Do I need permission to prune or cut down my tree?

The answer to this question not straightforward. It depends whether you have a tree of significant social, cultural or amenity value and depend on where you live.  Tree preservation orders (TPO’s).

If you live in a ‘conservation area’ then trees with a main trunk diameter of over 7.5cm are protected. It requires permission to carry out ANY pruning or felling (this measurement is taken at 1.5 metres above ground). A conservation area can be an area of particular historic or cultural interest within a town or city and is not restricted to the countryside.

Wherever you live you may own land that contains a tree or group of trees that are covered by a tree preservation order (TPO). If this is the case you will have a legal requirement to apply to your local planning authority if you wish to remove that tree or indeed even if you want to carry out some pruning.

You may be thinking “why do some trees have a TPO on them. Who is responsible and how do I find out?”

Tree preservation orders can be placed on any trees or woodlands that have been identified as having ‘amenity’ value. This means that they might be rare or unusual species. They might support wildlife, be a local landmark in terms of being visible. They could also have some historic or social importance or simply good for the well being of the people living nearby.

The local planning authority can place an order on a tree that it or a member of the public brings to their attention. The local authority will visit the tree or trees to assess the tree for the amenity value of the tree(s) before placing the order. The resident or landowner will be informed. This information may not be passed on when land is sold so its worth checking out.

I know what you’re thinking! “Well if I don’t know about it I can’t get fined. No one will find out if I prune my tree. It’s my tree and my land so surely I can do what I like?” If you are considering carrying out any work on a tree on your property, either yourself or by employing a tree surgeon, you must find out whether your tree is protected by a tree preservation order.

Don’t PTO when it comes to TPO’s (tree preservation orders)!

Your local authority will have a list of trees and these are often available online. It is a serious offence to carry out work on a protected tree without permission. Fines can range from £2,500 for damage and up to £20,000 for destroying a tree.

If trees are protected, it doesn’t mean that work cannot be carried out on it at all.  You must simply apply to your local authority for permission. They will usually visit to assess the tree and decide whether to grant permission.

Tree removal for planning applications for building are also carefully considered and often the tree will be preserved if possible.