Tree preservation order TPO
 New regulations
Important new regulations, The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012, came into effect on 6 April 2012. The new regulations are intended to streamline the system, making it simpler to administer as well as clearer and fairer for those affected by its rulings.
It should be noted that the level of protection provided to trees has not changed.
 Key changes
All tree preservation orders (TPOs) are now on the same footing, governed by one new set of regulations which use the powers in section 192 of the Planning Act 2008 to replace (in so far as they relate to England):
- The Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999, No.1892).
- The Town and Country Planning (Trees)(Amendment)(England) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008, No.2260).
- The Town and Country Planning (Trees)(Amendment No. 2)(England) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008, No.3202).
- Subsections 198(3), (4), (6), (8) and (9), and sections 199, 201, 203-205 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
The new regulations cancel the provisions in existing TPOs (except for the information necessary to give the orders legal effect and identify the trees protected).
The duty imposed on authorities by section 197 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to create TPOs when granting planning permission remains unchanged. The power established by section 198 to create TPOs in the interests of amenity also remains unchanged.
 Summary of TPOs
 What can be protected?
All types of trees can be protected, including hedgerow trees (but not hedges). TPOs can protect individual trees, groups of trees, areas or woodlands, where it is considered that trees make a significant visual contribution to the locality and are of benefit to the general public.
 What is the effect of a TPO?
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.
 Why make a TPO?
To prevent the loss of trees that are in imminent danger of being felled or damaged, or where they need to be protected in relation to a planning application provided that they make a significant contribution within the local surroundings. A TPO would not normally be made where the trees are well managed or a management agreement with the Forestry Commission is in place.
 TPO criteria
In deciding whether to serve a TPO, the local authority will make an objective assessment of a tree and the impact it has upon the local landscape.
The criteria are:
- Biological life expectancy.
- Safe useful life expectancy.
- Importance of position in the landscape.
- Visual amenity value to people.
- Presence of other trees.
- Relation to setting.
- Condition and form.
 TPO process
If the local authority decides an order is justified it will serve the order on the relevant parties stating the consultation period, which is a minimum of 28 days. This allows statements of support or objections to be submitted.
The TPO includes a plan and schedule of all trees, areas, groups or woodlands that are protected.
 Informing interested parties
The new regulations require authorities to inform only those who have a right to prune or fell the trees covered by the TPO. Authorities will still be able to notify others, but this is now discretionary.
 Protection phases
Under the new regulations, TPOs provide two phases of protection:
- Protection is immediate, from first notification and this provisional phase lasts for six months. After this date protection will lapse unless confirmed by the local authority.
- If there are no objections, the TPO will be confirmed by the local authority and converted to long-term protection without further consultation. Where objections are made, these will be considered before a decision is taken whether to confirm the order or not.
An order can be confirmed with or without modification. A modification can see the removal of a tree or trees from the TPO, but cannot add additional trees to the TPO, this would require a new TPO to be made.
 Default period for consents
The new regulations set a two-year default period for the duration of consents for work on protected trees, with a power for the local planning authority to vary this if appropriate.
Under the old regulations, there were several circumstances where consent from the local planning authority was not required to carry out work to protected trees. This included trees that were dying, dead or had become dangerous. The broad scope of this exemption presented some uncertainty for those wanting to carry out what they believed to be exempt work.
The new regulations omit ‘dying’ from the exceptions. They also introduce an exemption for removing dead branches from a living tree.
 Prior notification
The new regulations include a requirement for a tree owner to give at least five working days’ written notice of proposed work on dead trees, unless there is an urgent risk to safety.
 Replacement trees
Under the regulations that have been replaced, when a local planning authority granted consent to remove a protected tree, they considered whether a condition requiring a new tree to be planted was necessary. However, when replacement planting was required in woodland, the authority gave the landowner a direction (not a condition) to replant.
The new regulations remove the need for directions, enabling conditions to be used in all cases where replanting is required.
- For all tree preservation orders made before 2 August 1999, local planning authorities were able to issue an Article 5 certificate which removed their liability to pay compensation. These certificates were issued where the authority was satisfied that their decision was made in the interests of good forestry practice or that the trees or woodlands were of outstanding or special amenity value.
- The 1999 Regulations introduced a revised and more clearly-defined compensation framework for orders made on or after 2 August 1999.
The new regulations extend the approach in the 1999 Regulations by removing the power to issue Article 5 certificates. The same compensation framework therefore now applies to all TPOs, irrespective of when they were made.
Anyone who commits an act in contravention of a TPO is liable, on conviction in a Magistrates Court, to a fine of up to a £20,000. For a serious offence, a person can be committed for trial in the Crown Court and if convicted, can be liable to an unlimited fine.
In conservation areas, the cutting down , lopping or topping of trees must 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.
This article was created by --Alex Harvie 11:18, 21 September 2012 (BST)
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