My old friend Frankie has a flowering cherry tree in her front garden. Eight years ago, as it was past its best and no longer flowering as it should, she decided to chop it down. She had lopped all but the last three branches off it and it was standing looking like a rather forlorn signpost, when the Tree Warden appointed by the local council happened to pass by. This is the man who is supposed to be an expert on trees, and who decides whether a tree within the borough may be legally felled. Frankie explained the situation to him and the reason that the tree needed to go, but the Tree Warden was not satisfied. He took a closer look at the trunk and declared that this was a hawthorn, and should therefore be protected.
“No,” said Frankie, “It’s a flowering cherry. It doesn’t bloom any more, so I’m chopping it down.”
“Oh no, this is a hawthorn, I can tell by the bark. You’ll have to leave it,” replied the official, and promptly slapped a Tree Preservation Order on it.
Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) are used to protect selected trees and woodlands in the UK whose removal would have significant impact on the amenity of an area. The practical effect of a TPO is to prohibit the felling, pruning or uprooting of trees without the consent of the Local Planning Authority (LPA). A TPO extends to the whole tree including the roots. The regulations are as follows:
Should anyone wish to fell, prune or uproot a tree covered by a TPO, they (the applicant) must:
- apply in writing to the LPA setting out the tree works they wish to carry out and why, clearly identifying the tree(s) – if necessary by reference to a plan and the TPO
- not carry out any work on a tree until written permission has been granted by the LPA
- strictly adhere to any work approved and associated conditions imposed by the LPA in terms of extent of pruning and type of operation.
The LPA’s permission is always needed to work on a protected tree except for cutting down or cutting back a tree:
- if it is urgently necessary in the interests of safety
- in line with an obligation under an act of Parliament, or
- on statutory undertakers’ land, or
- which is directly in the way of development that is about to start for which detailed planning permission has been granted
If there is any doubt about whether works are exempt, checks should be made with the LPA.
Frankie immediately took the matter up with the local authority, and now, eight years later, has a very fat file of correspondence. She feels she is finally making some progress. The most recent letter acknowledges that the tree is, indeed, not a hawthorn, and states that she may fell it. However, this is with the proviso that she replaces it with a new tree of the same species, namely –
a crab-apple tree.