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Tree Preservation Orders

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A ‘Tree Preservation Order’ or TPO is usually made by a local planning authority (usually the local council) to protect specific trees (or a particular woodland) from deliberate damage and destruction, which could include felling, lopping, topping, uprooting or otherwise wilful damage.

The advantage of a TPO is that it can normally be initiated fairly quickly – within hours of a tree being identified as in immediate danger – provided it is worthy of protection and the local authority can move quickly enough..

They can be placed on any tree (including hedgerow trees), but not hedgerows themselves, and are most commonly used for urban and semi-urban settings, and for trees with high ‘amenity’ or ‘nature conservation value’.

A tree with a TPO placed on it, requires written permission from the council before any work can be done that might affect it in any way. Without this permission, the person concerned (including the landowner) may be prosecuted.

The local council holds details of TPOs and landowners should be informed of any new ones that are made. The relevant local authority Tree Officer will be able to tell you if a particular tree has a TPO already.

Making a TPO is a ‘discretionary power’, which means the council does not have to do it. There is no legal reason why a council has to make an order, but once one has been made, they have a duty to enforce it.

However, TPOs do not offer absolute protection for trees. Applications can be made to remove a tree, even with an order, for a variety of different reasons. They can be terminated or modified and there are a range of exemptions:

For instance, trees on land controlled by local authorities, or the Crown are not normally granted TPOs. Works on dying, dead, dangerous and nuisance trees are excluded. Works approved by the Forestry Commission under a felling licence are also allowed. Acts of Parliament and the granting of detailed planning permission also usually override an existing TPO.