Tree Preservation Orders

Hands around a tree

Tree Preservation Orders can help protect woods and trees (Photo: C Marsh/WTML)

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. This could include felling, lopping, topping, uprooting or otherwise wilful damage.

A TPO can be placed on any tree (including hedgerow trees but not hedgerows themselves). It can also apply to woodland, although this is less common. TPOs are most commonly used for urban and semi-urban settings, and for trees with high ‘amenity’ or ‘nature conservation value’.

How does a TPO protect trees and woods?

If a tree or wood is protected by a TPO or is in a conservation area, anyone wishing to carry out management work or remove the tree will need to get permission from the Local Planning Authority (usually the local council). If permission is not sought from and given by the council, then they have the ability to prosecute which could result in a fine between £2,500 and £20,000!

How do I get a TPO on a tree/wood?

If you are interested in placing a Tree Preservation Order on a tree or wood, one of the first things you need to do is to contact the council and ask to speak to the Tree Officer, or the person at the council who has the same powers.

Make sure when you talk to them about getting a TPO that they are aware why you feel that the tree needs to be protected: usually TPOs are placed on a tree or wood that’s deemed to be a local amenity. Remember though – making a TPO is a discretionary power, therefore the council does not have to place a TPO on any tree. However where one is made, the council do then have a duty to enforce it.

Within the first six months of a TPO it can be confirmed or terminated at any time. It can also be modified in this time period, however you can’t add more trees to the TPO in this time period. If more trees need to be added then usually a new TPO will be created by the council.

There is a tree that already has a TPO however someone wants to fell it, what can I do to protect it?

If someone wants to fell a tree that’s already protected by a TPO they must submit an application to the council to do so. This application will have a consultation period attached, which is the perfect opportunity for you to contact the council and submit your objection.

We would also recommend that you consider getting the local community involved. Encourage as many people as possible in your local area to contact the council and object to the proposed removal of the tree.

A tree has been felled that has a TPO on it. Is another tree meant to be planted?

Yes. If a tree has been felled which is protected by a TPO the landowner has a duty to replace the tree. This is also true if the tree is dead, dying or has become dangerous.

The landowner must:

  1. plant another tree,
  2. of an appropriate size and species,
  3. at the same place,
  4. as soon as he or she reasonably can.

If the land is sold before the landowner has replanted the tree, then this duty passes to the new owner.

When the tree is replaced it is covered by the original TPO no matter what the new species is. The council should generally then update the TPO to make sure it covers any slight changes to the location or changes to the species.

Why are they allowed to fell a tree that has a TPO on it for a development?

A tree that is protected by a TPO can be felled for a development, because if planning permission is granted for a site, and the felling of a tree that is protected by a TPO is included in the application, then planning permission outweighs any protection that the TPO may have offered. However if a tree protected by a TPO does need to be felled, the landowner has a duty to replace the tree.

Show your support for a national tree register

Tree Preservation Orders do not offer absolute protection for trees. Applications can be made to remove a tree, even with an order. TPOs can also be terminated or modified.

Together with Country Living magazine we are calling for a national tree register to celebrate Trees of Special Interest and protect them from harm for the rest of their days.

A register would help owners recognise the value and importance of special trees on their land. By encouraging owners to seek professional advice in how best to look after them, it could also influence a change in management to safeguard their future.

Planning and forestry are devolved matters across the UK so there needs to be a list or a register in each nation.  

Click on your country below to help the Very Important Trees where you live.

Choose your country Support a tree register in England Support a tree register in Scotland Support a tree register in Wales Support a tree register in Northern Ireland

In partnership with Country Living magazine.

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Celebrate and protect our Very Important Trees

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Our oldest and most important trees have little recognition or protection. Help us ensure these living monuments are not lost forever.

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