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Understanding Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) – A Simplified Guide

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Mark Waddams, Senior Arboricultural Manager
Navigating the world of Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) can be complex. Here, we'll break down the essentials for those considering applying for or appealing a TPO, and highlight how MW Tree Consultancy can help.

What Are Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)?

A TPO is a formal designation made to protect specific trees or woodlands in the "interest of public amenity". These orders can cover individual trees, groups of trees, specific areas, or entire woodlands, and exist to ensure developers and construction companies are building within the bounds of nature.

Legislation and Resources

The legal framework for TPOs is primarily found within the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulations 1999. However, the key points you need to know if you're subject to, or applying for, a Tree Preservation Order are:

  1. Nature of TPOs: They are formal and backed by national law. Any unauthorized work on a protected tree can lead to criminal charges. Furthermore, trees within conservation areas receive special provisions.

  2. Making TPOs: These orders are established and maintained by the City Council.

  3. Criteria for TPOs: Any tree can be protected, provided it offers visual value or has the potential for future visual appeal.

  4. Restrictions: TPOs prohibit unauthorized pruning or removal of the protected tree. For any work to go ahead, an application must be officially submitted to the council and approved. The wilful destruction of a TPO tree without prior approval is a criminal offence and carries a maximum fine of £20,000

Trees within Conservation Areas

Conservation areas are specially protected due to their natural significance, history, and geographical importance. Trees within these areas are subject to specific guidelines:

  1. Pruning or felling any tree over a certain size requires notifying the Council six weeks in advance.

  2. Notifications should clearly outline the proposed work and identify the trees involved.

  3. This advanced notice allows the Council to potentially establish a TPO.

  4. Trees that are dead, dying, or hazardous typically don’t require advance notice, but it's advisable to inform the Council five days prior to action.

  5. Penalties for unauthorized actions can be severe, ranging from fines for unlawful pruning to substantial fines for tree destruction.

Wildlife Considerations

It's crucial to consider wildlife, including bats and birds, when working with trees. Unlawful or badly considered changes to trees can seriously impact the health of the local ecosystem and cause havoc.

Ensuring development work does not contravene the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 or the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 is vital. Before work begins, an ecological evaluation should be done to assess potential wildlife habitats. This should inform a decision as to whether work needs to be reconsidered or relocated, or if other measures can be taken.

For further guidance on how to minimise harm to nature and meet your obligations when carrying out building work near trees, visit the Natural England website.

British Standard BS5837: 2005

BS 5837 is one of the most important standards to consider prior to carrying out development or construction work near trees.

The standard offers guidance on harmonising any new buildings and structures with nature and carrying out work with the least amount of disruption possible. It's essential for anyone involved in planning or managing development sites near trees and will help guide developers to reducing the risk of problems down the road.

How MW Tree Consultancy Can Help

At MW Tree Consultancy, we know that TPOs can be complex and sometimes frustrating.

Whether you're aiming to secure a TPO or appeal one, our expertise means we'll be able to guide you through the process from start to finish. Our in-depth understanding of the legal nuances and commitment to ensuring all ecological and community considerations are met makes us the ideal partner for all Tree Preservation Order management.

For more information, or to discuss your TPO requirements, get in touch below.

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