Tree Preservation Orders
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a legal order made by the local planning authority (LPA). Except in special circumstances- for example if it has become dangerous - it is illegal for anyone to damage or to fell a protected tree without first having been given consent. The same restriction even applies to pruning.
We choose to protect trees, often on development sites, where they are under threat and which we judge to be important local assets. In the TPO preserved trees are shown as individuals or in groups, areas or woodlands. There are no particular species that are ‘automatically’ covered.
For homeowners, the official search made before you purchased your property should tell you if the trees in your garden are protected. Alternatively, tree owners, tree surgeons, neighbours or agents may contact us and we will provide an up to date check on the status of any tree. The LPA does not become responsible for protected trees. The owner retains responsibility for their safety, and for meeting the costs of any necessary inspections or pruning.
If anyone were to undertake work without permission and deliberately destroy a protected tree, or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, they could be liable on conviction to an unlimited fine. The landowner would also then be required to plant a replacement for the tree that was removed. The same could apply to anyone who was found to have caused or permitted such work. Other offences, not amounting to destruction may lead to fines of up to £2,500.
We believe that trees are important to the character and landscape of the Epping Forest District, and so make tree protection a priority. As a result the local plan has strong tree protection policies. However we also know that trees can grow where they are not wanted, or outgrow their situations. In such circumstances we make every effort to find the right balance between the rights of the individuals concerned and the desire of the community as a whole to have an attractive environment. Our rule is that all decisions on disputed TPOs and all applications to fell protected trees must be heard and decided by elected councillors at an area planning committee. Members of the public may ask to be heard at these meetings.
Permission to Prune or Fell a Preserved Tree
Most works to preserved trees must have formal consent from us, as the LPA. Applications for all proposed works must be made on the official “Works to Protected Trees” form.
If you are not sure whether you need permission we would recommend that you contact us for advice. Applications need to be carefully specified, and the reasons for the proposed action clearly and fully explained. Experienced tree surgeons should be able to offer advice, particularly on the specification of pruning proposed. (See Tree Surgeons, below).
Exemptions to the need for Permission
There are a number of exemptions to the need for permission to carry out pruning or even felling. These are set out in the legislation. The most commonly used are where preserved trees have become dangerous or have died. Other exemptions include for third party nuisance, or for works required by Acts of Parliament.
You are strongly advised not to implement any of these exemptions without having given us, in writing, at least five days notice beforehand. Failure to do so might result in prosecution, if you were unable afterwards to demonstrate that the exemption did exist.
We have prepared a list for the assistance of residents requiring the services of a Tree Surgeon. We have been careful to include only firms who operate in our area and who we believe are capable of working to the relevant British Standard. However, if you intend to employ a tree contractor you should check that their public liability insurance is up to date and satisfy yourself that they are have properly understood all your requirements, including for example protection of other plants or your property.
New Tree Preservation Orders
If you know of trees or a wood that are important in your area and under threat you are invited to contact us and explain why. We aim to investigate all requests, although we will give priority to those trees which seem to be the most important, or where the threat is most urgent. Please be aware that if the Forestry Commission has given aid under a forestry grant scheme, a TPO may only be made with their permission. Restrictions also apply to our ability to make TPOs on Crown Land.
TPOs will come into effect immediately. There is a period of 28 days for objections or to express support. They have then to be confirmed within a total of six months, having first carefully considered any objections. A TPO may be confirmed unchanged, confirmed in a modified form, or not confirmed at all. In that case it will have no effect from then on. As part of making the TPO we write to the owner and other interested parties, enclosing a copy of the order and explaining the right to object.