There are many benefits of trees and Warwick District Council has the power to make Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) to control the work which is undertaken to trees that make an important contribution to the local area. Additionally, trees which fall within conservation areas have a level of protection similar to trees which are covered by a TPO.
In some circumstances it may also be necessary to obtain a felling licence from the Forestry Commission before felling trees.
This page aims to answer some common questions about Tree Preservation Orders and conservation areas. If you plan to fell trees that are not in a residential garden you should also refer to the Forestry Commission’s website for information on felling licences.
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Tree Preservation Orders
What is a Tree Preservation Order?
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an order made by a Local Planning Authority, such as Warwick District Council, which in general makes it an offence to cut down, lop, top, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without first getting permission from the Local Planning Authority.
Tree Preservation Orders are usually made to protect trees which make a significant contribution to the amenity of an area. They may particularly be made when it is felt that a tree may be under threat.
What types of tree can be covered by a TPO?
All types of trees, including hedgerow trees, may be the subject of a TPO. A TPO can not protect hedges, bushes or shrubs.
How can I find out if a tree has a TPO?
Contact the council’s Planning Appeals and Enforcement section, with details of the address, location and species of the tree. They will be able to tell you if the tree is protected.
When you are buying a property the presence of a TPO should be revealed by the search of the local land charges register.
Who is responsible for maintaining a tree with a TPO?
The owner of the tree is responsible for maintenance of a protected tree, for its condition and for any damage which it causes. However, they will need to obtain permission from Warwick District Council before carrying out most types of work.
Tree work is a dangerous and highly skilled operation. Trees are complex structures which are easily damaged by poor or ill advised work. You are strongly advised to engage a professional tree surgeon or arborist to advise you and undertake any work needed.
Can you recommend a good tree surgeon?
Warwick District Council is unable to recommend any particular tree surgeon or arborist but we do provide some advice on choosing an arborist.
How do I get permission to work on a tree covered by a TPO?
If you wish to carry out work to a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order you must make an application on the standard application form. You can do this in writing, sending your application to Development Services, Warwick District Council, Riverside House, Milverton Hill, Leamington Spa, CV32 5HZ. Alternatively, you can make an application electronically via the Planning Portal. Please note that applications not made on the standard application form can not be accepted and will be returned to you.
You must include a plan showing exactly which trees you wish to prune, although this need not be to scale. You must also indicate exactly what sort of work you wish to carry out and the reasons why you wish to carry out the work. Certain types of work also require supporting documentation. For example, if you give the reason for work as being safety or damage to property you will need to provide evidence of these problems. More information about supporting documentation can be found in the guidance notes accompanying the standard application form.
The Application form is available for download from the top of this page. It is often helpful if you ask your tree surgeon to make the application on your behalf.
The District Council will write to confirm the receipt of your application and will then consider it and let you know their decision within eight weeks.
If I am refused permission can I appeal?
Yes. If your application is refused, or if you do not receive a decision within eight weeks, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, who will consider your appeal on behalf of the Secretary of State. The District Council will send you details of how to appeal along with the decision notice. There is more information on making an appeal available from the Further information section at the bottom of this page.
You may also appeal if the District Council grants permission but attaches conditions to it.
During the appeal process the information you submitted along with your application, along with the council's comments, will be carefully considered by an independent inspector.
Can I get compensation if my application is refused, or if conditions are attached?
It is sometimes possible to make a claim for compensation if you suffer loss as a result of being refused permission to carry out work to a protected tree, or of conditions being attached to a grant of permission. The details of compensation arrangements are complex and you are strongly advised to seek legal advice before making a claim for compensation.
Some of the main points are:
- no claim can be made if the loss or damage suffered amounts to less than £500
- no compensation is payable for loss of development value or other diminution in the value of land
- no compensation is payable for loss or damage which, bearing in mind the reasons given for the application for consent (and any documents submitted in support of those reasons), was not reasonably foreseeable when the application was decided
- no compensation is payable to a person for loss or damage which was (i) reasonably foreseeable by that person, and (ii) attributable to that person’s failure to take reasonable steps to avert the loss or damage or mitigate its extent
- no compensation is payable for the costs incurred in bringing an appeal to the Secretary of State against the council’s decision to refuse consent or grant it subject to conditions
If you wish to make a claim for compensation you should write to the District Council within 12 months of the council’s decision, or within 12 months of the Secretary of State's decision if you appealed.
Will I be told if a TPO is made on a tree on my property?
Yes. When the council makes a TPO it will send copies to the owner of the property on which the tree stands and any anyone else with a right to prune the tree.
Does a new TPO take effect immediately?
Yes, TPOs take effect as soon as they are made. This initial protections lasts 6 months.
A new TPO must be made permanent, known as confirming the TPO, within 6 months of being made, otherwise it will lapse. Owners of affected properties will be notified when the TPO is confirmed.
How can I object to, or express support for, a new TPO?
To object to a new TPO, or to express your support for it, write to the District Council within the time allowed, which will be at least 28 days, after the order has been made. The District Council will consider your comments when deciding whether or not to confirm the TPO.
How do I go about nominating a tree for a Tree Preservation Order?
Email email@example.com clearly stating the location of the tree, species, and your reasons for nomination. The council will acknowledge receipt of your nomination, and then visit the site to make its own assessment.
What should I know about TPOs made before 2012?
Since 6 April 2012 the rules set out in all TPOs made prior to that date have been replaced. All of the provisions set out in such TPOs are now omitted except for those which identify the TPO and those that identify the trees and woodlands protected by the TPO. Instead of the provisions in the TPO itself, the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012 apply, as they do with more recent TPOs.
What is a conservation area?
A Conservation Area is an area designated by the Local Planning Authority, such as Warwick District Council, because of its special character. This is usually done because of the special architectural or historical importance of an area.
How do Conservation Areas affect trees?
Within a Conservation Area all trees have a level of protection similar to trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order.
What must I do if I want to work on a tree in a Conservation Area?
Before working on a tree in a Conservation Area you must give the council six weeks notice in writing of your intention to carry out work. You should include details of the exact location of the tree, usually indicated on a plan, along with details of the species and exactly what work you wish to do. Send your notification to Development Services, Warwick District Council, PO Box 2178, Riverside House, Milverton Hill, Leamington Spa, CV32 5QH. An Application form is available to download at the bottom of this page and it is recommended that you use this.
The Council will then consider whether or not the tree should be made the subject of a Tree Preservation Order. If you have heard nothing within six weeks, or if you have received a letter letting you know that the work is acceptable, you may go ahead with the work that you notified. If the work is not acceptable the council will make a TPO to protect the tree further.
When can I prune a tree in a Conservation Area without notifying the council?
All the exemptions listed for protected trees in general apply to trees within a conservation area. In addition, there is no need to notify your intention to work on trees that:
- Have a diameter of less than 75mm (approx 3 inches) measured at 1.5m (approx 5 feet) above ground.
- Have a diameter of less than 100mm (approx 4 inches) measured at 1.5m above ground and are being pruned or felled to help the growth of other trees.
Protected trees in general
When can I prune a protected tree without permission?
There are a few circumstances in which you can carry out work to a protected tree without gaining permission first. These include:
- If the tree is dead or the work is to remove an immediate risk of serious harm. The risk must be immediate and the onus will be on you to prove this if there are questions. If the tree is protected by a TPO you must give the Council at least 5 days written notice unless the danger is imminent. In this case you must notify the Council as soon as practical. Removal of dead wood from an otherwise healthy tree is also allowed.
- If you are obliged to carry out work by an Act of Parliament. Most commonly, this applies to trees that overhang a public road where you have an obligation to maintain reasonable clearance above the road. This usually means 2.5m above a footway or 5.5m above a vehicular carriageway.
- Where the work is absolutely necessary in order to implement a detailed planning permission. Note that this does not apply to outline planning permission or to permitted development rights.
- If the tree is a fruit tree and you prune it in accordance with good horticultural practice, or if the tree is a fruit tree situated in a commercial orchard.
- If the work is to be carried in accordance with a Forestry Commission grant scheme or if a felling licence has been granted by the Forestry Commission.
Might I have to plant a replacement tree?
If you cut down or destroy a protected tree you will have to plant a new tree if:
- You did so in breach of a TPO or without notifying your intention in a Conservation Area
- You did so because the tree was dead, dying or dangerous (except if the tree was in a woodland)
- You obtained permission but a condition requiring a new tree to be planted was attached to the permission
- In most cases where the Forestry Commission grants a felling licence
What happens if I carry out work on a protected tree without permission?
If you deliberately destroy a protected tree, or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 if convicted in a magistrates court. For other offences you can be fined up to £2,500. Furthermore, you will normally have to plant a new tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.
How else might a tree be protected?
In addition to Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas there are various other factors which may constrain work to trees. These include:
- Felling which involves more than 5m³ of timber, or more than 2m³ if sold, may require a felling licence from the Forestry Commission
- Many wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. This includes bats’ roosts and the nests of wild birds. If a tree contains a protected habitat work may have to be delayed or may require a licence from English Nature.
- Trees may sometimes be protected by virtue of conditions attached to planning permission
- Occasionally, restrictive covenants attached to the deeds for a property may restrict what work can be undertaken to trees.
- TPO Appeals (PDF 71kB) - Leaflet from the Planning Inspectorate explaining the TPO appeals procedure
- The Department for Communities and Local Government - Guidance on TPO legislation
- The Forestry Commission - Information on felling licences
- Town and Country Planning Act 1990
- Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulation 2012
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