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Protecting Trees: A Brief Guide

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Tree Protection and Brief Guidance

Anyone wishing to undertake a tree work should first enquire about the legal status of the tree and any protection afforded to it in order to protect themselves and others from possible prosecutions or enforcement action. This protection is particularly important where trees are under threat.


All types of trees except hedges, bushes, or shrubs can be protected. A TPO can protect any tree within a defined area or woodland. Serious cases may be dealt with in the Crown Court, where an unlimited fine can be imposed. The form can either be submitted through the Planning Portal or directly to the LPA.

You can also seek the help of tree surgeons, such as Fairington Tree Surgery, Fencing & Landscapes in Bristol, before applying. In conservation areas, normal TPO procedures will be implemented if a tree in such area is already TPO-protected. This is referred to as a ‘section 211 notice,’ and it provides the LPA with a chance to consider protecting the tree with a TPO.


Nevertheless, you do not have to provide a notice of tree work in a conservation area less than 7.5 centimetres in diameter and measuring 1.5 metres above the ground (or 10 centimetres if thinning to aid the development of other trees). If valid planning conditions are in place, anyone wishing to undertake a tree work must ensure that they liaise with the LPA and obtain any necessary consent or variation.


Table B.1 of British Standard 5837:2012 Trees in relation to design, demolition, and construction – Recommendations” advises both developers and LPAs on the required information that must be obtained either at the planning application stage or via given conditions.


For further information, contact either your LPA or a registered consultant of the Arboricultural Association.


Moreover, you do not need a licence to conduct tree felling in gardens. However, for trees outside gardens, you may be required to apply to the Forestry Commission to get a licence for felling, whether the trees are covered by a TPO or not.


Each SSSI will have a management plan and list of operations requiring the SNCO’s consent before carrying out work. Any activity that recklessly or intentionally harms the SSSI (ASSIs in Northern Ireland) or its flora or fauna will be having an offence liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000 or even an unlimited fine.


At the same time, a restrictive covenant secures the land, not its owner. It continues to take effect even though it might have been made many years ago and might appear to be obsolete. This may be the case even if TPO, CA, and felling licence regulations do not apply.


This guide should not be considered as a definitive interpretation of the law but is meant purely to offer guidance. This is one of a series of technical advice guides from the Arboricultural Association.

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