Protection of trees
The Council protects trees by making Tree Preservation Orders (TPO). A TPO aims to protect trees that make a significant contribution to the visual amenity of an area e.g. if they are a good example of their species or form an important feature within the local landscape.
The local planning authority can make a TPO in respect of a tree, group of trees or woodland including hedgerow trees but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. Members of the public may make a request for a TPO to be made. The effect of a TPO is to make it an offence to carry out most works to trees without the Council's consent.
Such works include:
- lopping, crown reducing, topping, pruning to your boundary
- damaging roots
- wilful damage or destruction
Anyone wishing to carry out work to a protected tree must apply to the Council.
Trees within a conservation area
Trees make an important contribution to the character of the local environment. Anyone proposing to cut down, top or lop a tree in a conservation area, whether or not it is covered by a tree preservation order, has to give the council six weeks notice.
The authority can then consider the contribution the tree makes to the character of the area and if necessary make a tree preservation order to protect it. Notice of works to trees in a conservation area can either be made in writing to the Planning Department, or by completing the Application to Carry Out Works on Trees Form.
Ownership and liability
Trees normally belong to the land on which they stand regardless of who planted them and are therefore the property of the owner of the land, unless otherwise stated in a tenancy agreement for example.
The position of the trunk determines ownership and this may be shared if the tree straddles a boundary. The ownership of a tree carries with it the responsibility for its maintenance and therefore any problems or damage that it may cause if it can be demonstrated that the owner was negligent in allowing the tree to become dangerous.
The fact that a tree is covered by a TPO does not mean that the Council will be responsible for its maintenance. The courts have suggested that a tree owner should inspect his trees for potential problems on a regular basis. If an owner fails to inspect his trees or fails to act on the recommendations of an inspection, he may be judged negligent and liable to pay for the damage caused.
Liability can apply as much to the roots of the tree as it does to the branches, where they cross a boundary and cause damage. Negligence is not a consideration where the problem could not reasonably be foreseen.