Tree preservation orders (TPOs) are part of the national planning system, and are designed to try to maintain an element of amenity trees in the town and country landscapes of the UK. They can be applied for to protect particularly important healthy trees that are at risk of development, and MUST fulfil specific criteria in order to be applied. There are already over 200,000 TPOs in the UK, but it isn’t easy to get new ones.
Trees covered by TPOs will still need to be managed, kept safe and taken care of by the landowner.
Before you try to get a TPO on a tree or a group of trees it is a very good idea to check carefully that there isn’t already a TPO, or Conservation Area or Planning Permission already granted for those trees or in that area. Trees in Conservation Areas are already protected, and you are therefore much less likely to get an additional TPO in a Conservation Area. Trees on sites that have already been decided by a planning decision cannot then be preserved by a TPO contrary to the planning decision.
You should check your local council website or local plan for this information. Some local authorities use an interactive map, and some require you to enter an address in order to find any such planning restrictions within say 50 metres of that address. More information on each district’s system will gradually be placed at the bottom of this page.
Its important to remember that TPOs are not the end of the story. They may be overturned by planning permissions that, usually based on professional tree surveys, provide evidence and successfully argue for the removal of trees that initially were covered by TPOs, perhaps due to the deterioration of the trees condition, or simply that the balance of interest is in favour of the development as opposed to the retention of those particular trees. New tree planting or landscaping may usually be proposed in mitigation of the loss. Also, even if a tree is covered by a TPO the owner can still apply to the local authority to have it pruned back or even felled for various reasons, including that the tree poses a danger or is a substantial nuisance. However, TPOs do offer a fair degree of protection and are worth getting if you can. Applications need to be carefully made and explicitly fulfil the criteria!
The process for getting a TPO is explained in a bit more detail here on the Direct.Gov website, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tree-preservation-orders-and-trees-in-conservation-areas. The process is outlined in flowchart 1 in section 2 of this guidance.
When you are trying to get a TPO, local authorities may use a range of criteria in order to decide whether to grant the TPO. Generally, the tree or trees have to be of significant amenity value (look good in the landscape?), should be in good condition and expected to last for as many more decades as possible, and must be easily visible from a public space, road or footpath. They would also be expected to be under threat of destruction or development. It may be worth looking at your area’s local plan, to see where trees might (perhaps) be regarded as under some implied threat of development. Trees in Conservation Areas already have good protection, so a further protection by TPOs will hardly ever be granted.
More advice on proposing a TPO is quoted here, but from a different local authority:
“Making a TPO:
The Local Planning Authority may only make a TPO where it appears to them to be expedient to protect a tree, group of trees or woodland which make a significant contribution to amenity. This may include trees that are in danger of being felled or under threat due to proposed development.
If you think a tree should be considered for a TPO, write to or sometimes you can email email@example.com(not!!, see your own district’s website) with details of the location of the tree and why you think it should be considered.
The Local Planning Authority will consider the merit of protecting trees by undertaking an objective assessment based on their contribution to amenity and impact on the local landscape. The assessment is carried out in accordance with Government advice contained in Tree Preservation Orders and Trees in Conservation Areas. The document advises the Local Planning Authority to develop ways of assessing the amenity value of trees for protection in a structured and consistent way.
The evaluation will consider the following criteria:
- The condition of the tree(s) and an assessment of future life expectancy.
- An assessment of the potential threat to the tree and whether it is expedient to make a Tree Preservation Order.
- A Landscape Appraisal will assess visual prominence, landscape setting, presence of other trees and function and suitability of the tree(s) to the site.
- Future benefits the tree might provide, growth potential, age and assessment of wildlife habitat.
Your application for a TPO should cover these points as clearly as you can!
A report will then be submitted to the Development Management and Building Control Manager for a possible recommendation to make the Order. If a decision to make the Order is justified, the Local Planning Authority will serve the Order on those affected.”
Examples of how to check for existing TPOs and Conservation Areas in different areas of Kent.
Ashford District Council. Go to the excellent website page: https://www.ashford.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/trees-and-hedges/tree-preservation-orders/, then click on “interactive maps” and tick the TPO and Conservation Areas boxes on the left. Zoom in the map or select the parish you are interested in then watch out for the details on the TPOS to appear. When zoomed in, the map should show cross-hatched green patches to show groups of TPOd trees or green spots to show individual TPOd trees, with red horizontally hatched patches for the Conservation Areas. All the further text details of the orders can be found by going back the the first page above and clicking on “Access records of TPOs made since 1999”. Play with the map until you understand how it works.
Dover District Council. Go to the website page: https://www.dover.gov.uk/Planning/Conservation/Trees/Trees.aspx, then click on “protected trees” and zoom in the map or give a particular location then watch out for the details on the TPOS to appear. when zoomed in, the map should show the olive-green patches to show groups of TPOd trees or green spots to show individual TPOd trees, clicking on the map at a particular point should bring up text descriptions of the TPOs close by (there is a slider to scale “close-by” from 25 to 100 m), etc, and clicking on “more info” at the bottom of the associated text to that specific TPO will even give scans of the original order. Play with the map until you understand how it works.
Thanet District Council. Go to the website page: https://www.thanet.gov.uk/info-pages/check-tree-preservation-order-online/, enter the name of the road or postcode, then on the drop-down menu enter the specific address along that road or in that postcode then watch out for the details on the TPOS to appear at the bottom – cursor down using the right hand slider to see them all. Clicking on individual tree TPOs shows the groups of trees or the tiniest of spots to indicate the location of the individual tree concerned. Play with the system until you understand how it works.