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Frequently asked questions about Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)

Frequently asked questions about TPOs and protected trees.

How do I find out if my tree is protected?

To check to see if a tree is protected you can contact us.

On a nearby building site, the builders are felling/pruning trees. Is this permitted?

The issue of trees, their retention, felling, pruning, and replacement are part of the planning application and approval process. Any tree work must agree with plans attached to the planning permission granted. A full planning permission will override the legal protection of trees.

My neighbour is cutting down/pruning a tree in their garden. Do they have permission?

If the tree is not protected by a TPO and is not in a conservation area, no permission is required from the council. The work may also be exempt. You can search for approved tree work applications on the Planning application search (opens new window) or if you are unsure contact us.

What do I do if I think someone has damaged or felled a protected tree?

Contact us. We can check whether they are carrying out permitted work. If we have no record of work taking place, and the trees are protected, we will investigate the unauthorised work.

Can protected trees be felled to enable development to take place?

If trees are not subject to a TPO and are not growing in a conservation area, they may be removed without the council's permission. Trees are a material consideration when a planning application is submitted, irrespective of whether they are protected or not. The council is able to impose conditions during the planning approvals process to help ensure trees receive adequate protection during the construction phase.

I have bought a property which has several mature trees in the garden, how do I know if they are safe?

You should seek the advice of a tree contractor/surgeon or consultant regarding the condition of the trees. They will inspect the trees, make a note of their condition and may recommend work to them. If your trees are subject to a TPO or are within a conservation area in most circumstances you will need to submit details of the work to the council. It is recommended that mature trees close to buildings or the public highway are routinely inspected. The frequency of inspections will depend on the size and condition of the trees.

I think my protected tree is dead. Can I remove it?

Any protected tree that is dead, dying or dangerous can be removed without the need to submit an application. However, unless the tree is imminently dangerous, it is advisable to give the council five days' notice. If the tree requires immediate work contact us. When the council offices are closed, for example at the weekend, work may proceed; however, the onus rests with the tree owner and contractor to prove the tree did qualify under an exemption. For this reason it is advisable to take photographs, keep sections of the tree and contact the council at the earliest opportunity after carrying out the work. There may also be a duty to plant a replacement tree.

Will the council accept responsibility for my protected tree if I am not allowed to cut it down and it then causes damage to my neighbour's property?

If the council refuse permission to fell a protected tree which subsequently causes damage to your neighbour's property, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. This will depend on whether the damage was caused as a direct result of the refusal and the level of damage. If you have any concerns, you are advised to obtain an independent tree specialists report. Any claim for compensation must be made within 12 months of the council's decision (or the Welsh Minister's decision in the event of an appeal).

Am I able to claim compensation from the council if a protected tree causes damage?

No. Landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe regardless of whether they are covered by a TPO or in a conservation area.

Will the council pay for my protected tree to be pruned?

No, all landowners are responsible for ensuring their trees are safe. Any necessary pruning works must be carried out at the landowner's expense.

Can I appeal against the council's decision if my application to carry out work is refused?

Yes, but appeals must be made in writing within 28 days of the council's decision. They are dealt with independently by the Planning Inspectorate, usually by written representations and take three to five months to resolve. There is no fee for making an appeal.

An appeal can be made against:

  • a refusal
  • granting consent with conditions
  • failure to determine the application within the eight week determination period

How can I get a tree protected by a TPO?

Request a new TPO

Ivy is growing up the trunk of my tree and I think it is going to kill it. Do I need to remove it?

Ivy is not parasitic and does not kill trees. The main problem associated with ivy is that it can significantly increase the 'sail effect' and weight of deciduous trees in winter making them more prone to storm damage. Another problem is that ivy can hide defects in the trunk and main branches of a tree.

Ivy is important ecologically. It flowers late in the year offering one of the last sources of food for insects before winter. The fruit develops during the winter and is ripe in early spring when there is a shortage of food for birds and mammals. Due to its evergreen nature ivy also provides good winter cover. Ivy will probably need controlling if it extends high into the crown of a tree and is growing along the lateral branches.

Ivy is usually controlled by cutting and removing sections of the ivy stems at the base of the tree. If ivy has become rampant it may indicate that the tree is unhealthy. This occurs when a tree is dying back allowing more light into the centre of the crown which benefits the growth of ivy. You should seek the advice of a tree contractor/tree surgeon or arboricultural consultant regarding the condition of a suspect tree.

My tree drops a sticky substance. What can I do about it?

This is most probably 'honey dew', which is a sticky sugary substance secreted by aphids living on the underside of leaves. The honey dew can become colonised by sooty moulds that turn it black. Some species, such as limes, are more susceptible than others. The incidence of honey dew varies from year to year. Natural predators will also help to reduce numbers. The council will not usually give permission to prune or remove a protected tree because of aphids. The black substance can be removed from a car using warm soapy water.

My tree has a fungus growing on it. Does this make the tree unsafe?

There are many types of fungi that affect trees; the type of fungus is typically linked to a few host tree species. The significance of the fungus can vary from tree species to species. Some fungus can cause tree failure whilst others have little effect on the tree. Removing the fruiting body of the fungus will not remedy the problem, as this is just the reproductive part; the main body of the fungus is contained inside the tree. It is advisable to seek independent arboricultural advice to assess the significance any fungus you find.

Where can I find out about ash dieback?

See our ash dieback page

When should I prune my trees?

Generally, trees should be pruned when dormant (November - February). However, all tree species respond differently, so if in doubt seek advice from an expert. Avoid pruning maples and birch in spring, as they tend to bleed profusely. Walnut trees should only be pruned in late summer and cherries pruned in the middle of the summer.

Tree roots are blocking my drains. What can I do?

Tree roots are opportunistic, and if a pipe with poor joints is leaking into the surrounding soil, it will attract the roots. If repairs are required, a large number of tree roots often lead to the blame placed with a nearby tree. However, replacing faulty drains/pipes with modern materials will usually eliminate the leak and stop problems.

I am having problems with a tree in my neighbour's garden blocking light. What can I do?

Issues of blocking light and shading between two properties are private matters. Generally, there is no right of light for one property over another. If the trees blocking light are a line of two or more evergreen species then use our high hedges guidance

My neighbour's trees encroach over my boundary. Can I cut them back?

Civil law allows you to remove any branches overhanging your property back to the actual boundary line, projected up into the airspace over the line. However, if the tree is protected by a TPO or is in a conservation area a tree works application/notification is required to be made to the council and a decision made before undertaking any works.

How do I choose a tree surgeon?

Tree surgery is a highly specialised job which requires proven knowledge, skills and experience. Competent arborists (tree surgeons) will have certificates which show that they have been trained and assessed and they will use safety equipment to protect you, your property and themselves.  How to choose a tree surgeon (PDF) [267KB]

Further information and useful contacts

Tree preservation orders (Welsh Government) (opens new window)

The Arboricultural Association (opens new window)

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