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Tree preservation orders

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) gives legal protection to trees or woodland, which may be under threat or have a significant impact on their local surroundings.

To

  • get advice about tree preservation orders (TPO)
  • find out if a tree protected by a TPO or conservation area
  • get a copy of a TPO apply for a TPO
  • apply for works on a tree with a TPO
  • give notice to work on a tree in a conservation area
  • give notice for exempt work to be carried out on a tree with a TPO or that is in a conservation area
  • get advice about trees and planning applications
  • object to a TPO
  • support a TPO

Complete our tree management form

or Report unauthorised work on protected tree

Find out more about:

 

Responsibility

Landowners remain responsible for the care, maintenance and safety of all protected trees growing on their land and are advised to have any trees growing on their property regularly inspected by a suitably qualified arboriculturist. However, the council's permission is required before carrying out work on them unless they are dying, dead or dangerous.

Development sites

Trees on development sites can be protected by TPOs or by conditions attached to a planning permission or both. Planning conditions may also require the developer to plant new trees which may be covered by a TPO which will take effect once the trees are planted.

An application is not required for tree works necessary to implement a development which has the benefit of full, detailed planning permission and where the trees are directly in the way of that development which is about to start.

If the development only has outline planning permission or does not require planning permission, you must apply to Medway Council for permission under the TPO to prune branches or roots or to fell the tree.

A planning application may be refused if it would result in the loss of a tree or trees that provide significant amenity value to the local environment.

Medway Council does consider the impact of a development proposal on trees when it assesses planning applications but once approved, a full, detailed planning permission will override a TPO where the trees are directly in the way of development that is about to start.

If you would like advice on protecting trees on a development site please contact us. The advice, which is free, is best sought before submitting an application, as this will make the successful retention of suitable trees easier and avoids the costly alteration of plans.

TPO criteria

Medway Council makes TPOs in Medway. Often trees are protected if they come under threat but not all trees are worthy of being protected by a TPO. In Medway, tree officers use the following criteria when deciding to make a new TPO:

  • the extent to which the general public can see the tree
  • the tree's importance in terms of its size, form, rarity, screening value or contribution to the character or appearance of the area
  • the significance of the tree in its local surroundings and wider impact on the environment
  • the health and general condition of the tree in relation to its setting
  • whether or not the tree is growing on Crown land
  • whether or not the trees is the subject of any approved forestry grant scheme.

A TPO comes into effect immediately and continues for six months or until it is confirmed, whichever comes first. When Medway Council confirms the TPO it can modify it, for example by excluding some of the trees.

Fines

It is an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a protected tree without Medway Council’s permission. The deliberate destruction of a tree may result in legal proceedings leading to fines of up to £20,000 if convicted in the magistrates’ court. There are other offences that can result in fines of up to £2,000. You will normally have to plant a replacement tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.

Exceptions

Permission to work on protected trees is not needed if:

  • they are to be cut down in accordance with a Forestry Commission grant scheme
  • where a felling licence has been granted
  • the tree is dying, dead, or dangerous
  • the work is in line with a duty under an Act of Parliament
  • the work is at the request of certain organisations mentioned in the TPO
  • trees or branches are directly in the way of development that is about to start, for which detailed planning permission has been granted
  • the trees are in a commercial orchard and grown for fruit production
  • the works are necessary to prevent or control a legal nuisance (a definition of legal nuisance should be sought from a solicitor).

Notice

Except in an emergency, Medway Council's Tree Officer in Development Management should be given at least five days' notice before cutting down a protected tree which is dead, dying or dangerous. In all other instances, please check with the tree officer before working on protected trees under one or more of the above exemptions.

Emergencies

In emergencies, you are allowed to carry out whatever work is required to deal with dangerous trees without prior notice to Medway Council. The work must only be what is absolutely necessary and any additional work will require an application to the council.

You must inform the council if you have carried out work to a damaged protected tree, ideally within five days. It is strongly recommended that, where possible, you take sufficient photographs of the damage and where appropriate get a professional tree surgeon to make a report, as it will be your responsibility to prove that the work carried out was essential to make the tree safe and could not wait for an application. Failure to provide this evidence could result in a prosecution.

How to make an application to carry out work on a protected tree

Guidance notes are provided.

  • It is important that the application clearly and accurately describes the proposed work, reasons for completing the work and the location of the tree(s). For example: “To cut back from a neighbouring house by 2m.”
  • Copies of the Arboricultural Association leaflet No. 8 Mature Tree Maintenance can be obtained from Medway Council’s Tree Team using the contact details at the bottom of this page.
  • Please include any relevant tree reports or structural engineer's report with the application.
  • All works approved by Medway Council must be undertaken by a competent person, in accordance with British Standard 3998 (Tree Works) within the specified time scale. Advice on suitable works and pruning methods can be sought from the Tree Team.
  • If a protected tree is cut down, a replacement specimen usually has to be planted. The requirement will vary depending on the circumstances. You will have to replant:
  • if you cut down or destroy a protected tree in breach of an order, except in the case of woodland, because the tree is dying, dead or dangerous, unless the council says you need not;
    • if the council gives you permission to cut down a protected tree but makes replanting a condition of its consent;
    • in most cases where the Forestry Commission grants a felling licence
    • Only one application is needed, regardless of the number of different operations the applicant intends to do. This can cover permission for a programme of work over a specified period.
    • A Forestry Commission felling licence will usually be needed if trees containing more than five cubic metres of timber are to be cut down on sites other than residential gardens, orchards, churchyards or public open spaces.
  • If a felling licence is required and the trees are protected by a TPO, the Forestry Commission will deal with your application in consultation with the council, which may appeal against any decision the Forestry Commission makes.
  • Where the Commission proposes to grant a licence, it will first give notice to the council. In such cases, the council has the right to object to the proposal and if it does, the application will be referred for decision to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
  • Applicants should note that the commission almost always requires felled areas to be re-stocked and does not normally grant licences to change woodland to agricultural use. The council will notify you in writing within eight weeks of your application.
  • It will also write to the owner of the tree and other interested parties, enclosing a copy of the order.

Appeals

If consent is refused or granted with conditions you have a right to appeal within 28 days of receiving the decision letter. If you disagree with the decision, you can appeal to the First Secretary of State. This appeal must be made within 28 days from the date you receive this decision by writing to:

The Environment Team

The Planning Inspectorate

Room 4/04

Kite Wing

Temple Quay House,

2 The Square

Temple Quay

Bristol

BS1 6PN

Appeals are normally decided without a formal hearing, on the basis of written statements followed by a site visit. Both the tree owner and the council have the right to a public local hearing or enquiry. The Secretary of State may allow or dismiss the appeal or vary the original decision.

You may be entitled to recover from the council compensation for any loss or damage which results. If you wish to make a claim you must do so within 12 months of the date of the decision. Claims should be made in writing to The Principal Tree Officer.

Legislation

Forestry Commission

The Forestry Commission is responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain's forests and woodlands. The website includes specific advice on tree felling. To find out more write to:

Forestry Commission
231 Corstorphine Road
Edinburgh
EH12 7AT
.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published Tree Preservation Orders: A Guide to the Law and Good Practice.