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Apply to work on a protected tree

What is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)?

It is an order made by the council which makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without the council's permission.

How can I find out if a tree is covered by a TPO?

Contact us. If you're able to describe the location of the tree(s) we can normally tell you if there's a TPO within minutes. You can also arrange to view details of TPOs at the Civic Centre.

We can also make an official search of the local land charges register before you purchase a property. This should tell you if there's a TPO, or  whether your property is in a conservation area. Make sure your solicitor tells you if any trees are protected.

What if I want to work on a protected tree?

You must seek permission from the local planning authority if you wish to carry out works to either a tree covered by a TPO or a tree within a conservation area. The same form can be used for both categories of protected trees. Please read the below guidance notes before completing the form:

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It is important that you specify the work you wish to carry out clearly, provide information to support your case (such as professional advice on the health of the tree or, in cases of alleged subsidence, professional evidence on the soil, the structure affected and the tree).

You may find it helpful to consult an arborist (tree surgeon) or arboricultural consultant to help you clarify what you need to do (please see Tree Contractors List).

Pre-application advice - paid service

We offer a pre-application service. You will be allocated a dedicated tree officer who will guide you through the pre-application process. The service provides an opportunity to discuss your proposed scheme and get clear written expert advice from a tree officer before you submit an application.

What to send us

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Do I always need the planning authority’s permission to work on a protected tree?

Yes, except for: 

  1. cutting down or pruning a tree:
  • which presents an urgent and serious safety risk - however you must give written notice (by letter or email) of the proposed work to the local planning authority as soon as practicable after the work becomes necessary
  • which is dead - however you must give at least five working days written notice (by letter or email) of the proposed work to the local planning authority
  1. in line with an obligation under an Act of Parliament
  2. at the request of statutory undertakers
  3. which is directly in the way of development that is about to start for which detailed planning permission has been granted

What happens once I submit my application form?

Once a completed form is received including a detailed description of required works, a plan showing the exact location of the tree(s) and it has been signed, the application will be registered and acknowledged. From this point on, the council has specific deadlines to determine each application. If you have applied to carry out works to a tree within a Conservation Area, the council has six weeks in which to determine your application. If you have applied to carry out works to a tree protected by a TPO, the council has eight weeks in which to send out a decision notice.

Once the application has been acknowledged, the neighbours surrounding the tree(s) in question will be notified of the application. They have a statutory limit of 21 days in which to either support or object to the application.

Once the 21 day period has lapsed, the tree officer will make a site visit before writing up a report. The report will form the basis of a decision notice which is signed by the Head of Development and Delivery and sent to the applicant.

In cases of exceptional interest from members of the public, the application will go before the council’s Development Control Committee. The tree officer will make a report to the committee who will then reach a decision.

When a decision on an application has been reached, the Council will send out a decision notice to the applicant. There are 3 possible outcomes:

  • permission is granted
  • permission is refused
  • permission is wholly or partly refused but permission for other works is granted

The decision notice may also contain conditions, for example, when works should start, who should carry out the work and whether replacement planting is required.

What happens if I carry out work on a protected tree without permission?

If you deliberately destroy a tree, or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 if convicted in the magistrate’s court. In determining the amount of the fine, the court will take account of any financial benefit arising from the offence. For other offences you could be fined up to £2,500. You will normally have to plant a replacement tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.

What if my application to carry out work on a protected tree is refused or I object to the conditions imposed by the planning authority?

You can appeal to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in writing within 28 days of receiving the decision. The council should give you the address. Appeals are normally decided on the basis of the information available to the planning authority when they made their decision and a site visit.

The Secretary of State may allow or dismiss the appeal, or vary the original decision.

If you would like further information, please visit the Communities and Local Government website You can also download a copy of 'Protected Trees: A Guide to Tree Preservation Procedures' (PDF 89KB).

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