How to protect trees in your local area

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Request a tree preservation order

With so much development happening in the UK there is a good chance that one day soon (if you haven't already) you'll discover there is plans to build houses in your local neighbourhood. This might just be one house on the site of a large residential garden, an infill development of a few houses, or it could be hundreds, or even thousands on nearby fields. When this happens the next thing you might discover, is that suddenly mature trees nearby might be felled without any notice. Even when they are not even on the area to be built on. They might be on a country lane, that borders the development, or in the garden that is having a house built in it.


This happens, and local people then complain to their councils, upset about the destruction. Often the reply will be that as there was no tree preservation order, the landowner is entitled to chop the tree down, and there is nothing they can do.


However, if the tree had a preservation order on it, at the very least the developer / landowner would have had to inform the council, for approval. Councils, usually, do not pro-actively go around placing preservation orders on trees, they are often placed on trees, at the request of members of the public. So, to ensure trees in your areas have some protection, it is vital that you contact your local council planning department and request that specific trees are considered for a tree preservation order. Ideally this should be done before any plans for development are even announced, and there might never be any plans, but at least this ensures a tree is protected, just in case. Sometimes trees are felled for no real reason, without any development taking place.


What is a tree preservation order?


An Order prohibits the:


cutting down

topping

lopping

uprooting

wilful damage

wilful destruction

of trees without the local planning authority’s written consent. They can be applied to single trees, groups of trees, or woodlands. They are part of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.


What sort of trees qualify for a tree preservation order?


The tree or trees must have an 'amenity value'. This means that if they were destroyed, it would have a significant negative impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public.


What factors are considered, when a council decides whether trees should be protected by a tree preservation order?


The tree / trees should be visible from a public space, such as a footpath or road, or accessible to the public.


size and form;

future potential as an amenity;

rarity, cultural or historic value;

contribution to, and relationship with, the landscape; and

contribution to the character or appearance of a conservation area.


Nature conservation value and response to climate change / air pollution can also be additional, but not sole reasons, for the decision to warrant an order. Trees can be native or non native species.


How do I request a tree preservation order?


The council will need to know exactly where the tree is, so they can visit it to assess whether the tree or trees, qualify for a preservation order. Google to find your local authority, find the planning page and make a note of the planning department email. If none is listed, phone the switchboard and ask to be put through to the planning department, and then ask for the email address. Visit the tree/trees and take some photos, and make a note of the address / location of the tree. Write an email requesting the tree/s is considered for a tree preservation order. Attach your photos, write the location, and also any details about the tree/s ie. history, tree species. any wildlife, birds that you have spotted on the tree eg. tawny owl, red squirrels. Also a sentence as to why you would like the tree or trees to be protected, and what amentity value you think the tree or trees have to an area.


eg.


The Western Red Cedar tree at the entrance of the Blake Hotel was planted in the Victorian era, and is now a beautiful mature specimen, and if protected could last for many centuries to come, getting even more spectacular as time goes by.


The 5 oak trees on the grass verge near St Marks Church, add greenery to a street with small gardens. They also provide a habitat for birds in the area.


What happens next?


An official from the local planning department will visit the tree / trees to see what they are like. If they think the tree/s are suitable for a preservation order, they will then notify relevant landowners that an application for a tree preservation order has been placed on the tree/s. After this the landowner has some time to appeal against the application, if they object to it. If they do not, or if their appeal is unsuccesful then, the tree preservation order will be made, and added to the local register of protected trees.