Tree Preservation Order (TPO)

Trees of local significance are often protected

Trees of local significance are often protected

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO’s)

Tree Preservation Orders are designed to protect tress of local significance and can be protected for a variety of reasons from aesthetics to historical significance.

If you want to find out if a tree is protected contact your local Planning Authority as there is no national database and the information is all held locally. If a tree or trees are protected, you will need written consent to remove them, or to do any tree surgery. Performing any work without permission could lead to prosecution. There are standard forms available on your local authorities website to apply to do work to a tree with a TPO. Decision timescales will vary between localities but expect to wait 6 weeks for a response relating to a conservation area and 2 months for a standard TPO.

Getting consent to completely remove a tree is likely to prove problematic and you may be required to replace any removed trees with a tree of the same species in or around the same location. As a landowner you would be served a notice if an order is made on your land. Work to a tree under a TPO does not require a public notice or advertisement but many local authorities will choose to do so.

No tree has automatic protection regardless of age, size or species and a Tree preservation Order must have been enacted for a tree to be protected. Any tree is eligible for consideration regardless of age, size and species. Hedgerow trees can be protected but hedges cannot.

There are 3 methods of protecting a tree, or woodland/forest area.

  1. A tree falls within a conservation area. This simply requires that a 6 week notification to the local authority is given before removal and is not protection in itself, but it does allow the local authority time to create a TPO in exceptional circumstances should it see fit.
  2. A Condition to a Planning Application has been created prohibiting the removal of that tree. These are often time limited to two years, but is not necessarily the case and should be studied on a case by case basis.
  3. A TPO (Tree Preservation Order) has been placed on the tree.

The 4 Types of TPO

There are 4 TPO types;

  1. Individual: Applied to individual trees.
  2. Group: Applied to several trees under one TPO
  3. Area: Applies to all trees in a defined space.
  4. Woodland: Covers all trees in a woodland or forest area

To study a TPO visit your Local Authority as they are public documents. They may be stored online for your convenience as well. The TPO will contain information such as species, location/map details etc. Although some TPO’s have been known to be lacking in specifics which can prove problematic and may require expert help to decipher the meaning. This ambiguity creates problems both for anyone needing to work on a tree and also local authorities in enforcing TPO’s and so agreement should be made between all parties if there is any ambiguity to prevent either the loss of important trees or prosecution due to a misunderstood order. Do not rely on a lack of precision to do what you want, as this may cause more problems and costs then it is worth. Some property/land owners can be unaware of Tree Protection Orders on their property, especially if they were created many decades ago, as many were not served. A solicitor should uncover any TPO’s when a property is sold and so properties owners of land that has changed hands recently should be fully aware

TPOs and planning

Planning permission overrides TPO’s and so if permission has been granted with the right to remove a tree then this means to the TPO is null and void. Trying to put a TPO on a site which has just received planning permission in an attempt to prevent building work will not succeed. All TPO’s and site details will have been considered in the planning process and thus if planning permission has been granted then the TPO will expire.

Which trees are protected by a TPO?

Most TPO’s are in urban environments to protect the limited amount of garden and public green space, so that the public may enjoy them. This means that trees out of view from public areas will struggle to obtain protected status and existing orders are unlikely to be enforced. Dying or dead trees are unlikely to obtain protected status. A tree has been defined by the High Court as “anything which would ordinarily one would call a tree” which is not very specific but maybe this is purposefully so, to ensure all valuable trees can be protected. The government has defined a tree as a “single-stemmed woody perennial plant “ We do know however, that a hedge cannot be protected but a tree within a hedge can.


There are certain exemptions; areas where TPO’s cannot be made, or become invalid. The most common are;

  • Trees with diameters smaller than 75mm. The diameter should be measured at 1.5m above ground level. This extends to 100mm when it is for the purpose of thinning to allow other trees to grow
  • Permission to cut down the tree has been granted by the Forestry Commission
  • Work to implement granted planning permission. This includes planning permission with an attached and accepted landscape plan
  • Fruit trees that are used for fruit production and in this instance they are only exempt unless they are actively being used for business

It is unusual for a TPO to be granted on crown, government and local authority land, but there are known situations where this is the case.

Dead and dangerous trees are also exempt from the six weeks of notice in the following ways. No notice is needed to remove dead branches from living trees.

Trees that are dead or dangerous can be removed immediately if the circumstances call for it, but in the majority of situations 5 days of notice should be given.

How to put a TPO on a tree?

Firstly it is important to remember that there is no legal requirement for a local authority to issue TPO’s. Whilst most local authoritys do issue them, there is no legal right for a tree to be protected, despite its locations, species or historical importance. A tree is only protected once a TPO has been granted and once granted must then be enforced. The granting of a TPO is a discretionary power.

To get a tree or woodland protected speak with your local council and tree officer as you will need their support, so remember to explain why you believe this tree is of local significance. There are often online forms that can be filled out for new applications, but speaking with the Local Authority first is likely to help your cause. A TPO can be granted in emergency situations in a day if required but the process is likely to take months.

A TPO prevents all significant work to a tree that has not had the local authorities’ permission first.

Removing a TPO

Getting a TPO lifted or removed is a near impossible task and has rarely if ever been achieved. This is because there are far easier ways of getting permission to work on a tree such as planning permission etc. If you have not gone down any of the alternative routes nor have any good reason to remove the TPO then the local authority is not going to feel inclined to removing the TPO. Despite this there is nothing to prevent a local council removing a TPO and is possible just not a practical solution. If you want to work on a protected tree then simply make an application the local authority to do this, stating clearly your reasons for doing so.

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