Owning a protected tree

Prior to undertaking any works, the tree owner or agent is legally required to submit an application for tree works to the Planning department. Once submitted, the determination process may take up to 8 weeks before the decision notice is sent out to the applicant. Before submitting an application, you may find it helpful to seek the services of a qualified arboriculturist or read the guidance notes to clarify what work is required.

Apply for tree works

Are we legally responsible for the maintenance of a tree subject to a TPO?

No, the owner remains legally responsible for the management and maintenance of the tree(s), including any liabilities. It is our responsibility to protect trees which are subject to a TPO and to make sure they are maintained in an appropriate manner.

You must obtain written consent must be obtained from us prior to undertaking any works on such trees.

Felling of trees which are not subject to a TPO may still require a Felling License from the Forestry Commission, failure to fell under a proper licence is an offence subject to a penalty.

Do I always need to obtain your permission to work on a protected tree?

Generally, yes, however, there are exemptions. You may find it helpful to consult either a private arboriculturist or the Landscape and Street Scene Department for advice on exemptions and whether your proposals need an application.

What happens if I carry out unauthorised works to a protected tree?

Should you undertake work on a protected tree without authorisation, you may be liable for prosecution and subjected to an unlimited fine if convicted. The Council can apply to recover any financial benefit arising from the offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Where a protected tree is destroyed, there is an automatic duty to replant with trees of a suitable size and species. The replacement tree(s) are protected under the original TPO. If this duty is not discharged voluntarily, a Tree Replacement Notice (TRN) may be issued.

Dangerous tree exemptions

It is not an offence to undertake work to a tree that presents an immediate risk of serious harm and work is urgently needed to remove that risk.

  • If the danger is not immediate, this exemption does not apply.
  • Work should only be carried out to the extent that it is necessary to remove the risk.
  • Tree owners must give written notice to the authority as soon as practicable.
  • The burden of proof that that a tree is exempt from the need for consent because of the condition of the tree(s) lies with the person carrying out the work. It is recommended that you record evidence.

How else might a tree be protected?

  • 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 conditions attached to a planning permission.