What is a Tree Preservation Order and who makes them?

Often abbreviated as TPOs, Tree Preservation Orders are legal restrictions on what can be done to a tree, group of trees or area of woodland. They were first brought in as part of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990) and have been modified through subsequent acts and amendments.

TPOs are issued by local planning authorities. This can be in response to a third party application or through their own initiation.

Once a TPO is in place, the tree or trees is legally protected from wilful damage or destruction. In addition, any person or company will have to get written permission to carry out:

  • Felling
  • Topping
  • Lopping
  • Uprooting

According to the UK government’s website, a planning authority can make a TPO if it is:

‘Expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands in their area.’

But what does that mean in practice?

Amenity and expediency in relation to TPOs

The common definition of ‘amenity’ is a desirable or useful feature of a place. As there is no corresponding legal definition, it is up to planning authorities to make a judgement on whether a tree, group of trees or area of woodland can be classed as an amenity worth preserving.

While visibility and factors such as conservation value and contribution to climate change mitigation will be considered, these will not be enough on their own to warrant the label of amenity. The planning authority are also encouraged to consider the size and form of the tree or trees; their rarity; their cultural, historical and future value; how they contribute to the landscape and, if they are within a conservation area, how they impact the character and appearance of that area.

‘Expediency’ is a judgement based on how convenient the granting of an order would be. For example, the time and expense of creating a TPO may be deemed unnecessary if the trees in question are already being protected and managed well and are unlikely to be under any immediate threat.

The TPO process

Once the planning authority has decided to pursue a TPO, they will carry out a site visit to determine which trees can be protected and how they can be identified. Tre specialists such as Arborcure can assist with this process.

The next stage is to identify, plot and classify the protected trees. The order is then prepared and made public.

There will be an opportunity for third parties to raise objections to the TPO and the planning authority may make changes to the order, withdraw it or confirm it. Once confirmed, the TPO will be added to the Local Land Charges Register.

How to manage trees under the protection of a TPO

Hopefully, that helps explain what is a Tree Preservation Order. If you are responsible for trees protected by a TPO, you must not carry out (or allow) any felling, uprooting, topping or lopping without written permission of the local planning authority. While there are no specific rules about tree management, these might be added as conditions to any permission granted.

Light trimming of branches and the removal of dead or diseased branches will normally be allowed as these are conducive to the overall health and wellbeing of the trees involved.

However, if you are in any doubt about what you can or can’t do with a protected tree, we recommend you contact us for advice.

If you plan to apply for or issue a TPO and require a professional survey from experienced tree specialists, please visit our Surveys page and get in touch.