This week marks the 45th annual national tree week. With Covid 19 focusing the country and government's minds on the environment, trees have become more important than ever. So, what are the rules around protecting them and how can you apply for permission to carry out works on or near them?

How are trees protected?

A tree can be protected if it is: 

  • part of a conservation area;
  •  subject to planning conditions;
  • subject to felling permissions; or
  •  subject to a Tree Preservation Order.

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A Tree Preservation Order (a "TPO") is an order made by a Local Authority to prevent the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping or wilful damage of a tree or group of trees. All types of trees can be subject to a TPO but bushes or shrubs cannot (see Neil Collar's blog "When is a tree a tree" for further discussion on this). Separate rules apply to high hedges which can be accessed here.

For a local authority to grant a TPO it must be convinced that the tree or trees fall into one or both of the following categories:

  • should be preserved in the interests of amenity; and/or
  • are of particular cultural or historical significance.

You can contact your Local Authority to find out if a particular tree is subject to a TPO.

Can you carry out work on a tree protected by a TPO?

In most cases if you want to cut down, top, lop or uproot a tree that is protected by a TPO you need to ask permission from the local authority. This application should:

  • be made in writing;
  • include a plan which identifies the tree;
  • include information on the specific works you are doing; and
  • give reasons for these works.

Many local councils ask for at least six weeks' notice of any plan that affects trees subject to TPO. It is a criminal offence to damage or destroy a protected tree without permission. Therefore, consent must be obtained prior to any work being carried out.

When is consent not needed?

If a tree is subject to a TPO you may not need permission from the local authority if any of the following apply:

  • work is urgently needed for safety reasons;
  • it is needed to stop or prevent a nuisance; or
  • it has been authorised by planning permission.

Other considerations

Even if a tree is not subject to a TPO it may be protected in another manner.

  • Is the tree part of a conservation area? If yes, then planning permission will be needed.
  • Has planning permission already been granted? There may be conditions contained in the planning permission that relate to the trees on the land. These will need checked before any work is done.
  • Who owns the tree? You should not fell a tree that you do not own. Even if the tree is not otherwise protected you should obtain permission from the owner before felling or otherwise affecting the tree. Where a tree is on a boundary it may less straight forward to assess who owns it.
  • Is it nesting season? Nesting season runs from February until August. No tree or hedge cutting should take place during this time. If works are required within this timeframe then suitable surveys are needed prior to works commencing.


Christy Foster

Trainee Solicitor