Trees and the law

There are a number of legal protections for trees, along with the wider duties of care for tree owners and managers that need to be navigated.

Trees and the law – key legislation

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)

Trees can be legally protected by the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012. This means that no work can be carried out on a protected tree or trees without the prior consent of the local planning authority. Contravention of a TPO can lead to unlimited fines for the destruction of a TPO tree or up to £2,500 for other offences. 

We can provide advice on the extent of works to trees protected by a TPO, and the interrelationship with the Forestry Act 1967 where applicable.

Similarly, where trees covered by a TPO are on a development site with planning consent, a separate TPO application for pruning and removals is required unless considered exempt. The exception applies for pruning or felling works necessary to implement a full planning permission.

Conservation areas

Trees in Conservation Areas (a designation based on the architecture, history and character of the buildings in an area) are similarly protected. However, in this case, the local planning authority requires six weeks’ notice before the intended work can be carried out. This is in order for them to determine whether there is justification for a TPO to be served.

1App (application process)

For both of the above the 1App planning portal is used. This means that applications for work to trees protected by a TPO or Conservation Areas are completed on a standardised form. We can undertake this process for you, including advising on the tree work itself.

Pre-application consultation

For contentious or large applications involving a significant number of trees it is often best to arrange a pre-application consultation with the local planning authority to ensure that the proposed works, and their justification, are clearly understood. Our team is experienced in this negotiation process.

Appealing a TPO decision

If your application has been refused we can review the refusal to determine whether it was warranted and whether there is justification for an appeal.

Objecting to a TPO

If you are the owner of, or have an interest in, trees upon which a TPO has recently been served and believe that the TPO is unwarranted, we can assist in preparing a formal objection. Objections must be submitted in writing within 28 days of the TPO serving date, so it is necessary to act quickly. Inform us as soon as the order has been served and we will then judge whether your TPO objection is likely to be successful and prepare a formal report to support it. 

Felling licences

Tree felling is a legally controlled activity. You will normally need permission from the Forestry Commission to fell growing trees and they provide this by issuing a felling licence. The licence will allow you to fell identified trees and woodland legally. There are exemptions on quantity of timber to be felled. There is a close interaction with TPO legislation that does not override the need for a felling licence.

High hedges

Hedges provide ideal garden boundaries in many gardens but occasionally they give rise to disputes. Dispute resolution is set out within Government guidance and we can provide the relevant technical support for any disputes.

Expert Witness

Our technical experience and academic knowledge allows us to provide advice across the spectrum of arboricultural matters.

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