From Tiny Acorns…

One of the questions we often receive from buyers when they are purchasing a property is what is a tree preservation order (TPO) and how will it affect the trees within their property – particularly if they have potential development plans.  Even if a tree is not protected, what is the effect of the property being in a conservation area?


Early Flowering Cherry Blossom Tree | Prunus persicoides 'Spring Glow' -  Roots Plants


What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an order made by a local planning authority (usually the local council) to protect a specific tree, groups of trees or woodland from deliberate damage and destruction. The order makes it a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree without the planning authority’s permission.  Anyone found guilty of breaching a TPO will have committed a criminal offence and may, in certain circumstances, be liable to an unlimited fine.

A TPO can be placed on any tree, including hedgerow trees but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. It can also apply to woodland, although this is less common. TPOs are most commonly used for urban and semi-urban settings, and for trees with high ‘amenity’ or ‘nature conservation value’.

The law?

The law on Tree Preservation Orders is contained within the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012.  These regulations grant councils the power to designate tree protection orders to protect trees they deem valuable to the local environment.

Conservation Areas and the impact on trees

A conservation area is an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.  Particularly in and around Wimbledon, a buyer of a property is much more likely to come across a conservation area than a TPO.

Many trees within a conservation area are automatically subject to similar restrictions as a tree covered by a tree preservation order. Whether a tree benefits from that protection is determined by its size.

Applying for consent

If you are intending to carry out work to a tree covered by a TPO you must apply for consent from the local planning authority (LPA). You will need to complete an application form and submit it to the LPA with detailed plans outlining the proposed work and justifying its necessity. The form can either be submitted through the Planning Portal or directly to the LPA. You might also find it helpful to seek the advice of a tree surgeon prior to making an application.  The LPA can refuse consent to the works however this can be appealed.

Any trees within a conservation area are subject to similar restrictions as a tree covered by a tree preservation order. If a tree in a conservation area is not covered by a TPO, you have to give written notice to the LPA (by letter, email or on the LPA’s form) of any proposed work, describing what you want to do, at least six weeks before the work starts. This is called a ‘section 211 notice’ and whilst the council cannot refuse consent to the works it gives the LPA an opportunity to consider protecting the tree with a TPO.

Breaching a TPO

Carrying out works to trees protected by a TPO is a criminal offence, the result of which is likely to be a fine, which could be unlimited.  An offender might be ordered to restore or replace a damaged tree and, most worryingly, will receive a criminal record.

TPOs and Development

A TPO does not prevent planning permission being granted for development however the council will consider the risk to protected tress.  If planning permission is granted for a development, and the work will involve felling or working on protected trees, then the planning permission will override the TPO.

How we can help?

Our team of specialist lawyers are here to provide expert guidance and support throughout the conveyancing transaction and will carry out detailed searches to identify any trees which are subject to a TPO and provide you with the necessary information so you are aware of your obligations throughout your ownership.