Trees and the Law (as 2014) – FAQ’s

What is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)?

Photo 23 - The Canopy walk

Weddle designed glasshouse, the largest in asia

Tree Preservation Orders are designed to protect trees with amenity value, i.e. they can be seen from public areas as an aesthetic feature.

It is illegal to lop, top, uproot or otherwise wilfully damage a tree which is covered by a TPO. (This includes pruning)

Tree Preservation Orders are served on:

  • Individual trees
  • Groups of trees
  • Tree Protection Plan to BS5837:2012
  • Woodlands (includes all the new saplings on the woodland floor)
  • Areas of trees (includes all trees present at the time of serving the TPO but none that have germinated since)
If you do wish to fell or carry out any pruning works to such a tree, you need ‘planning consent’ from the Local Planning Authority.

How do I apply for consent for treeworks to a tree covered by TPO?

Complete and submit the appropriate planning application form(no fee for this type of application) to the Local Planning Authority, who will decide whether to Refuse or Grant consent. Consent may be granted with conditions e.g. time limits, and need for replacement planting if the proposals include felling.

Do I have to own the TPO tree to be able to apply for consent?

No, but the owner should be informed and have no objections, otherwise you would potentially be damaging someone else’s property and all that that entails.

Weddles can help:  Sometimes an arboriculturalist report can assist treework applications.  For example, if the TPO was served many years ago, the tree may not be worthy of protection for example, it may have become diseased, or hazardous.

I want to carry out pruning/felling works to a tree within a Conservation Area but not covered by a TPO.

If the tree has stem diameter of 75mm or more (smaller trees are not protected unless specifically covered by a TPO) you should give the Local Planning Authority 6 weeks’ written notice of your treework proposals.  The Local Planning Authority may respond in one of 4 ways:
i)    no objections,
ii)   request a modification to your proposal to which they would have no objections,
iii)  if they are against your proposals they have the 6 week period in which to serve a TPO on the tree/s, and thereby control what work may or may not be carried out.
iv)  no reply at all within the 6 week notice period – it is accepted that they have no objection to the proposed works.

It should be noted that if the Local Planning Authority have no objection to the proposed works, it is not the same as ‘giving permission’.  The person carrying out the tree work should ensure they have the owner’s permission and also are complying with other legislation eg not disturbing nesting birds or bat roosts or foraging habitat.

Weddles can help: Sometimes an arboriculturalist report can assist treework notifications or advise on best approach.

There are trees on my Planning Application site. What should I do?

If there are any trees on a potential development, or growing on adjacent land at or within 12 times their stem diameter (maximum 15m) outside the boundary, a tree survey to BS5837: 2012 Trees in relation to construction should accompany the planning application.  Other application drawings should clearly indicate which trees are proposed for removal and which are to be retained and protected.


Tree Survey, Cornford House, Pembury

What is a Tree Survey to BS5837:2012?

The survey catalogues the tree size, species, position and categorises trees into grades A, B, C and R.
A should be retained  – good form, healthy, , life expectancy 40+ yrs
B worthy of retention – reasonably good form, healthy, life expectancy 40+ yrs
C can retain – young or not particularly good form
R remove – dead, dying or hazardous

What is the Root Protection Area (RPA) as BS5837:2012?

The RPA is calculated from survey measurements and can be plotted on plan. It defines the area of the root plate of the tree which should not be disturbed. The ground level remains the same. Within the RPA, there should be no excavations below, and no materials stored above.
The survey, and RPAs should inform development proposals.

What is the Tree Constraints Plan / Tree Protection Plan as BS5837:2012?

Protection of retained trees is vitally important. Local Planning Authorities require tree protection fencing to approved plans to be erected prior to any construction operations.  Alignment of fencing is important to protect the trees but also give adequate room for construction operations.  Weddles have may years of experience producing such plans. The fencing should prevent any constructions operations occuring within RPAs.

What is a Arboricultural Impact Assessment or Arboricultural Method Statement to BS5837:2012?

The Local Authority may request one or both of these on complex or extensive development sites, or where there are many trees covered by Tree Preservation Orders.

Weddles can help: Weddles regularly carry out Tree Surveys in accordance with BS5837:2012 to accompany planning applications.  On occasion it may be necessary to have some access route or parking within identified RPAs.  It is possible to use special construction to spread the loads so as not to compact the soil in the tree root zone. Weddles can advise on this.

Other restrictions to tree works

It is illegal to disturb nesting birds and bat roosts and bats’ foraging habitat.

Weddles can help: Weddles have more than 30 years’ experience on providing arboricultural advice and preparing drawings to accompany Planning Application. Whatever the issue, Weddles can offer timely, cost-effective and practical advice.