Cutting back a tree on your property may seem like a normal right for a home owner. However, certain trees in certain areas are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). It is important therefore to know whether there are any restrictions that would put an axe to your plans.
Just this week, a court prosecuted and fined two neighbours in Dorset £3,000 for pruning branches off a protected tree. The pair claimed that the tree was dangerous and parts of it were falling down. They claimed that this could cause a danger to their young children. What they did not consider was that the tree was subject to a TPO. This meant that they were prohibited from cutting back the tree without the local authority’s consent.
What are Tree Preservation Orders?
Tree Preservation Orders are orders made by a local planning authority to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands in the interests of amenity. A TPO will prohibit the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting or willful damage or destruction to a protected tree. The trees can be in public areas but sometimes affect homeowners as the trees can be within, or close to, the boundaries of their property.
If you fail to comply with an order, the local authority may take action against you. This can result in a court hearing and a fine, like the Dorset neighbours.
How would I know if my tree is protected?
Many people may not be aware that a tree on their land is protected! However, when purchasing a house, any TPO should appear in the searches which are carried out against the property. Your solicitor will also ask the seller of the property whether they are aware of any trees subject to an order.
If you already own a property and are concerned about a tree, you can contact your local authority to ask whether there are any orders in the vicinity of your home.
What if I want to cut the tree back or down altogether?
If you want to carry out work to a protected tree, you will need the local authority’s consent. The local authority will consider your application, reasons and proposals in granting consent. You are likely to find it easier to obtain consent for minor works such as cutting back the tree branches than cutting the tree down altogether.
If you are considering purchasing a property and are concerned about trees, seek advice from your solicitor before completing the purchase. Our residential property team is available on 0800 988 7756.