TPO criteria

Local planning authorities may make a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) if they believe there’s a reasonable degree of public benefit in ensuring a tree is not destroyed.

TPOs can be made on:

  • individualtrees
  • groups of trees
  • woodlands
  • 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).

Criteria for TPOs

A TPO can be made ‘if it appears beneficial in the interests of amenity to do so.’  The term amenity may refer to position, prominence or visibility.

When deciding of a TPO is appropriate, we’ll consider:

  • whether the tree(s) can be clearly seen from the public realm (a street, public right of way etc) and is easily identified and distinguished
  • wider impact on the local surroundings - 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 increases
  • age / life expectancy – this should not discount a tree from protection and very old trees which might have veteran tree statusphysical 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
  • historic value
  • scarcity – is the type of tree particularly rare or unusual?
  • threat – is there a clear and identifiable threat that will result in the loss of the tree because of development or other factors
  • 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’re already under good management, 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

TPOs and development

A TPO cannot be used as a tool to prevent development, but 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 takes precedence over the TPO. It should be remembered that the condition of the tree(s) may have changed over time and that their retention can no longer be justified.

The proper use of the BS 5837:2012 trees in relation to construction recommendations process should clearly identify those trees worthy of retention and incorporate these into any new development.

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.

Read more about TPO law and good practice in this government guide.