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Trees, TPO’s and Pruning

If you’re planning to build an extension which affects any trees (either your own or your neighbours) then it’s useful to know what the rules are so that you can:

  • Allow extra time for your project if tree preservation is going to be a significant hindrance
  • Consider alternative solutions before work’s begun if tree preservation prevents extension work altogether
  • Avoid any potential fines

Tree Preservation Order (TPO)

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) can be put in place by a local authority – this means that it is against the law to do anything to that tree without the local planning authority’s written consent (even pruning the branches of a neighbours overhanging tree is considered a criminal offense if the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order).

A TPO can be applied to a tree of any size or species if ‘its removal would have a significant negative impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public’. TPOs can also be used to protect woodlands and if your project is in a conservation area, then every tree within that zone is effectively protected by a TPO.

How do I know if a tree’s protected?

You should have been made aware of any TPOs in place when you purchased your property. To check, or to find out if a neighbour’s tree is protected you can contact your local authority. Some local authorities have an online search system that allows you to search for trees protected by a TPO via location, otherwise you may need to contact them directly.

Pruning the branches of a neighbours overhanging tree is considered a criminal offense if the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

What do I do if a tree’s protected by a TPO?

You can still apply for permitted development/planning permission if your project will affect trees protected by a TPO. If applying for permitted development, then you will also need to submit an ‘Application for Tree Works’ form (see ‘Consent under Tree Preservation Orders’ for more info). If full planning permission has been granted, you still might need to apply or give notice to your local planning authority before carrying out work to protected trees – check with the local authority to see what’s required.

What happens if I just cut down a tree protected by a TPO?

It is a criminal offence to damage or destroy a protected tree – the maximum fine is £20,000 for destroying a tree and up to £2,500 for carrying out work on a protected tree without consent. In serious cases a person may be committed for trial in the Crown Court and, if convicted, is liable to an unlimited fine.

What if a tree’s not protected by a TPO?

If there’s no TPO in place and you’re not in a conservation area, then you are allowed to cut down a tree that’s wholly on your property. However, if a tree/hedge is located on a shared boundary then you’ll need to reach an amicable solution with your neighbour. The local authority in unlikely to intervene in any dispute. See ‘Resolving Neighbour Disputes’ for more information

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Planning Applications & Tree Surveys

Local planning authorities have a statutory duty to consider the protection of trees when planning applications are made (regardless of whether the trees are covered by a TPO or not). This means that if there are any trees on the site or nearby that could be affected by the proposed works, the local council will ask for a tree survey and report under ‘BS 5837:2012 Trees in Relation to Design, Demolition and Construction – Recommendations’ to be submitted with the planning application.

The BS5837 tree survey identifies any trees in or near the build site plus their size, age, quality, health, root protection area, future potential growth and shade footprint. Once the tree survey has been produced, ‘Arboricultural Impact Assessments’ and ‘Arboricultural Method Statements’ need to be created.

Arboricultural Impact Assessments (AIA)

Assesses the likely impact of the building works on the trees

Arboricultural Method Statements (AMS)

Recommendations as to which trees could reasonably be felled to facilitate the build and suitable measures to protect those remaining

What’s an arboriculturalist?

An arboriculturalist (or arborist) is a professional in the care and management of trees – particularly trees in landscape and amenity features, in gardens and parks or other populated settings where they are for the enjoyment and benefit of the public.

What’s the difference between an arboriculturalist and a tree surgeon?

The main difference is the education/qualifications of each profession. After that, their areas of expertise have a slightly different focus – a tree surgeon is skilled at safely pruning, felling and removing trees. An arboriculturalist is more like a tree doctor – skilled in understanding the properties and ecosystem of the tree as well as the trees interactions with and impact on its environment.

Unfortunately, there are individuals who refer to themselves as arboriculturalists/arborists without any training. The International Society of Arboriculture has developed a certification program that gives the individual the distinction of being called a Certified Arborist.

The local planning authority requires the input of a trained arboriculturalist for the Arboricultural Impact Assessments and Arboricultural Method Statements.

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Pruning Trees

Finally, let’s take a look at what rights you have with regards to pruning trees in case you need to clear any overhanging branches or troublesome roots to make way for your dream extension

Pruning & Tree Preservation Orders

If a tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), it is a criminal offense to prune it. It doesn’t matter if it’s your own tree or a neighbours tree and the branches are overhanging into your garden/the roots are in the way of your foundations. Any work on a tree protected by a TPO requires written consent from the local planning authority. You don’t have to own the tree(s) to apply for consent but it is good practice to let the owner know what you are proposing.

Pruning Your Neighbours Tree (No TPO)

If a tree is on your neighbours property, you are allowed to cut back overhanging branches and/or roots up to the limit of your property. Any cut branches/roots/fruit/flowers from the tree, remain the property of the neighbour. However, you’re not allowed to throw the cuttings into your neighbours garden. This could be deemed to be fly tipping of garden waste. Best practice is to ask the owner if they’d like the cut branches returned.

You are not allowed to go into a neighbour’s garden without permission to cut a tree back or lean over into their garden to cut back the ‘offending’ branch – you will be trespassing. If you cut a branch back beyond the limit of your property you could be liable for damage or trespass.

Who should pay for pruning costs?

The tree owner has a responsibility to make sure that their tree is in a healthy and safe state. However, they are not responsible for stopping it from growing over the boundary of their property and do not have to cover costs to have the tree pruned. If it is a large task that requires hiring a gardener/tree surgeon, then you could talk to your neighbour about the possibility of cost-sharing but they are not obliged to pay anything.

Who do boundary trees belong to?

If a tree is planted on the border line between properties, you should check your Property Title Documents to see if these give ownership to one property. If not, you both share the duty to maintain the trees, and they should not be cut down without prior consent from both owners.

What if a neighbours tree is blocking my light?

The Rights of Light Act 1959 states that if a property has received daylight for the last 20 years, they may be entitled to continue to receive that light. This means that if your neighbour has large trees which restrict the daylight your property receives, you may be able to apply to the courts for your daylight to be restored. However, there is no right to direct sunlight.

What if a neighbours tree is blocking my view?

You do not have any right to a view which is obscured by trees. You also do not have a right to not see an undesirable feature – if your neighbours trees were blocking an eye-sore and the neighbour decides to get the trees removed, you don’t have a say.

 

If you have any questions about planning an extension and potential issues with trees, or just questions about creating your dream home in general, go ahead and book a free call below with Yoop.

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