Last edited 15 Feb 2021

Permission for felling or lopping a tree


[edit] Introduction

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.

If work is carried out on protected trees without proper authorisation, there is the risk of prosecution.

[edit] Tree Preservation Order

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.

For more information, see Tree Preservation Order and Definition of tree for planning purposes.

[edit] Conservation area

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.

[edit] Restrictive covenant

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.

[edit] 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 .

Irrespective of whether or not a tree is covered by a TPO or conservation area, a felling licence may still be required.

Exemptions include:

Location: A licence will not be required for felling trees in the following locations:

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.

Other permissions: A licence will not be required if permission has already been obtained, either under an approved Dedication Scheme plan, or granted under the Town and Country Planning Act.

Legal and statutory requirements: A licence will not be required in the following circumstances:

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