Protected Trees - frequently asked questions

Protected Trees: A Guide to Tree Preservation Procedures gives a brief introduction to tree protection procedures and answers some of the most common questions asked by tree owners and the public.

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a special form of control that applies to trees on private property. TPOs are used to protect trees that are particularly attractive, are good examples of their species, contribute to the appearance and amenity of an area and/or have any cultural or historic value. It is illegal to cut down, uproot, prune, or otherwise destroy or damage a tree protected by a TPO without the Council's consent. It is a serious criminal offence to fell or otherwise harm a tree protected by a TPO without the express written consent of the Council as the Local Planning Authority, and can result in fines in excess of £20,000 per tree. TPOs are made by the Council when the Council considers it expedient to do so, for example, when trees are perceived to be under threat of being cut down or damaged.


What types of TPO are there?

There are four types of TPO as follows:

  • Individually specified trees: An Individual TPO protects trees that have grown up individually and are largely unaffected by competition from nearby trees. These will be individually named and numbered represented as individual black circles on the TPO plan, for Example: T1 Oak.
  • Groups of trees: A Group TPO protects trees that have grown up as part of a group of trees that have become co-dependant on one another affording each other mutual shelter. These will be represented as a broken black line on the TPO plan and the numbers of each different tree will be recorded, for example: G1 2 Oak and 1 Beech.
  • Trees specified by reference to an area: An Area TPO (commonly mis-named a 'blanket TPO') protects all the trees that are present within an area at the time the Order was made. Each area will be represented as a dotted black line on the TPO plan but the numbers and/or types of trees will not be recorded, for example: A1.
  • Woodlands: A Woodland TPO protects all trees within the defined area present and future; it is the woodland that is being protected not specific trees. It is expected that in a woodland trees will decline and fall and others will grow up to replace them in a continuous self-perpetuating dynamic. Each woodland will be represented as a solid black line on the TPO plan, for example: W1.

It is possible for a single TPO to protect many trees with a variety of designations, for example: a single TPO could protect individually specified trees, groups of trees, areas of trees and areas of woodland.

Can I object to the making of a new TPO?

Yes. When a TPO is made it takes immediate effect but remains provisional for a period of up to 6 months. If you wish to object to the TPO you will need to submit your written objections to the Council within 6 weeks of the TPO being made.

Any relevant written objections received within 6 weeks of the TPO being made will be referred to the Council's Planning Committee and Members will consider those objections when making a decision whether or not to confirm the TPO with or without modification. Once confirmed the TPO takes permanent effect. If the TPO is not confirmed it will lapse.
Please note that when there are relevant written objections to a TPO all written representations received (in support or objecting to the TPO) will be made available in full to the Planning Committee and will be published with the Agenda.

If there has been no objection to the making of a TPO then it will be confirmed by the Council within the 6 month provisional period.

You may not object to a TPO once it has been confirmed.

What is a Conservation Area?

A Conservation Area is an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. Trees often make an important contribution to the character of Conservation Areas, and are therefore given special protection. You are required to give the Council, as Local Planning Authority, 6 weeks formal written notice of your intention to carry out the pruning or felling of any tree within a Conservation Area greater than 7.5cm in diameter (as measured at 1.5m above ground level). The Council will decide whether or not it wishes to control the proposed works in any way. If it does, then it will make a TPO within the 6 weeks notification period. If you still wish to carry out the works then you will have to make a further application under the TPO. The penalties for unauthorised felling or works to trees in Conservation Areas are the same as for trees protected by a TPO (see above).
 If you wish to work on trees in a Conservation Area apply

Conservation Areas

What type of trees are covered by TPO's?

Any species of tree, including fruit trees, can be protected by a TPO. Trees are assessed on their merits according to certain criteria, such as health and stability, visibility from a public place, contribution to the character of a locality, cultural/historic/habitat value and rarity/progeny. If the tree scores highly enough and is considered to be under threat it may be possible to make a TPO.

Are fruit trees protected?

TPO's made prior to August 1999 do not include fruit trees. Since August 1999 (when the Regulations controlling TPOs were changed) fruit trees may be included in TPO's made after that date, but the Council's consent is not required to prune a fruit tree if it is part of its normal cultivation.

A fruit tree is defined as a tree cultivated for the production of fruit, such as apples, pears, plums and cherries. Whilst a number of trees produce 'fruit' that may be eaten (such as walnuts, sweet chestnuts and mulberries), they are rarely cultivated specifically for the production of fruit and could be protected by a TPO. Ornamental crab apple, cherry and pear trees are also included in some pre 1999 TPOs. Any fruit tree species not traditionally cultivated specifically or ornamental varieties of fruit trees protected by a TPO would require consent before any proposed works takes place.

Trees protected by Planning Condition

The Council, when granting Planning permission for development, may require existing trees to be retained as a condition of the Planning Permission, even if they are not protected by a TPO or in a Conservation Area. If a tree is located in the grounds of a property that was built or extended within the last three years, it may be protected by Planning Condition.

How do I find out if any trees on my property are protected by a Tree Preservation Order, Conservation Area or Planning Conditions?

To find out the level of protection, if at all, of tree(s) at a property please contact the Planning Administration team at the Council by email at planning@southbucks.gov.uk by phone 01895 837210 or 01895 837342.

How can I request a tree be protected by a Tree Preservation Order?

The Council will only make a Tree Preservation Order if it can be demonstrated that the tree is under threat and that the tree is worthy of protection. If this is the case and the tree appears healthy and stable, is visible from a public place and its removal would significantly harm the appearance of the area, please contact planning@southbucks.gov.uk. Our Arboriculturist will inspect the tree(s) to see if it qualifies for protection by TPO and advise you accordingly.

How do I apply for consent to carry out work to a tree protected by a TPO, or give Notice of proposed works to a tree within a Conservation Area?

You will need to submit an application to us. You are advised to seek the advice of professional qualified contractor prior to submitting the application as they will be able to advise what works are likely to be acceptable. For works to trees covered by a TPO it usually takes up to eight weeks from the receipt of your application until a decision is made. For works to trees in a Conservation Area, it will take up to six weeks from the date that you sign and submit the form to the Council. The applications are free of charge.

Can I appeal against the Council's decision if my application to carry out work is refused or allowed subject to conditions?

Yes. Appeals are dealt with independently by the Planning Inspectorate.

Is there a charge for making a TPO application or submitting a Conservation Area Notice?

There is no charge for making an application to carry out works to trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order or for submitting a notice of intent to carry out works to trees in a Conservation Area Application.

Will the Council pay for my protected tree to be pruned?

The Council will not pay for any works to protected trees. All landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe and any pruning work required will be at the landowner's expense.

Am I able to claim compensation from the Council if a protected tree causes damage?

All landowners are responsible under their 'Duty of Care' for ensuring that their trees are safe regardless of whether or not they are covered by a TPO, are in a Conservation Area or are covered by a Planning Condition. A landowner is best advised to have their trees inspected regularly by a competent person and act upon any significant defect reported to them. Such an inspection can be carried out by an Arboricultural Consultant found via the Arboricultural Association.

If an application, submitted in relation to the potential for a tree to cause harm is refused and harm is caused by that tree in the 12 months following the decision, there are limited compensation provisions. You are advised to take your own independent legal advice in such cases. Trees do change over time but they do remain the responsibility of the landowner; if after 12 months it is believed the tree's condition has worsened a repeat application can be made.

If permission is refused to remove a tree that has already caused damage to drives, walls, etc. again you are advised to take your own independent legal advice.

I think my tree is dead. Can I remove it?

Any protected tree that is dead or dangerous is exempt from the TPO and can be removed without the need to submit an application, or a notice in the case of a tree in a Conservation Area. However, the onus of proof rests with you. If you wish to remove or lop such a tree, best practice dictates that you provide the Council with five days written notice of the proposed works. We will then normally make a site visit to check that the tree is dead or dangerous and if this is the case, the work can then be done. There is a legal duty to plant a replacement tree under these circumstances unless the tree was within a woodland TPO.

What is a felling licence, and when do I need to apply for one?

The Forestry Commission controls the quantity of timber that can be felled at any time, by issuing felling licences: Trees in private residential 'gardens' are exempt from this provision.

Can protected trees be felled to enable development to take place?

If an application is received to develop on land affected by a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Area the impact on the trees will be considered as an integral part of the whole assessment of the proposal.

If full planning permission is granted for a development and the approved application specifically shows that a protected tree will need to be removed to carry out the development then it will not be necessary to obtain a further consent from the Council. However, if the approved application does not specifically show that a protected tree will need to be removed to carry out the development, if permission is refused or if the permission granted is only outline planning permission, then written consent to fell the protected tree (s) would still need to be obtained.

What do I do if I think someone has damaged or felled a protected tree?

Contact Planning Administration  on planning@southbucks.gov.uk  or 01895 837210 or 01895 837342. We will check to see if they are acting on any consent granted via an application, or undertaking work that is covered by an exemption to the TPO, for example: the tree or branches being cut are dead or dangerous. If we have no record of work taking place or any authority having been given, and the trees appear to be protected we will inspect them within 24 hours of the initial enquiry, and often much sooner.

Is it necessary for somebody to enter my garden to inspect my trees in connection with an application or Notice of proposed works?

Yes, in many cases, our Arboriculturist and/or a Planning Officer will need to enter your garden to carry out the tree survey. They will carry an identity card issued by the Council. If you have any doubts about the identity of somebody claiming to be employed by the Council, please contact the Director of Services on 01895 837258.