Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an order made by a local planning authority in respect of trees or woodlands. The principal effect of a TPO is to prohibit the:

 cutting down,
 uprooting,
 topping,
 lopping,
 wilful damage, or
 wilful destruction

of trees without the LPA's consent.

TPO's are served on individual trees, groups of trees or woodlands when it is deemed to be expedient in the interests of amenity. They are used to protect trees and woodlands if their removal or changes to them would have a significant impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public. As the Local Planning Authority Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) has powers under provisions in the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act and the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012, to make Tree Preservation Orders.

The Law requires that written consent must be given by the Local Planning Authority (ENPA) before any work to a protected tree is undertaken.

To find out where Tree Preservation Orders are in Exmoor National Park, please use the Trees and Woodlands map.

Applications to work on a TPO tree

Before any work is carried out to a tree protected with a TPO, the formal consent of Exmoor National Park Authority must first be obtained.

The application procedure

Written consent is obtained by making an application to Exmoor National Park Authority using the form entitled "Application for tree works: work to trees subject to a tree preservation order (TPO) and/or notification of proposed works to trees in a conservation area". It is important that the form is filled out correctly and with sufficient detail otherwise it may not be registered. Potential applicants are therefore encouraged to contact ENPA before an application is made so that that a site visit or at least a discussion about the proposed works can be had in order to resolve any potential points of contention in the first instance, making the application procedure run smoothly.

When a completed application form is received, it will be formally registered and a letter of acknowledgement sent to the applicant. An eight week period of consultation then follows where neighbours and Parish Councils are given the opportunity to offer their comments. Any representations received are taken into account when the application is determined.

A site visit will then normally be made if one hasn't already taken place.

Works to trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order should be specified in accordance with British Standard 3998: 2010 Tree Work - Recommendations. A copy is available at Exmoor House.

Work to protected trees without consent

There are strong penalties for work to protected trees that has not had written consent from ENPA. If a tree which is the subject of a Tree Preservation Order is felled without the permission of ENPA you could be liable for a fine of up to £20,000 on conviction in a Magistrates Court. In serious cases a person may be committed for trial in the Crown Court and, if convicted, is liable to an unlimited fine.

In addition to these penalties the landowner is under a duty to replace a tree which is removed in contravention of the TPO. Outside woodlands the duty also applies if the tree is removed because it is dead or dangerous.

Dead and dangerous trees exception

Exmoor National Park Authority's consent is not required for cutting down or carrying out work on trees which are dead or have become dangerous.

Determining if a tree is dead or dangerous is not always a straightforward matter and as such the services of a professionally qualified arboriculturist should be sought.

If a tree is deemed to be dead or dangerous then the onus is on the owner of the tree to prove that any tree or part of tree removed is in such a condition should there be any recourse following the work. This could take the form of an arboricultural report. Also, any work carried out under this exception should be limited to that which is necessary in the interests of safety so, if there is a dead branch on an otherwise healthy tree, only the branch should be removed.

Anyone wishing to carry out tree work under this exception should contact ENPA at least five days before the commencement of work except in an emergency.

As stated above, if a tree protected by a TPO is removed because it is dead or has become dangerous, the landowner is under a duty to replace the tree.

A tree is not necessarily considered dangerous due to its height and size or because it moves in the wind. Nor is a tree dangerous if it drops fruit and leaves. This is all part of living with trees.

More information is available in the document Protected trees: A guide to tree preservation procedures produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government.