Trees covered by Tree Preservation Orders, how does this affect your home or potential mortgage?

trees in a forest with sunlight streaming through

This information is intended to help answer many of the common questions asked about Tree Preservation Orders for home owners, potential purchasers and mortgage providers. It is not intended as a statement of law. Please contact Tree Surveys and Reports for expert arboricultural advise.

1. What’s a Tree Preservation Order (or TPO)?

The Council has been given the power by Parliament to protect trees which are of value to the community. This protection takes the form of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), which makes the felling, pruning, lopping, topping, uprooting or wilful damaging or destroying of any tree specified in the Order an offence. This means that in effect any work which you may wish to carry out to a tree that is the subject of a TPO (with a few exceptions set out below) will require the formal written consent of the Council.

The Council has included a policy in its Unitary Development Plan (the statutory document which contains details of the Council’s proposals for land use until at least 2001) that relates to Orders. Policy ENV4 reflects the Council’s concern to ensure the preservation and replacement of existing trees and woodlands which contribute to the amenity of the areas within which they stand. Proposal ENV4/1 emphasises the Council’s commitment to continue to make Orders where necessary to safeguard important trees.

Why are TPOs made?

TPOs are meant to protect trees on privately-owned land which have amenity value, and to prevent their removal where it would have a significant impact on the environment and on the enjoyment of that environment by the public. Usually (but not always) the trees will be under some sort of threat, either of removal or through proposed works which may adversely affect their character or appearance.

The trees should therefore normally be visible from a public place (such as a road or footpath) although this may not always be the case. In certain circumstances it will be appropriate to protect trees in rear gardens (which may be seen and enjoyed by a considerable number of adjacent residents) or in other places not easily seen by the public.

TPOs will also be considered for trees which are worthy of protection because of:-

  • their intrinsic beauty

    their contribution to the landscape

    their role in screening an eyesore or future development

    their scarcity

    their collective value as a woodland or group

Other factors may be taken into account which on their own would not be sufficient to warrant a TPO, such as the value of the trees for wildlife.

Why not cover all trees with a TPO?

Only trees which have the sort of value outlined above should be covered with an Order, although the Council understands that sometimes the value of a tree to local people is a subjective matter. Many people think all oaks are automatically covered – which they aren’t – or that trees such as sycamores or conifers cannot be protected – which they can. Hedges, bushes or shrubs can’t be covered by a TPO, although trees within hedges can. A TPO may be made in respect of fruit trees in an orchard or garden, but as these trees are normally pruned to encourage fruit production, they are exempt from the need to obtain the consent of the Council for pruning or even cutting down.

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