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TPOs what you need to know

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a legally enforceable order made by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to protect trees and woodlands in the interests of public amenity. The power to make a TPO is contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012. The principal effect of a TPO is to prohibit the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage to, or wilful destruction of, protected trees or woodlands, unless permission has been given by the LPA.

Why make a TPO?

To prevent the loss of trees that are in imminent danger of being felled or damaged, or where they need to be protected in relation to a planning application, provided that they make a significant contribution within the local surroundings. A TPO would not normally be made where the trees are well managed, or a management agreement with the Forestry Commission is in place.

What trees can be protected?

All types of trees, including hedgerow trees, but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. The TPO can protect individual trees, groups and areas or woodland, where it is considered that they make a significant visual contribution to the locality and are of benefit to the general public.

Making of a TPO

In deciding whether it is expedient to serve a TPO, the LPA will make an objective assessment of the tree and the impact it has upon the local landscape. Once it has decided that a TPO is justified, it will serve the TPO on the relevant parties, at which time it is possible for support or objections to be submitted within the period allowed; a minimum of 28 days. The TPO will include a plan and schedule of all trees, areas, groups or woodlands that are protected.

When does a TPO become effective?

Under the 2012 Regulations, a TPO comes into force on the date it is made and lapses after six months, unless it has been confirmed by the LPA. If there are no objections to a TPO it will be confirmed by the LPA without further consultation, but where objections are made, these will be considered by Committee before a decision is taken whether to confirm the TPO, or not. An order can be confirmed with or without modification. A modification can see the removal of a tree, or trees, but cannot include additional trees, this would require a new TPO to be made.

What does a TPO control?

A TPO prohibits the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilful damage or wilful destruction of protected trees or woodlands, unless written permission has been given by the LPA. This applies to roots, as well as stems and branches.

There are some exceptions that do not require permission, but it is advisable to consult the LPA, or a professional advisor, before undertaking any works to trees protected by a TPO.

Penalties

Anyone who commits an act in contravention of a TPO is liable, on conviction in a Magistrates' Court, to a fine of up to a £20,000. For a serious offence, a person can be committed for trial in the Crown Court and, if convicted, can be liable to an unlimited fine.

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