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Tree preservation orders (TPOs) are commonly used by councils to protect certain trees within their area of authority found on someone else’s land. If they wish to protect a tree, the council can send a TPO to the landowner and explain the reason for making the order – the landowner has the right to comment.

If a tree is protected via a TPO, the council must consent before any work can be carried out on the tree. Landowners have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State within 28 days if they have a planning permission application refused due to reasons relating to a TPO.

Applications concerning protected trees are handled differently to standard planning permission, with one major change being that these applications can be made without a fee. However, they still require the inclusion of paperwork such as the appropriate forms and a diagram outlining the trees you wish to work on. As with standard planning applications your application will be advertised by the council. However, neighbours will only be notified on a case-on-case basis.

The Arboricultural officer at the council responsible for your application may wish to visit the site in question to gain a better understanding of your application and the tree(s) that will be affected. The standard 8 week time target applies to applications to work on protected trees.

If you are looking to remove a protected tree entirely, you will need a report from a qualified arboriculturist to support your application.


Wilfully cutting, uprooting, damaging or destroying a protected tree without the council’s permission is a criminal offence. However, certain exceptions to this law apply. These are:

Cutting down a tree when it is already dead;

Cutting down a tree when the tree presents an immediate risk of serious harm;

Pruning part of a tree that presents an immediate risk of serious harm;

Removing dead branches from a living tree;

Preventing or controlling a “legal nuisance” which is defined as an unreasonable and substantial interference on the use and enjoyment of a person's property;

When requested by an organisation listed in the council’s regulations;

When it is in the interests if national security;

Where the tree is a fruit tree being pruned in accordance with good horticultural practice, or where the tree is in a commercial orchard;

Cutting down trees in accordance with a grant or felling licence obtained from the Forestry Commission;

Where the tree is directly obstructing development for which full planning permission has been granted (not including permitted development);

When obliged under an Act of Parliament.

Previously, the exception in the legislation also applied to the felling of dying trees. However, since 2012 this is no longer an exception unless the tree presents an urgent, serious safety risk i.e. “an immediate risk of serious harm”.

If you would like to find out more or discuss your project with one of the Arkhi team, get in touch on 01260 540170 or drop us an email at


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