What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A TPO is a written order which, in general, makes it a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree protected by that order, or to cause or permit such actions, without the Local Authority’s permission.  The principal purpose of a Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) is to preserve trees which are normally located on privately owned land.


Dan Carter
Dan Carter
Regional Partner, Wessex Region and Head of Professional Negligence

All types of tree (but not hedges, bushes or shrubs) can be protected, and a TPO can protect anything from a single tree to all the trees within a defined area or woodland.  There is no statutory definition of what constitutes a “tree” and specialist advice should always be sought before any planned works take place on protected vegetation.

Who Makes These Orders?

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) are made under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012. Planning conditions are normally conditions which are applied when planning applications affect existing trees - they are normally only temporary (for up to two years) but some last for longer, and indeed some have no time limit at all, so even if your tree is in an area where no planning permission has been granted recently it is worth checking.

How Do I Find out if a Tree on My Property Has a TPO?

The starting point would be the Gov.uk website which allows a householder to check the status of trees and this can be done prior to the purchase of the property by prospective buyers.  However, some TPO date back to 1949 and there is the possibility that Local Authority records may not be accurate.  A TPO should show up on the Local Land Charge search that your Solicitor undertakes but this is not always the case.

I'm Buying a House Which Has a TPO What Should I Do?

If you are thinking of buying a property or land with which there may be an issue concerning a tree preservation order it may affect the value or restrict the way in which you use your home now and in the future.  Whether the property is in a city such as London or Brighton or in the countryside, our team of experienced residential conveyancing Solicitors can help.

My House Has a Tree Protected by a TPO What Can I Do?

If you are already the property owner you need to be aware that anyone found guilty of such the offences listed above is liable. In serious cases the case may be dealt with in the Crown Court where an unlimited fine can be imposed. If notice of the TPO has not been served on the landowner (and in many cases it has not, or records of the service were not kept), then they may genuinely be unaware of the protection.

In such a case, although an offence may still have been committed, it is likely that any penalty would be less severe than otherwise.  However, if the felling or lopping was necessary for the prevention of a nuisance there will be no offence.  In either case, MW's has experienced civil litigation Solicitors who can help you to resolve the matter.

What Is a Section 221 Notice and How Do I Apply?

Normal TPO procedures apply if a tree in a conservation area is already protected by a TPO, but if a tree in a conservation area is not covered by a TPO you must give written notice to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) of any proposed work, describing what you want to do, at least six weeks before the work starts.

This is called a “section 211 notice” and it gives the LPA an opportunity to consider protecting the tree with a TPO.

If the Local Authority decides to lift the TPO, the usual reason is if there has been some mistake in the making of the Order and a new one is needed to correct it.

Can I Do Works on a Tree Protected by a TPO?

If you want to do works to the trees, don't try to remove the TPO, you only need to apply to the Local Authority for permission to do the works. If you've got a good enough reason then the Local Authority will allow it. If not, they won't.

If the TPO is confirmed it can be modified in the confirmation process and you should seek specialist advice before submitting the notice to avoid missing this opportunity.

If the Local Authority refuse unreasonably, there is an appeal process which is set out in the law and damages can be claimed under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which normally takes place in the Lands Tribunal.

Landowners should always consider having a survey carried out on the number of trees within an area identified within a TPO, particularly if it is likely that the existing density of trees within the woodland is less than may be assessed by standard planting densities.

If you're in any doubt as to how to do this, call our specialist solicitors who are experienced in dealing with Local Planning Authorities, and they can submit an application for you.

I Have a TPO on My Property and My Conveyancer Didn't Find It When I Bought My House, What Can I Do?

If you bought a property and subsequently discovered that there is a TPO in place that you cannot lift or modify and it was in place when you bought the property, you may be able to make a claim for professional negligence.

You must be able to demonstrate that the omission of the TPO has caused you loss.  

The Court will need to establish that the conveyancer owed "a Duty of Care" to you as the buyer and will consider if:

  1. The damage was foreseeable.
  2. There was a relationship of proximity between the parties.
  3. The imposition of a duty is fair, just and reasonable.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission, is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including property owners who want to get a TPO lifted or have discovered a TPO on their property as a result the negligence of their conveyancer.  Our team of dedicated solicitors have many years of experience dealing with TPOs and Professional Negligence matters.

If you wish to have a free initial discussion about your TPO matter call us today on 020 3551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

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