If your land does not fall within a Conservation Area and there isn't a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on the tree, you are permitted to undertake any tree works on your land, regardless of the tree's condition.
If however you are located in a Conservation Area or the tree in question is under a TPO then you or your tree surgeon will need to apply to the council for permission.
Carrying out tree works in a Conservation Area
Conservation Areas are designated areas of historical and architectural interest, this means there are extra planning controls to protect what makes the area special, which includes the trees within it. These controls mean that notice to the council, in the form of an application, is required for works to trees that have a trunk diameter of more than 75mm when measured at 1.5m above ground level. This notice is to give your local authority an opportunity to consider whether a Tree Preservation Order should be served to protect the tree. If after six weeks from the date of acknowledgment of the application you have not been notified of a TPO being served then you can carry out the works as described in the application.
Carrying out works on trees under a Tree Preservation Order
A Tree Preservation Order is made by the local planning authority to protect trees that bring amenity benefit to the area. A TPO makes it a criminal offence to carry out works to the tree without permission. Unlike conservation areas where the application serves as a notification to the council, if the tree has a TPO you must receive written approval of the application, even if the date given for a decision has passed. The time frame given for a decision is 8 weeks from acknowledgment of the application, however if after 8 weeks you have not received a decision you can submit an appeal to the council. You cannot carry out the works simply because the date by which a decision was expected has passed.
Are there any exceptions?
There are a few limited instances where tree work can be carried out on trees in a Conservation Area and/or under a TPO without permission:
When trees are cut down in connection with a Forestry Commission Grant Scheme, or where the Forestry Commission has granted a Felling Licence
Cutting down or pruning a tree which presents an imminent and serious safety risk
Cutting down a dead tree
The cutting down or pruning of a tree that has already been approved by the council by being included as part of a detailed planning permission
Cutting down or pruning a tree to prevent or control a legal nuisance
Cutting down or pruning a tree in line with a statutory obligation under an Act of Parliament
Removing dead branches from a living tree (whilst taking care not to cut into any live portions of the tree)
Most councils will still require at least 5 working days written notice if you are cutting down a tree that is a safety risk, has already been approved as part of your planning permission or because of a legal nuisance or statutory obligation.
What happens if I carry out work to a protected tree without permission?
If you carry out work on a tree in a Conservation Area without giving the required notice or in the case of a tree under a TPO, without having council approval, you could be liable for a fine ranging from £2,500 for damage and up to £20,000 for destroying a tree. If indicted, the fines are unlimited. Additionally, obtaining approval for a certain specification, but then carrying out work to a different specification also carries the risk of a fine, so it is important to hire a professional tree surgeon that will carry out the works to the British Standard.
How do I find out if the tree is within a Conservation Area or has TPO on it?
Many councils have an online map detailing the Conservation Areas and TPOs. If this isn't available you can call your local council's planning department to find out. Alternatively if you choose to hire a professional tree surgeon, they will make these checks and liaise with the council on your behalf. If the tree is under a TPO, you can still apply to the council for permission to carry out works to the tree, however bear in mind a legitimate reason is needed.
Making a tree work application to the council
You can make an application to your local council here. However, we recommend using a certified Arborist who can ensure correct tree identification, terminology and specifications are given.
The Tree Man is experienced in liaising with the local council and carrying out applications on behalf of our clients. If you would like further advice or to book a quote, please get in touch.