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Works to Protected Trees

What if I want to work on a protected tree?

You will need to complete a formal Tree Works Application Form. If you require assistance completing the form or advice on what works would be appropriate, we have a pre-application Tree Advisory Service and for a small fee we will assist you in all aspects of your application prior to it being submitted. You may decide to consult a with a tree surgeon to clarify what you need to do. The Arboricultural Association has a list of approved tree surgery contractors. 

Apply for tree works

You can apply for tree works online via the Planning Portal or download a printable form from them. You will need to provide a location plan of the site, clearly identifying the tree(s) you want to carry out the works on. Please provide photos of the tree showing which part of the tree you would like to carry out the works on.

Do I always need permission to work on a protected tree?

Yes except for:

  • cutting down any tree under a forestry dedication covenant or a plan of operations approved by the Forestry Authority,
  • where the Authority has granted a felling licence.
  • cutting down or cutting back a tree which is dying, dead or dangerous,
  • where there is an obligation under an Act of parliament,
  • at the request of a certain Government department that is about to start works for which detailed planning permission has been granted,
  • a fruit tree cultivated for fruit production,
  • to prevent or control a nuisance in the legal sense (you may find it helpful to check first with a solicitor).

If you are in any doubt, check with us.

If I don't need permission, do I still have to inform you of any work I intend to carry out?

Except in an emergency you should give us at least five days' notice before you cut down a protected tree which is dying, dead or dangerous. This is in your interests - you could be prosecuted if we think you have carried out unauthorised work. We could also decide that you do not have to plant a replacement tree. You must remember, however, that you will remain responsible for your trees and any damage they may cause.

When will I have to plant a replacement tree?

You will have to replant:

  • if you cut down or destroy a protected tree
  • in breach of an order, except in the case of woodland, because the tree is dying, dead or dangerous, unless the planning authority says you need not
  • if you are given permission to cut down a protected tree but replanting is a condition of its consent
  • if you own protected woodland and permission is given to cut down trees, except where this is for thinning, making way for approved development, or the replanting requirement has been waived by the Secretary of State. Local planning authorities have legal powers to ensure that you plant a replacement tree when required. The original tree preservation order will normally cover the replacement trees.

Do I need a Forestry Authority felling licence to cut down trees covered by a tree preservation order?

Whether or not a tree preservation order is in force you must apply to the Forestry Authority for a felling licence if you want to cut down more than five cubic metres of timber - or sell more than two cubic metres of the exempt amount - in any one calendar quarter. There are exceptions to this rule which are set out in the Forestry Act 1967 and Regulations.

Where trees are covered by a tree preservation order and a felling licence application contains proposals for replanting the Forestry Authority will pass your application to the local planning authority, together with its comments, for decision under the order.

However if the purpose of the licence application is to discontinue the use of the land as woodland - or the intended use is not stated - the Forestry Authority will consider the application itself. Applicants should note that the Authority does not normally grant licences to change woodland to agricultural use. (Where, exceptionally, it does propose to grant a licence to fell woodland protected by a tree preservation order it will first give notice to the local planning authority. In such cases the planning authority has the right to object to the proposal and if it does so the application will be referred for decision to the Secretary of State.)

What happens if I carry out work on a protected tree without permission?

If you cut down, uproot or wilfully destroy a tree, or wilfully damage, top or lop a tree in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 on a summary conviction, or on indictment be liable to an unlimited fine. In determining the amount of the fine, the court would take into account of the actual, or likely, financial benefit arising from the offence. For other offences you could be fined up to £2,500.

You will normally have to plant a replacement tree if the tree was cut down or destroyed.

What if my application to carry out work on a protected tree is refused, or I object to the conditions imposed by the planning authority?

You can appeal to the Department for Communities and Local Government in writing within 28 days of receiving the decision.
The appeal will normally be decided on the basis of written representations. Both you and the local planning authority have the right instead to a public local inquiry or hearing. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government may allow or dismiss the appeal, or vary the original decision.

Can I get any compensation if my application to carry out work on protected trees/woodland is refused or conditions are imposed?

If consent is refused - or granted with conditions - you can seek compensation from your local planning authority for any loss or damage which results. However, under the terms of the order, the planning authority has issued a certificate saying either:- that the refusal or condition is in the interests of good forestry, or that the trees or woodland have an outstanding or special amenity value.
You can appeal to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government against such a certificate.
Where a felling licence application has been refused by the Forestry Authority you may get compensation from the Authority under the relevant forestry legislation.
Replanting of woodland: You can also seek compensation from the local planning authority where, on giving permission to cut down protected woodland, it has required replanting but where the Forestry Authority will not grant aid such replanting because the conditions set by the planning authority do not meet the conditions and objectives of the Authority's grant scheme.

How do I go about claiming compensation under a tree preservation order?

Write to your local planning authority within 12 months of its decision, or that of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if you appealed.

Are there any extra restrictions in a conservation area?

See Trees in Conservation Areas

How are trees on development sites affected?

Trees on development sites can be protected by tree preservation orders or by conditions attached to the planning permission, or both. Planning conditions may also require you to plant trees which may be covered by a tree preservation order. The order will take effect once they are planted.

Can I carry out work on protected trees which are in the way of proposed development?

You can only cut down or cut back protected trees if they are directly in the way of development which is about to start, for which you have detailed planning permission. Check first with your local planning authority. It may prosecute you if it thinks you have cut down or cut back excessively.
If the development does not require planning permission (for example, putting up a garden shed) you must apply to your local planning authority for permission under the tree preservation order in the normal way.

Can I stop planning permission being granted - or prevent approved development being carried out - by getting a tree preservation order imposed on tree on the site?

No. A tree preservation order will not prevent planning permission being granted. But a local planning authority will consider the risk to protected trees when deciding planning applications.
Once planning permission is granted, any felling may be carried out which is directly required to enable the development to go ahead.

Further Information :

You can find out more about tree preservation orders in the following:-

Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (in particular sections 197-214 as amended)

The Planning and Compensation Act 1991 (section 23)

Forestry Act 1967 (as amended)

Statutory Instruments numbered SI 1969 No. 17, SI 1975 No.148, SI 1979 Nos. 791 and 792, SI 1981 No. 14, SI 1985 Nos. 1572 and 1958, SI 1987 No. 632 and SI 1988 Nos. 963 and 970.

These are all available through HMSO and may be seen at some main libraries.

You may also find it helpful to send off for a copy of the Forestry Authority booklet Tree Felling - Licences and Permissions. Write to the Forestry Authority, 231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AT.

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