Tree Preservation Orders

A Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) is the legal mechanism to protect and preserve trees for public enjoyment, environmental and aesthetic purposes. Woodlands and non-commercial orchards are covered, but bushes, shrubs and hedges are not.

Tree Preservation Orders

Quick facts

Applies to Trees only; not bushes, shrubs or hedges
Timing Normally need to apply for permission to work on a TPO-protected tree eight weeks in advance

TPO legislation and the gardener

You need to be aware of (Tree Preservation Order) TPO legislation in the following cases:

  • If a tree on your land, or on adjacent land, is protected
  • If you wish to protect trees on your land from threats such vandalism or felling demands by neighbours
  • If you wish to protect local woodlands or street trees

Tree Preservation Orders apply to trees, woodlands and non-commercial orchards. Bushes, shrubs and hedges (including high hedges) are not covered.

Information regarding any protected trees on your land can be obtained from the Land Charges Register, held by your Local Authority Planning Department.

Your TPO obligations

It is important to realise that the land owner is responsible for the upkeep and care of the tree, and for any health and safety risks it may pose. If a TPO-protected tree needs to be felled because of health and safety concerns, the Local Authority may insist that a replacement is planted. However, the same does not apply to trees in Conservation Areas (see Applying to work on a TPO-protected tree below for more details). 

Applying to work on a TPO-protected tree

Where work needs to be carried out on a tree with a TPO, you need to consider the following:

  • Permission to carry out work on a TPO tree needs to be applied for around eight weeks in advance to the Local Planning Authority for a TPO-protected tree
  • This includes all work, even routine pruning of a fruit tree
  • Notice of works on a tree in a Conservation Area must be given six weeks in advance. If the Council refuses, or if local residents object, an additional TPO could be placed on that tree
  • Where the tree is dead, dying, or a health and safety risk and pruning is considered urgent, then permission must be sought a minimum of five days in advance
  • Assessment by a tree surgeon (find one through the Arboricultural Association) may aid the application

Protecting a tree

If you wish to protect a tree in your area, write to the Planning Authority stating your reasons, and include a map to aid identification. An immediate, temporary (six month) TPO can be put in place by the Local Planning Authority. The Authority would then inform neighbours and interested parties. Any objections must be received within 28 days. After six months, the temporary TPO could be confirmed and made permanent, or allowed to lapse. Local residents have the chance to raise objections in that time.

Exceptions

Exceptions can be made to the need for permission or notice of tree works in the case of emergency, but it is better to inform, and obtain agreement in writing, the Council first at least five days in advance (Regulation 14 of The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012). Fines imposed by a Magistrates' and High Court can be unlimited for unauthorised interference with a protected tree. Certain exceptions exist for commercial orchards, certain works done by utility companies, and in specific legal situations. Carrying out work that requires immediate attention and than applying for retrospective permission is inadvisable but if necessary take photographs and collect all data to reduce the risk of prosecution.

Note that TPOs do not protect trees from felling where a new development has been granted planning permission by the Planning Authority, if the tree’s presence would impede the implementation of that planning permission.

Find out more

For further introduction, read Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas These are published by the Department for Communities and Local Government and refer to England and Wales, but similar legislation applies in Scotland.

Advice on campaigning to protect local woodlands can be obtained from the Woodland Trust and The Tree Council.

For full details on Listed buildings and Conservation Areas, see Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) from the Government's legislation website.

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  • Chris@edentreesurveys avatar

    By Chris@edentreesurveys on 11/02/2016

    The above information is a little out of date as follows: 1. It is worth pointing out that the LPA cannot enforce the replacement of tree which where felled under exception if they were dead or that they impose an immediate risk of serious harm if the trees were protected by a woodland designation. Only individuals or groups can be enforced in this way. The LPA will try though but refer to regulation 14 of the 2012 TPO regulations for further information. 2. The dead, dying or dangerous exemption disappeared with the 2012 regulations. They are now called exceptions and the above has been replaced with dead trees, dead branches within trees, or trees which impose an immediate risk of serious harm. 5 day written notice is required for dead trees and the immediate risk situations. If there is no time such as a hanging branch over the highway at the weekend. You could remove the branch and submit the notice retrospectively but this should be as a last resort. You will need to prove the situation to the council so detailed photos would be a must or you could be prosecuted. 3. The introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Fines on summary conviction) Regulations 2015, means that fines on summary conviction are no longer limited to £20,000 for wilful destruction. Fines for the wilful destruction of a TPO tree issued by the Magistrates Court are now unlimited. Fines have always been unlimited when issued by the high court but the change in legislation as of March 2015 means that now even the magistrate can issue fines for much higher amounts. Fines of more than £100,000 are not unheard of. 4. The above TPO guidance material was withdrawn in 2012 as it reflects the old regulations. The new guidance can now be viewed at: http://planningguidance.communities.gov.uk/blog/guidance/tree-preservation-orders/ Hope this helps Chris Garner Principal Consultant Eden Arboriculture www.edentreesurveys.co.uk


  • Chris@edentreesurveys avatar

    By Chris@edentreesurveys on 11/02/2016

    The above information is a little out of date as follows: 1. It is worth pointing out that the LPA cannot enforce the replacement of tree which where felled under exception if they were dead or that they impose an immediate risk of serious harm if the trees were protected by a woodland designation. Only individuals or groups can be enforced in this way. The LPA will try though but refer to regulation 14 of the 2012 TPO regulations for further information. 2. The dead, dying or dangerous exemption disappeared with the 2012 regulations. They are now called exceptions and the above has been replaced with dead trees, dead branches within trees, or trees which impose an immediate risk of serious harm. 5 day written notice is required for dead trees and the immediate risk situations. If there is no time such as a hanging branch over the highway at the weekend. You could remove the branch and submit the notice retrospectively but this should be as a last resort. You will need to prove the situation to the council so detailed photos would be a must or you could be prosecuted. 3. The introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Fines on summary conviction) Regulations 2015, means that fines on summary conviction are no longer limited to £20,000 for wilful destruction. Fines for the wilful destruction of a TPO tree issued by the Magistrates Court are now unlimited. Fines have always been unlimited when issued by the high court but the change in legislation as of March 2015 means that now even the magistrate can issue fines for much higher amounts. Fines of more than £100,000 are not unheard of. 4. The above TPO guidance material was withdrawn in 2012 as it reflects the old regulations. The new guidance can now be viewed at: http://planningguidance.communities.gov.uk/blog/guidance/tree-preservation-orders/ Hope this helps Chris Garner Principal Consultant Eden Arboriculture www.edentreesurveys.co.uk


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  • Miss S Tullett avatar

    By Miss S Tullett on 18/12/2014

    I recently bought a piece of land in a residential road. The land is just scruffy woodland and has not been managed or kept tidy and here dont appear to be any beautiful trees. I wanted to plant my dream garden on it as I live in rented accommodation and longed for a garden of my own. Before I even got started the local residents wrote to the Council and got a Preservation Order put on the whole of my plot. The Planning Officer has given until Christmas Eve to appeal. What on earth can I do as I spent my life savings on a plot that is useless unless I can get this removed?