1. What is a TPO?
A Tree Preservation Order is an order made by councils with responsibility for planning matters (Sevenoaks District Council) in respect of trees or woodlands. The principal effect of a TPO is to prohibit the unjustified pruning or felling of amenity trees without the council's consent. Councils can use TPOs to protect trees as individuals, groups, areas or woodlands if these make a significant visual impact on their local surroundings. A TPO prohibits the pruning and felling of protected trees without written council approval. In this way, the council can:
(a) Agree the pruning treatment and amount thereby maintaining the tree's visual amenity.
(b) Identify visually important trees within the District for retention.
In addition, all trees in Conservation Areas (if they are over 7.5cm diameter, measured at 1.5m high on the stem/trunk) are similarly protected whether or not they are covered by a TPO.
It is important to note that the tree protection applies to the below ground portions (i.e. roots) as well as the above ground portion of the tree (i.e. trunk and branches). Digging and compaction to soil immediately adjacent to a protected tree may require consent from the council, if in doubt, ask.
2. What type of tree can be covered by a TPO?
All species, including trees in hedgerows, may be protected. The TPO can cover anything from a single tree, to a group or woodland. However, hedges, bushes and shrubs are exempt. Generally trees that are clearly visible and enjoyed by others may be suitable, a tree in a front garden or adjacent to a footpath for instance.
3. How can I find out if a tree is covered by a TPO?
TPOs locations or locations of conservation areas are available by contacting Sevenoaks District Council on 01732-227001.
4. How can I get a copy of a TPO?
To obtain a copy of a TPO please contact Sevenoaks District Council on 01732-227001.
5. How can I get permission to carry out works on my trees that have a TPO on them?
Placing a TPO on a tree does not mean that it cannot be pruned. However, permission must be given by the Council before such works can be undertaken. The Council can take up to eight weeks to process your application. You can apply online or by completing a paper form. For more information see the Sevenoaks District Council’s website.
6. Where can I find a tree surgery company?
You may find the process of applying to carry out works to your tree easier if you approach your tree expert to discuss what works you wish to carry out before applying to the Council. Visit www.trees.org.uk for details of tree surgery companies. Tree pruning is a skill that should be carried out by suitably trained personnel. Competent professionally trained tree surgeons use recognised pruning techniques (for example, crown reduction and thinning) to manage trees. Please be cautious about any tree surgeon that talks about lopping and topping trees. These pruning 'treatments' are not recognised by the tree care profession, they involve excessive 'pruning and they can seriously harm trees. Different species of tree will accept varying degrees of pruning, not all species of tree can be treated the same.
7. My insurance company has said that the trees near my property should be pruned or felled - what should I do?
If your trees are protected, you must apply in the normal way to carry out works. Any works will require justification to proceed. Inform your insurance company of the tree protection status that exists and ask them to supply you with reports or details of any investigations, copies of which should accompany your application (see note 8).
8. What can I do if my TPOd tree is causing a nuisance?
The duty of care, or responsibility, for dealing with nuisance rests with the tree owner of the land on which the tree is growing. Dropping of leaves or fruit, shading of light, blocking a view and bird droppings would not normally be regarded as a legal nuisance.
9. A protected tree is blocking a view or light into my property. What can I do?
Whilst residents have a right to reasonably enjoy their garden, there is no absolute legal right to a view or light blocked by trees. You may wish to seek private legal advice. A pruning option may resolve your problem. If it is your tree then consult with your chosen tree expert who should be able to provide advice. If the tree causing the problem is a neighbouring tree then discuss this issue with your neighbour and attempt to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
10. I'm worried about roots from a protected tree getting under the house and damaging foundations, what should I do?
If you think that tree roots are affecting your property you should first contact your building insurance company. As a starting point for any claim, live tree roots from the implicated tree must be found immediately adjacent to the affected house foundations. A tree cannot be implicated simply because it is growing close to a building. Any survey reports should then be sent to the Sevenoaks District Council arboricultural officer for consideration.
11. If the branches from a protected tree are hanging over my property can I cut them back?
A TPO placed on a tree requires that written consent to prune over hanging branches must be obtained from Sevenoaks District Council. Likewise, if you live in a conservation area, you should contact the Council in writing with details of your proposal to carry out these works. Although there is no statutory obligation to do so it would be neighbourly to discuss your proposal with your neighbour before pruning their trees. Any branches or other arisings should be offered back to the tree owner, but they do not have to accept them.
12. If I see work being carried out on a protected tree, how can I find out if the owner has permission?
Checks can be made by accessing the Public Access register or by contacting Sevenoaks District Council, who have a register of applications and consents for tree pruning or felling works. Any cases of unauthorised tree pruning or felling works will be investigated.
13. There is a tree that I think should be protected. What can I do?
Write to Sevenoaks District Council's Arboricultural & Landscape Officer with details of the tree or trees that you think should be protected. Provide as much detail as possible within your letter so that a full assessment can be made. Not all requests will result in a new TPO being served. Be prepared that the process may take a long period of time dependent on the urgency or the need for a protection order.
14. How will I know when Sevenoaks District Council has made a TPO?
Sevenoaks District Council will write to the tree owner and their immediate neighbours as well as interested parties enclosing a copy of the TPO. The owner continues to be responsible for the management of their tree.
15. How can I object to or express support for a new TPO?
Sevenoaks District Council will consider whether the Order should be confirmed, that is to say, whether it should take effect formally. Before this decision is made, the people affected by the Order have a right to make objections or other representations about the tree in question. Please remember that any comments made are treated as a public document and can be made generally available.
16. What happens if I carry out, or allow someone to carry out, work on a protected tree without written permission by Sevenoaks District Council?
If a protected tree is pruned, felled or deliberately damaged, the owner and the tree surgeon commissioned to do the work are committing a criminal act. Sevenoaks District Council could decide to prosecute the individuals concerned. If found guilty the financial penalties can be severe.
17. What if my application to carry out work on a protected tree is refused or I object to the conditions imposed by the Council?
You can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in writing within 28 days of receiving the decision. Appeals are normally made in writing followed by a site visit by an inspector from the Planning Inspectorate. See the planning appeals page on this website for more information.
18. What is a Conservation Area?
A Conservation Area is an area of special architectural or historical interest where it is desirable to preserve or enhance the special character of that area. This includes the contribution made by trees. Any tree over 7.5cm diameter, measured at 1.5m high on the stem/trunk, is automatically protected under the Conservation Area designation.
19. How can I carry out tree works in a Conservation Area?
Anyone proposing to cut down or prune a tree in a Conservation Area is required to give Sevenoaks District Council prior written notice detailing the proposed works to trees. If you have not heard from Sevenoaks District Council after six weeks, the specified work you proposed can be carried out.