Work on a tree with a tree preservation order

What if I wish to apply for consent to carry out work to a protected tree or trees?

To apply for consent to carry out work to a protected tree or trees you can either:

It is important to clearly specify the work you wish to do when submitting an application. Before making an application you may find it helpful to consult a tree surgeon or arboricultural consultant.

If you deliberately destroy a protected tree, or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be liable to a fine.

Who can carry out work to protected trees?

Anyone can apply to carry out work to protected trees. It is not necessary to have any legal interest in the land upon which the trees stand. However, it is always best to consult the tree owner because regardless of the decision made by the local planning authority, it will still be necessary to obtain permission from the owner.

Do I need permission to cut my tree down if it is dead or dangerous?

The removal of dead trees or dead branches from a live tree does not require consent even if it is protected. Where a protected tree is immediately dangerous, the minimum work necessary to make it safe can be carried out, however, considerable caution should be exercised when deciding if the tree fits into this category. Under this exception all other work to make a tree safe requires five days written notice to be served upon the local planning authority providing details of the proposed work. The burden of proof always remains with the person carrying out work to the tree, or arranging for the work to be done to be able to justify any such action.

My neighbour's tree has grown too big and it is blocking my light and my view, or may be dangerous - what can I do?

This is a private matter between you and your neighbour. The council would only become involved if the tree was protected in some way and consent was needed to carry out work to it.

However, if this applies to two or more evergreen trees growing together, or to a hedgerow, it may be covered under the "high hedges" legislation. For further information please visit the the high hedges section.

Who is responsible for trees and hedges?

The responsibility is that of the owner of the land on which they are growing. If a tree straddles a boundary, it may be jointly owned. The deeds of the property may be helpful in finding out the ownership. The council only gets involved if it owns the tree or if the tree is protected by a tree preservation order.

My neighbour’s tree(s) encroaches over my boundary, what can I do?

Your common law rights allow you to remove any branches that cross your boundary without the need to seek your neighbour’s permission. However, it is always advisable to discuss with your neighbour beforehand. You should not cross the boundary and, whilst you are legally required to return the branches or other material to your neighbour, you should first ask if they wish to have the branches returned to them. If they do not want them you should arrange to dispose of them yourself.

If the tree is protected by a tree preservation order or is located within a conservation area, you will need to seek consent or notify the local planning authority of your intentions before undertaking work to living parts of the tree. Any proposed pruning work should take the branch back to a suitable growth point rather than making a crude cut where the branch crosses the boundary.

My tree is protected and has been damaged by strong winds. What should I do?

You can carry out whatever work is needed to make it safe. The work must be the minimum needed. Any additional work will require the consent of the local planning authority. You must tell us as soon as possible if you have carried out such work or if a protected tree has been blown over in your garden. You may be required to replace the tree in due course. If possible, take photographs of the storm damage or get a qualified tree surgeon to make a written report, as it will be your responsibility to prove that any work carried out was essential to make the tree safe.

How can I find out who owns a tree or piece of land?

The land registry can help identify private land owners.

Do I always need the council's consent to work on a tree covered by a tree preservation order?

No. The following types of work are exempt from the need for consent:

  1. Cutting down trees in accordance with one of the Forestry Commission’s grant schemes, or where the Commission has granted a felling license;
  2. 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;
  • which is directly in the way of development that is about to start for which detailed planning permission has been granted.
  • in a commercial orchard, or pruning fruit trees in accordance with good horticultural practice;
  • to prevent or control a legal nuisance (you may find it helpful to check first with a solicitor);
  • in line with an obligation under an Act of Parliament;
  • by or at the request of certain organisations listed in the regulations.
  1. Removing dead branches from a living tree

If you are in any doubt about what needs permission, please check with the council.