Tree Preservation Orders

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A (TPO), commonly known as a Tree Preservation Order, is usually issued in England by a local planning authority. Its purpose is to legally protect all types of trees (regardless of its species or size); whilst, preserving its amenity value. This also includes forests and woodlands.

Tree Preservation Orders prohibit: wilful damage & destruction, uprooting, topping, lopping and cutting down of trees that are protected. As it’s a criminal offence, to do so, all protected trees that are removed without consent, are also duty-bound to be re-planted. 

The term ‘amenity’, is not defined in UK law, so it is imperative, that local authorities use caution in reaching a decision, regarding the assessment of whether it is within their authority to issue a Tree Preservation Order.

It is important to note that there are no restrictions, as to who can make a request for a Tree Preservation Order. Once approved, a Tree Preservation Order can take a provisional effect, immediately. This provisional period, typically lasts up to six months. Of course, this is with the exception, of the local authority choosing to grant approval of a Tree Preservation Order, or deny granting approval for an application. Upon examination of a proposed trees’ amenity value; local authorities, take into consideration several factors. It is these factors; which, will determine whether a tree can become legally protected by a Tree Preservation Order or not. These key factors include the following:

– The nominated tree/trees’ impact on climate change.

– The nominated tree/trees’ significance to nature conservation.

– The nominated tree/trees’ visibility.

– The nominated tree/trees’ impact (individually, collectively and on a wider scale).

In addition to the points listed above, local authorities within England are also instructed to evaluate the significance of a particular tree or trees, woodlands, etc., based upon their physical characteristics. Examples of this are not limited to, but do include its: value (rarity, cultural and/or historic), size, form, future amenity value, contribution to its surrounding landscape and character of an area reserved for conservation.    

However; should a local planning authority, decide to issue a Tree Preservation Order, then they will normally provide notice to a person/s, who have interest in the corresponding land. This relates to all occupiers of the land; of which, the trees currently stand and to those who, the local authority have knowledge of, that are authorised to carry out approved works to any/all, of the trees in discussion, or its neighbouring land. This will then be followed by an invitation for any representations, regarding the trees listed in the Tree Preservation Order. Thus, an additional copy will be made available for public viewing. The final decision will then be made, (subject to any objections) by the local planning authority.

Upon approval, the local authority will serve a copy of the Tree Preservation Order, including its map, and a notice (otherwise known as a ‘Regulation 5’ notice) to all who have interest in the land, and so would be affected by the stipulations of the Tree Preservation Order. The local authority will also need to prove that this has been done, by means of delivery, as well as provide an additional copy at their offices.

How do I check if a tree in my garden has a Tree Preservation Order, and what does this mean?

To check to see if a tree in your garden is legally protected by a Tree Preservation Order, then you will need to consult your local planning authority. The full details of a TPO are made available via the local authorities’ website, and also at their offices.

It also provides a great opportunity, for potential homeowners (before buying a property) to formally request an assessment of the current local land charges register.
For instance, according to Walsall Council, they currently maintain a record of “over 900 individual Tree Preservation orders.”

Taken from the Walsall Council’s website (https://go.walsall.gov.uk/tree_preservation), please see below a short excerpt of “New Tree Preservation Orders” issued this year.

Order NumberAddressDate MadeDownload the order
5/202-36 The Green, Bloxwich24 March 2020Tree preservation order 5/20
6/2063 Brook Lane, Walsall Wood01 June 2020Tree preservation order 6/20

To view their most up-to-date public register, click here.

Walsall Council also provides a disclaimer: “This document is updated quarterly and must not be taken as the definitive list of all Orders within the Borough. Please contact the Natural Environment team to establish whether a tree is protected or not.”

It is important to note, that some Tree Preservation Orders do in fact, date back to pre-1950.
This means, unfortunately, there will always be a chance, that the local authorities’ register may not have been fully updated. So, it is crucial for the homeowner/s, or potential homeowner/s to seek professional and legal advice, if you suspect that a tree or group of trees, etc., may be protected, but are unable to quickly locate a Tree Preservation Order. Although, not always guaranteed, a Tree Preservation Order would usually appear, on a local land charge register. This would have been affirmed by a qualified legal professional, such as a Solicitor.

As a homeowner, if you should find that your property has a tree legally protected by a Tree Preservation Order, then pleased be advised, that it is a criminal offence to harm, alter and/or remove that tree in any way, shape or form. In the most extreme of cases, you can be liable for indefinite fines, through the proceedings of the Crown Court! Sadly, on the other hand, many homeowners are not made aware of any Tree Preservation Orders, belonging to trees on their property. If it can be proven, that this was the case, then a lesser penalty will simply be given. However; if it can also be proven, that the altering and/or removal of a tree protected by a TPO, was essential, due to its prevention of a nuisance of an understandable degree, then there is no offence committed by the homeowner. An example of this could include, ‘topping’ or ‘felling’ a tree to help preserve the character of a particular surrounding area or woodland, where the tree is situated.

References & Topic Research (Bibliography)
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tree-preservation-orders-and-trees-in-conservation-areas
https://friendsoftheearth.uk/trees/how-protect-trees-guide-tree-preservation-orders
https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/protecting-trees-and-woods/campaign-with-us/campaign-in-your-community/tree-preservation-orders/
https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20184/tree_preservation/897/find_out_if_a_tree_is_protected
https://www.wycombe.gov.uk/pages/Environment/Trees-wildlife-and-ecology/Find-out-if-a-tree-is-protected.aspx
https://www.broadland.gov.uk/info/200202/trees_and_hedges/325/check_if_a_tree_has_a_preservation_order
https://www.planningni.gov.uk/8pp_tree_preservation_order_lores.pdf
https://www.mwsolicitors.co.uk/news/property-home-news/366-tree-preservation-orders-the-facts
http://www.treeterms.co.uk/definitions/tree-preservation-order-statistics-
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/244528/2127793.pdf
https://go.walsall.gov.uk/tree_preservation
https://go.walsall.gov.uk/Portals/0/Uploads/Planning/Planning%20Documents/TreePreservationOrderRegisterSep19.pdf?ver=2019-09-09-143237-760
https://www.conservationhandbooks.com/why-fell-trees/

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