Welcome to Part 1 of our latest guest blog post from Antony Wood of Yew Tree Gardens on Trees & Planning.

Trees are amongst the oldest living things on earth and in your daily life you may often pass individuals which are hundreds of years old.

Trees are vital for man’s survival on earth, they produce Oxygen, absorb Carbon Dioxide and cover approximately one third of the earth’s surface. On an everyday level they provide shade, control pollution, and reduce noise; it has also been found that trees contribute to mental health and well-being. All these factors might explain why economic studies of residential areas consistently show that houses in streets with trees sell more readily and for higher prices than those in streets devoid of trees.

So what has all this to do with your prospective project, be it an extension, renovation or dream new build? Trees are frequently likely to be a factor in the development process particularly in our ever more crowded towns and villages where more and more development is relying on ‘infill’ plots or greenfield sites. Why? Well, in case you hadn’t guessed by now, developments are often influenced, constrained or enriched by…. Trees.

Firstly, let’s try to clear up some of the myths and misapprehensions that swirl around trees, protection, and regulations. Then we’ll move on to a brief overview of where trees ‘fall’ into the development and planning process.

‘’I’ve heard that all Oak / Yew / Beech (insert species) are protected or owned by the Queen’’

This is an easy one to answer: No. This may be a confusion with swan’s which are…

This first misunderstanding leads us nicely into the types of protection that is commonly placed upon trees.

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO)

This is legislation which allows a Local Planning Authority to protect individual trees, groups or woodlands which they feel pass the test of ‘wider public amenity’ and where their loss would have a negative impact on the surrounding area.

This is a serious piece of legislation and is not generally used or deployed lightly. It is often the case that TPO’s only come into force because of other planning factors i.e. a site is earmarked for development but contains significant trees, in this instance a TPO may be confirmed in order to protect the trees and ensure their proper consideration in the process of development. A TPO should not be used to ‘block’ a planning application but its presence will undoubtedly impact upon the development layout and process.

A TPO within or adjacent to your site is not the end of the world but great care and expertise will be required to develop a site whilst retaining and protecting trees which are subject to a TPO. It is worth noting that the maximum penalty at Magistrates Court for the wilful destruction, felling, uprooting of a TPO tree is £20,000. In serious cases a Crown Court conviction may entail a fine of unlimited size, it is also worth noting that some prosecutions have sort to use the additional powers of the Proceeds of Crime Act whereby an additional amount is sought for the increase in value of a property from development which has been realised by the felling of protected trees.

All works to TPO trees (except minor exemptions such as removal of deadwood) require the consent of the Local Planning Authority (LPA).

Conservation Areas (CA)

If your property is within a CA you will have constraints placed upon various aspects of any development. Trees are one of these aspects as all trees over 75 mm in diameter within a CA require a notification of works or removal to be submitted to the LPA. This process is intended to allow the LPA to retain the overall character of the CA by three responses to a notification of works.

  1. Don’t reply within the six weeks notification period which is a default permission to undertake the notified works. Some LPA’s do take this approach but do check that a response hasn’t just been lost in the post!
  2. Give consent to the notified works.
  3. Serve notice of placing a TPO on the tree / trees in question.

As you can see this process is simply intended to give the LPA an opportunity of exercising a level of control of the character of the area.

Felling Licenses

It is worth noting that the previous two pieces of legislation can cover trees in any location. The felling licence regulations are administered by the Forestry Commission (FC) and only apply to trees outside of maintained grounds. They are intended to protect the national timber stock and prevent the ad hoc removal of woodlands and forestry. In practical terms this means that if your prospective development site is for instance a field or paddock and contains trees which aren’t subject to a TPO or in a CA the maximum quantity of trees which you may remove in a calendar quarter without a felling licence is five cubic metres (so that’s about five armchairs of wood, which isn’t much).

We’ll not go into too much more detail on that one, it’s just worth being aware of before you fire up your chainsaw!

Right, so that’s a brief(ish) overview of the ways in which trees may be subject to protection. In Part 2 we’ll consider how trees fit into the development process.

Antony Wood
Director | YewTree and Gardens

015395 63527

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