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Do you have a mature tree on your property? Maybe there is one in your neighbourhood? Depending on its size, age and value, it could very well be that the tree is protected by a ‘Tree Preservation Order’ (TPO).

A TPO is designed to protect single trees, groups and areas of woodland from deliberate damage, including felling, uprooting and lopping. This serves an important purpose; trees offer plenty of benefits both to local ecosystems and property values, especially in urban areas where mature greenery is sparse.

If there is a tree protected with a TPO on your property, it will be your duty to make sure that it is taken care of. Hiring a local tree surgeon every so often can ensure this: a tree maintenance service will identify any potential problems so that they can be solved before the tree comes to any serious harm. You will also more than likely need to take your tree into account when making any home improvements which could potentially harm any part of it, from the topmost branches right down to the root systems.
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What is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)?

A TPO can be awarded to a tree, group of trees or area of woodland in order to prevent any kind of deliberate damage. This can include topping, lopping, uprooting, root cutting, wilful damage, wilful destruction or any attempts to cut it down. Once a TPO is in place it will be enforced by the local authority.

The owner of a tree protected by a TPO must not carry out or permit this behaviour. They will also be responsible for the care of the tree. While there are no statutory rules on how often or to what standard a tree should be cared for, it is usually a good idea to regularly book tree maintenance services with a local tree surgeon.

Why are Tree Preservation Orders awarded?

Councils and local authorities can issues a TPO on their own initiative or in response to a request made by another party. According to, It will usually be awarded if it appears to be ‘expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees or woodlands in their area’ - in other words, TPOs are a practical solution for protecting desirable or useful trees. Simple!

TPO’s will usually be awarded to trees which are of a certain type or age. In practice, what ‘amenity’ actually means is up to the authority involved. A TPO is more likely to be awarded to greenery which appears to be in immediate danger, such as from a proposed development, or if there are clear public benefits to doing so.

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Removing a Tree Preservation Order

Just because a TPO has been granted it is by no means set in stone. In fact, councils are encouraged to keep TPOs under review in order to ensure that they are still relevant.

A council can vary or revoke existing orders for various reasons:

  • The land has been developed
  • The tree has been removed since the TPO was confirmed (lawfully or otherwise)
  • Replacement trees have been planted
  • Tree(s) no longer merits protection by the order
  • New trees meriting protection by the order have been planted
  • The map included in the original order is now unreliable
  • Errors in the order’s schedule or map have come to light
  • Order includes classifications that no longer provide appropriate or effective protection for the tree(s)

If you want to carry out work which would potentially breach a TPO, you will need to submit an application to your local authority. You can help your case significantly if a tree surgeon can show that the work would not exceed the TPO or harm the tree in question.

It is also possible for local authorities to grant exemptions which will allow work to take place on TPO-protected greenery. However, this is not something which you should ever just assume - always check first!

Exemptions can allow work to take place:

  • ... on dead trees/ branches
  • ... on dangerous trees/ branches
  • ... to comply with an Act of Parliament
  • ... to prevent/ abate a nuisance
  • ... to implement planning permission
  • ... on fruit trees
  • ... by or for statutory undertakers
  • ... for highway operatives
  • ... by environmental agencies or drainage bodies
  • ... for national security purposes