also take care to not contravene the provisions of legislation protecting plants and wildlife.