In the UK there are 100s of thousands of trees that are protected or, to give the technical term, have a Tree Preservation Order or are located in a conservation area. A TPO is usually put in place by a local council to either protect a specific tree or a whole woodland from deliberate damage and destruction.

A TPO comes in various forms and could include felling, lopping, topping, uprooting or otherwise willful damage. Although this can apply to a whole woodland area, it is less common with TPOs that are mostly used for urban and semi-urban environments, particularly for trees with a high ‘amenity’ or ‘nature conservation value’.

What to do if a tree has a TPO or located in a conservation area

Anyone wishing to carry out work or, indeed remove the tree, will require permission from the local planning authority, usually located at the local council. If approval has not been sought before work has commenced on the tree, the owner of the tree could be open to prosecution. Illegal removal or damage to a tree can result in a substantial fine between £2,500 and £20,000. Not a mistake anyone should make.

What is the purpose of a TPO?

A TPO is to protect trees, something that has become particularly sensitive in a world that is concerned about climate change and is appreciative of the need to protect trees and to reduce greenhouse gases. Primarily, a TPO was introduced to protect the local environment and the enjoyment of the public when using green areas in our towns and cities.

How do I find out if a tree is protected?

The local council’s Arboricultural Officer is the first port of call. The officer will be able to inform you if a tree is protected. You may have to make an appointment with the officer concerned to view the order in person.

What if a protected tree is dying and causing a danger to the local environment?

A tree inspection report is required, along with an application to remove the tree. To submit a professional analysis of a tree’s condition, we would recommend a professional LANTRA qualified Tree Inspector is commissioned to produce a report and help you with your application to remove the tree. Both a tree inspector report and an application form will need to be submitted to the local council. In the vast majority of cases, a council’s Arboricultural Officer will approve the removal of a dying and potentially dangerous tree if the evidence submitted satisfies the reasoning and regulations.

If a tree becomes a hazard, generally due to high winds, you will require evidence of the situation. Comprehensive photographic evidence should be gathered to support the application and a tree inspection report (arboricultural report) by a qualified Tree Inspector. Once you have proven a requirement to carry out the recommended work on a tree and received confirmation, the tree can be removed or made safe. The owner of a tree must follow this procedure, or they could find themselves in hot water!

If a tree doesn’t have a TPO but is located within a conservation area, the same rules and the potential for prosecution applies. The same form can be used to apply for removal of the tree and relates to a tree with a stem diameter of at least 75mm and 1.5m above ground (most established trees). Any notifications must include the exact location of the tree (usually using a sketch plan), the species of the tree (if known) and the works intended.

How to get help if I am unsure of a tree’s current status

Our advice is to call a qualified tree Inspector. At Tree & Lawn, Daniel Pigeon is a professionally trained LANTRA qualified tree inspector, as well as a highly experienced tree surgeon. Dan will be able to advise you on the best way forward. Learn more about the tree services we provide and the instances when you need the expertise of a qualified tree inspector.