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Reasons for Felling a Tree with A TPO (Tree Preservation Order)

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

There are a number of TPO areas across Torbay and Teignbridge and so we often get enquiries about how to approach removing a tree with a TPO on it. Here we will go through the possible reasons for felling a tree with a TPO on it, with or without an application.

Types of TPO’s

A tree can be protected by being in a conservation area or by having a TPO on it, or both. If you are unsure whether your tree is protected, you can look at our article explaining how to check here.

There are four types of TPO and contrary to popular belief, all trees can be protected, regardless of species, age, size etc.

  • Individual: applied to an individual tree.

  • Group: applied to a group of individual trees. They may have grown up together and as a result be co-dependant.

  • Area: covers all trees in a defined area at the time the order was made. Trees that grew in the area after the date of the order will not be covered.

  • Woodland: covers all trees within a woodland area, regardless of how old they are.

The formal process for removing a TPO tree

If you want to remove a tree that is protected with a TPO, you will need to apply to the council giving your reasons for carrying out works to the tree. The council will then aim to give you a decision within 8 weeks, although if you do not hear back you will need to follow up or make an appeal. Unlike trees protected by conservation areas, where if you do not hear back by the deadline given you can carry out the work as per the specification given in your application, if the tree is protected with a TPO, you must wait for a decision from the council.

Trees are usually protected by TPOs when they are considered to have a high amenity value to the area. They tend to be highly visible trees that contribute to the character or appearance of the surrounding landscape or otherwise rare or of historical value. And so their removal would likely be considered to have a negative impact on the local environment and/or the enjoyment of the public.

Reasons for felling a tree with a TPO without approval

There are a few instances where a tree with a TPO can be felled without approval

  • The tree is dead: If there is immediate risk of serious harm, the tree may be removed. We would recommend taking photos/videos to prove this is the case. If the tree isn’t posing an immediate threat, 5 days written notice should be given to the council before carrying out the works. Where a tree is live, with dead branches, only the dead branches can be removed without an application.

  • The tree is dangerous and poses an immediate risk of serious harm: in this instance written notice must be given to the council as soon as it possible after the work becomes necessary. However, only works necessary to make the tree safe should be carried out. It may be that only certain limbs need to be removed.

  • The tree is causing a nuisance: Here the term ‘nuisance’ is used in the legal sense, for example a tree may be causing structural damage. However, similarly to the above point, you may only carry out works required to abate the nuisance and again we would recommend you take photos to prove this is the case. Unless you can prove that the tree is causing or is at immediate risk of it causing actual damage, you should seek council approval through the usual process of approval.

  • A tree needs to be removed to make way for a new building for which you have full valid planning permission for: in this case the order is overridden. Reference to the removal of the tree should have been made in the planning application for the building.

Reasons a tree with a TPO may be granted permission to fell following an application

If none of the above apply, but you still wish to apply to remove a tree with a TPO, you might be wondering under what circumstances permission to fell a tree is granted. From our experience, they tend to fall into one of the following categories

The trunk and roots of a large diseased tree
A tree showing a cavity at the base, possible fungal infection and a v union. An application to fell would need to consider the overall health of the tree and what is in the surrounding area.
  • The tree is dying: where you can prove the tree is dying and will not recover permission may be granted to fell before it becomes a danger.

  • The tree is dangerous: you will need to be able to prove that the tree poses a real threat

  • The tree is diseased: presence of a disease is not justification alone. You will need supporting evidence to show that the tree will not recover or it will decline such that it will pose a danger

  • The tree is causing damage: you will need a structural report to support this claim

  • If you wish to remove a tree in order to build on the land, we would always recommend including the tree as part of the planning permission for the build rather than applying to remove the tree first (unless there are other justifiable reasons to remove the tree as detailed above).

The above is not an exhaustive list and there are always exceptions. If you have a tree with a TPO and would like some advice, please get in touch.


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