Conservation areas are sometimes established, for example, to cover villages or sections within towns or cities. Any tree works to be carried out must be authorised by the local planning authority.
All trees greater than 75mm diameter at 1.5m above ground within the conservation area must be considered protected unless an application is submitted and approved for specific works to the tree. The penalties for breach of the legislation can be severe, with fines potentially in the thousands of pounds.
An application for works to trees within the conservation area is submitted either on a form - often downloadable from the council website - or online on the planning portal. Reasons for actions are not required for trees within a conservation area. The application, once accepted and validated, must be determined in six weeks, and an answer sent to the applicant or agent.
There are, strictly speaking, only two responses that the planning authority may give to the conservation area application. The favoured response of the applicant will be consent for the proposed works. The only other option available to the council is to protect the tree with a tree preservation order.
The most apparent form of protection is a tree preservation order, either for single trees, multiples, or groups of trees. The tree preservation order can also cover an area or a woodland. It is a fallacy that only oak trees are protected, and likewise, that if a tree is self-sown, it can’t be protected. Any tree, depending on its location, size, health, and visibility to a reasonable number of people, can be protected if the local planning authority so desires.
If a tree is protected, permission must be sought and gained before any works are carried out. The fines may be many thousands of pounds, and even more in exceptional circumstances if the case is taken to the High Court.
As with trees in a conservation area, permission is done on a form that is downloadable from the council website, or online via the planning portal. The works are detailed, and reasons are requested for work on preservation trees. The authorities have eight weeks to decide once the application is validated. Usually, the permission lasts for two years and then lapses, and a new application is required if the works were not done.
In the circumstance where trees are dangerous, it is possible to submit a five-day notice of intent to carry out works. It is often helpful to explore the advice of a professional who knows about TPOs and TCAs, and what can be and can’t be done to trees to gain the relevant permission while following the correct procedure.