Local planning authorities may make a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) if it appears beneficial in the interests of ‘amenity’ to do so. The ‘amenity’ criteria is described below.
TPOs can be made on:
- individual trees
- groups of trees
- woodlands or
- areas of trees (this is usually used as an emergency measure until a more detailed site and tree assessment can be carried out - allowing a more detailed plan and protection schedule to be made).
In short the local planning authority should be able to show a reasonable degree of public benefit for making a TPO.
Criteria for TPOS
The term ‘amenity’ may refer to:
- Position / prominence / visibility – essentially can the tree(s) be clearly seen from the public realm (a street, public right of way etc) and easily identified and distinguished. Even large trees in front gardens may not standout if they are surrounded by other trees (or significant vegetation) of equal merit.
The tree does not need to be large (now or in the future) to have an effective presence.
- Wider impact – on the local surroundings. Would the individual tree be missed? The absence of an individual tree may benefit neighbouring trees which can then grow unrestricted to have a greater impact in the future.
- Rareness / scarcity of tree cover – if this is the only tree in a particular location its importance in the local area increases.
- Age / life expectancy – this should not discount a tree from protection
Very old trees which might have veteran tree status and would have other factors to consider, for example, the Major Oak and its companions in Sherwood Forest. They have an added value in other ways.
Young trees which if in good condition, well positioned with space to achieve their potential would become feature trees in the landscape for the future.
It is always difficult to judge the life expectancy of a living thing as there are many sometimes not obvious factors which might increase or reduce the trees potential. Some species are naturally long-lived other are not, but this can be quite variable even with the same species.
- Physical condition and health.
A tree needs to be carefully examined by an appropriate tree professional to confirm that the tree(s) involved are sound and free of serious disease or defects. Some defects may not seriously impact upon the wellbeing of the tree and can be removed / remedied by pruning or other management works.
- Habitat value – does the tree host a wide variety or unusual wildlife? Is the wildlife protected? Common tree wildlife includes insects, birds and bats.
- Historic value – in Nottinghamshire there are many ‘named’ trees. The Major Oak is world famous however there are also ‘the Pilgrims Oak’, ‘the Centre tree’, ‘the Parliament Oak’, ‘the Three Shires Oak’ with the associated folk law. The ‘Maple trees’ of Maplebeck.
- Scarcity – is the type of tree particularly rare or unusual. This may need to be considered in the context of an Arboretum.
- Threat – is there a clear and identifiable threat that will result in the loss of the tree because of development or other factors.
The proper use of the BS 5837:2012 Trees in Relation to Construction – recommendations process should clearly identify those trees worthy of retention (Category A+B trees) and incorporation into a new development.
A TPO cannot be used as a tool to prevent development; it does mean that the planning process must take account of those trees as a material consideration.
In the event that a TPO already exists and planning permission is granted that decision would take precedent over the TPO where trees affected are concerned. It should also be remembered that the condition of the tree(s) may have changed over time and that their retention can no longer be justified.
The granting of planning permission can carry with it conditions requiring new tree planting to be carried out. These may be smaller / younger trees in a different place. They can however be covered by a TPO to secure their position in the landscape for the future.
- Expediency / appropriateness
Although a tree / trees may merit formal protection on amenity grounds it may not be beneficial to do so by the use of TPO’s if they are already under good arboricultural/sylvicultural management.
For example, a consequence of a TPO may discourage the landowner from looking after their trees (because of the bureaucracy) and result in no management being carried out which would be detrimental to the trees/group/woodland and local amenity in the long term.
NOTE: Remember that the Forestry Act 1967 (administered by the Forestry Commission) provides controls in other ways on woodland.