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Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)

The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012

Local planning authorities can make a Tree Preservation Order if it appears to them to be ‘expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands in their area‘. An Order can be used to protect individual trees, trees within an area, groups of trees or whole woodlands. Orchards can only be considered for a TPO if they are no longer used commercially.

Authorities can either initiate this process themselves or in response to a request made by any other party. ‘Amenity’ is not defined in law, so authorities need to exercise judgment when deciding whether it is within their powers to make an Order.  An Order prohibits the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilful damage or wilful destruction of trees without the local planning authority’s written consent.

It may be expedient to make a TPO if the authority believes there is a risk of trees being damaged in ways which would have a significant impact on amenity value. But immediate risk is not necessary for there to be a need to protect trees. In some cases the authority may believe that certain trees are at risk as a result of development pressures and may consider where this is in the interests of amenity that it is expedient to make an Order. Changes in property ownership and intentions to fell trees are not always known in advance, so it may sometimes be appropriate to proactively make TPOs as a precaution.

All trees greater than 3 inches at chest height within a Conservation Area must be assessed for suitability for a TPO before any work is done on them.

Criteria for TPO application

Visibility – The trees, or at least part of them, should normally be visible from a public place, such as a road or footpath, or accessible by the public.

Individual, collective and wider impact – Public visibility alone will not be sufficient to warrant an Order. The authority is advised to also assess the particular importance of an individual tree, of groups of trees or of woodlands by reference to its or their characteristics including:

  • size and form;
  • future potential as an amenity;
  • rarity, cultural or historic value;
  • contribution to, and relationship with, the landscape;
  • contribution to the character or appearance of a conservation area.

Other factors

Where relevant to an assessment of the amenity value of trees or woodlands, authorities may consider taking into account other factors, such as importance to nature conservation or response to climate change. These factors alone would not warrant making an Order.

Template text for TPO Request (contact local authority Tree Officer)

[x] orchard is a traditional orchard (Priority Habitat) that merits protection from development and damage through a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Views of the orchard are enjoyed by the local community from the nearby road/railway line/footpath/bridleway/cycle path and the site has a high amenity value due to its public access/although the site is not accessible to the public, it is an intrinsic part of the local landscape.

There has been an orchard on this site for at least [x] years and yet the site still has great future potential due to the longevity of fruit trees. The site is a prime example of the traditional orchards that were historically much more prevalent in the local landscape and this habitat continues to be in decline across the country. The orchard contains fruit varieties of great rarity and local heritage which warrant preservation. Traditional orchards were designated as a UK Priority Habitat in 2007 for their high biodiversity value, and this should also be considered as it strengthens the amenity value of the site. Non-commercial fruit trees have been included in TPO Regulations since 1999, recognising their amenity value and longevity. Even if there is doubt over the expediency of serving a TPO in this case, it is better to make a temporary TPO and deal with objections if they arise than to lose the trees, leaving the Council exposed to accusations of negligence in their duty to protect important trees on potential development sites during an Ombudsman complaint investigation.

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