Tree preservation orders

The law relating to tree preservation orders is contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended), the Forestry Act 1967 (as amended) and in a number of secondary pieces of legislation.

What is a tree preservation order?

A tree preservation order is an order made by a local planning authority or the Secretary of State which prohibits certain activities or works that may harm the tree or trees to which the order relates. A tree preservation order can also require the replanting of part of a woodland area which is felled in the course of permitted forestry operations.

What types of activity can a tree preservation order prohibit?

A tree preservation order may prohibit the cutting down, topping, uprooting, wilful damage or wilful destruction of a tree. The cutting of tree roots is not expressly prohibited. However, if the cutting of tree roots has the effect of damaging or destroying a tree that is subject to a tree preservation order the carrying out of such works is likely be in contravention of the tree preservation order.

Can any work be carried out on a tree which is subject to a tree preservation order?

Work can be carried out on a tree which is subject to a tree preservation order if permission has been obtained for such work from the local planning authority or in the following circumstances:

  • where the tree is dying or dead or has become dangerous;

  • where there is an obligation imposed by or under an act of Parliament to carry out such work;

  • where such work is necessary to prevent or abate a nuisance.

Whilst permission is not required in these three situations it is sensible to notify the local planning authority of any such proposed works in advance wherever possible since a local planning authority may not agree that such works are necessary or reasonable and if that is the case the person carrying out the work could face prosecution.

Tree preservation orders do not have effect in relation to work carried out by or on behalf of the Forestry Commissioners on land placed at their disposal pursuant to the Forestry Act 1967 or otherwise under their management or supervision or where the Forestry Commissioners have approved such works.

What are the consequences of contravening a tree preservation order?

A person who contravenes a tree preservation order can be prosecuted and, if found guilty, fined.

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For more information on:

  • Can work lawfully be carried out on a tree which is not covered by a tree preservation order?
  • Can compensation be claimed in relation to a tree preservation order?