Giving legal protection to trees

Tree Preservation Orders are issued to give legal protection to trees or woodland. We explain here what Tree Preservation Orders are. This includes how they are issued and what action is needed before carrying out work to trees with this protection.

What are Tree Preservation Orders?

A Tree Preservation Order is an order made by the council, giving legal protection to trees or woodland. They prevent the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage or destruction of trees, including cutting roots, without our permission. Their purpose is to protect trees for the public’s enjoyment. Trees given such protection should normally be visible from a public place except in exceptional circumstances.

What kinds of trees can be protected?

Anything that would normally be considered a tree may be covered by a Tree Preservation Order, bushes and shrubs cannot be protected though. There are no minimum size requirements and, in certain circumstances, fruit trees can also be protected provided they offer reasonable public amenity.

How can I find out if there are any protected trees on my land?

We keep a record of all Tree Preservation Orders in the borough and you can find out if a tree is protected by contacting the tree preservation team.

How can I get a Tree Preservation Orders put on a tree?

Anyone who wants us to make a Tree Preservation Order should contact the tree preservation team, stating the reasons why it is important to protect a particular tree.

We will consider requests for Tree Preservation Orders against three main criteria:

  • the extent to which the tree(s) can be seen by the general public
  • the tree’s particular importance in terms of its size, form, rarity, screening value or contribution to the character or appearance of a conservation area
  • the significance of the tree(s) in their local surroundings and the wider impact on the environment

We can also make a Tree Preservation Order as a precautionary measure if there is reason to believe that the tree could be at risk in the future.

We do not normally consider it necessary to make Tree Preservation Orders for trees which are already under a recognised tree management programme. This would include street trees managed by Camden's arboricultural team or trees and woodland on Hampstead Heath managed by the City of London.

Do I need consent to carry out work on protected trees?

If you are planning to cut down or prune a tree on or around your property, you will need to check whether it is protected by a Tree Preservation Order before carrying out any work - even if it is emergency work to a dead or dying tree. Contact the tree preservation team for more information.

You will also need to notify us if you intend to carry out work on a tree in conservation area.

Can I report unauthorised work to a protected tree?

If a protected tree is damaged and/or destroyed without our permission, the owner or person carrying out the work may be prosecuted and fined up to £20,000, and a replacement tree may also have to be planted.

If you suspect that works are being carried out on a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order that may be unauthorised, please report this to us immediately.

Can you recommend a tree surgeon or consultant?

The Arboricultural Association is the professional body for the tree work industry. The association has a registered tree contractor/consultant scheme that contains companies who have been vetted and are monitored by the association.

If you choose to use a tree work contractor that is not approved by the Arboricultural Association, we suggest before you employ them that you check the company has the appropriate level of third party and public liability insurance, and are appropriately qualified for the work to be undertaken. Any reputable tree work contractor/consultant will be happy to provide the above information.

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