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Last edited 26 Jun 2017
Permission for felling or lopping a tree
Trees can be protected in a number of ways, so it is essential to check their legal status
and obtaining any necessary permissions before felling or lopping them.
When granting planning permissions, local planning authorities (LPAs) have a statutory duty to consider the protection and planting of trees, and what effect the proposed development will have. LPAs take into account whether or not the trees are statutorily protected, such as by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or by being within a conservation area, or not.
Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) are the legal mechanism administered by local authorities to protect and preserve trees. The principal effect of a TPO is to prohibit the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, willful damage to or willful destruction of protected trees or woodlands. This applies to roots as well as stems and branches.
If a tree is in a conservation area, proposed cutting down , lopping or topping must be notified to the local authority 6 weeks in advance so that they can consider whether the tree contributes to the character of the conservation area and whether to impose a tree preservation order.
A restrictive covenant, is a restriction imposed by a seller of a piece of land that prevents the buyer from using it in a way that could cause harm to land the seller has retained. A restrictive covenant can mean the consent of a third party is required prior to carrying out work on trees. This may be the case even if TPO, conservation areas or felling licence regulations do not apply.
For more information, see Restrictive convenant.
 Felling licence
The Forestry Commission administers felling licences which give permission for felling and lopping trees. All those involved in tree felling – owner, agent, timber merchant, contractor, and so on – must ensure that a licence has been issued before proceeding. Felling licences usually contain conditions relating to the felled area being restocked and the trees maintained .
- Private garden.
- Designated open space (such as village greens, public parks and gardens).
Type of work: A licence will not be required for:
- Lopping – cutting of branches to reduce tree size.
- Topping – removing whole tops of trees or large branches/trunks from tops of trees.
- Pruning – removing certain parts of the tree.
- Pollarding – a type of pruning where upper branches are removed so as to produce a dense mass of branches.
Volume and diameter: A licence will not be required for felling less than 5 m3 in a calendar quarter.
A licence will not be required for trees with the following diameters (when measured 1.3 m from the ground):
- 8 cm or less.
- 10 cm or less for thinnings.
- 15 cm or less for cutting coppice.
Legal and statutory requirements: A licence will not be required in the following circumstances:
- Where the tree is dangerous or causing a nuisance.
- In order to prevent the spread of a pest or disease.
- To comply with an Act of Parliament.
- To undertake duties as a statutory service provider (i.e. gas, water, electricity).
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Ancient woodland.
- Conservation Area.
- Definition of a tree for planning purposes.
- Forest ownership.
- Site of Special Scientific Interest.
- Tree rights.
- Tree preservation order.
- Trees in conservation areas.
 External resources
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