Trees are an important part of our heritage and environment and there are many obvious benefits of trees. We have the power to make Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) to help secure the retention of trees that make an important contribution to the local area. TPOs control the work which is undertaken to trees. Trees within Conservation Areas have a broadly similar style of protection as trees covered by a TPO.
In some circumstances it may also be necessary to obtain a felling licence from the Forestry Commission before felling trees.
If you plan to fell trees that are not in a residential garden, you should also refer to the Forestry Commission for information on felling licences.
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 Epsom & Ewell Borough 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 important trees which make a significant contribution to the landscape amenity of an area. They may be made when it is felt that such a tree could 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 cannot protect hedges, shrubs or climbers (please note hedgerows on agricultural holdings are covered by separate hedgerow regulations).
How can I find out if a tree has a TPO?
By using our online mapping service. Alternatively contact us on 01372 732000 with details of the address, location and species of the tree. We will be able to tell you, usually within two working days, 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 us before carrying out most types of work. Tree work is a dangerous and highly skilled operation and trees are complex living structures, which are easily damaged by poor or ill advised work. Owners are strongly advised to engage a professional tree surgeon or arborist to advise and undertake any work needed.
Can you recommend a tree surgeon?
We cannot recommend individual companies but a list of tree work Contractors and Consultants approved by the Arboricultural Association is available at www.trees.org.uk
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 apply using the one-app tree work application form. You must make it clear exactly which tree or trees you wish to carry out work to, and this will usually require a sketch plan. 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. If you have supporting documentation relating to these reasons, you should submit this as well.
Make your planning application online
It often helps us to speed up the processing of your application if you ask your tree surgeon to make the application on your behalf and enclose photographs of the tree. We will write to confirm the receipt of your application.
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
The Environment Team
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
They will consider your appeal on behalf of the Secretary of State. We will send you details of how to appeal with the decision notice. You may also appeal against conditions which the Council may attach to a grant of consent. During the appeal process you will have an opportunity to put your case to an independent inspector, who will prepare a detailed report for consideration by the Secretary of State.
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 are refused permission to carry out work to a protected tree, or if conditions are attached to the permission. The details of compensation arrangements are complex and vary depending on the date on which the TPO was made. You are strongly advised to seek legal advice before making a claim for compensation.
Some of the main points relating to compensation on TPOs made after 2 August 1999:
- 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 us within 12 months of our 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 we make a TPO, we will send copies to the owner of the property and any adjoining properties which are affected.
Does a new TPO take effect immediately?
We normally include a clause in a new Order to give immediate effect to a new TPO. There is then a period in which objections can be considered before we decide whether or not to confirm the Order.
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 us within the time allowed, usually 28 days, after the Order has been made. We will consider your comments when deciding whether or not to confirm the TPO.
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:
- where the tree is dead, dying or dangerous. The danger must be present and the onus will be on you to prove this. It is good practice to let the Council know that you propose to carry out work on this basis, because we need to maintain our records which if inaccurate could lead to difficulties when you move. We recommend that you have the level of danger verified by a tree surgeon and that they liaise directly with us. Removal of dead wood and broken branches from an otherwise healthy tree is considered to be covered by this exemption
- If you think a tree presents a danger, please call us on 01372 732000 at once
- 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
- 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.
How do Conservation Areas affect trees?
A Conservation Area is an area designated, because of its special character, architectural or historical importance. Within a Conservation Area, all trees have a level of protection similar to trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order and there are penalties for removing trees without notifying us.
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 us 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 specify exactly what work you wish to do. Send your notification to us electronically using the Planning Portal.
Many Conservation Area notifications involve works to insignificant trees in back gardens, so it will help us to speed up the processing of your application if you enclose photographs of the tree/trees. We 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.
When can I prune a tree in a Conservation area without notification?
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
- are hedges and shrubs (hedges on agricultural holdings are covered by separate hedgerow regulations).
Will 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
- 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, this is regarded as a criminal offence and you could be fined up to £20,000 if convicted in a Magistrate's 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
- if a tree contains a protected habitat, work may have to be delayed or may require a licence from Natural England. Wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. This includes bat roosts and the nests of wild birds
- trees may sometimes be protected by virtue of conditions attached to planning permission
- restrictive covenants attached to the deeds for a property may occasionally restrict what work can be undertaken to trees.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister www.communities.gov.uk
Guidance on TPO legislation
The Forestry Commission www.forestry.gov.uk
Information on felling licences
Natural England www.naturalengland.org.uk
Guidance on wildlife habitats and veteran trees
Telephone: 01372 732000