Section 198 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1990, allows local authorities to make Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) to prevent trees being cut down or wilfully damaged. The Council has a duty to make sure that adequate consideration is given to the need to retain trees, to plant new trees and to make Tree Preservation Orders.
There are around 220 Tree Preservation Orders throughout the Borough covering many hundreds of trees. The Council normally makes new orders in response to development proposals and when requested to do so by residents. Before making an order, the Council must be satisfied that there will be a reasonable amount of public benefit from preserving a particular tree. Usually it must be clearly visible from a public place such as a road or park. The tree will be inspected to check that it is generally sound and healthy.
Once a tree is included in a Tree Preservation Order it may not be felled, pruned or altered in any way without the written consent of the Local Planning Authority. An exception to this relates to Dangerous Trees and this is dealt with below. Responsibility for the care and maintenance of the tree remains with the owner.
Most trees will survive for many years without the need for any attention. However, common law requires owners to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their trees. Trees growing close to buildings, public places or roads will require maintenance from time to time.
Applications for work should be made using the 1App form (see no. 31 on the application form) and sent to the Development Control Section of Planning Services. It will need to contain sufficient information to identify the tree (or trees), the location and details of the work proposed. It is helpful to include a copy of a written quotation from the tree surgeon. In processing the application it is Council policy to notify immediate neighbours of the proposed work if there is felling involved. For all applications the tree will be inspected and the suitability of the work assessed, having regard to the principles of good surgery, the value of the tree and the reasons for carrying out the work.
Pruning may be required to repair or remove dangerous/damaged branches, to balance, lighten or improve the shape of the tree. In carrying out work to its own trees, the Council will apply the same care and standards which would be required for trees subject to Tree Preservation Orders. We encourage minimal pruning to retain as natural a shape as possible. Trees on Council owned land are not usually included in TPOs. Street trees are the responsibility of Surrey County Council.
Crown thinning is designed to lighten the crown to allow more light to penetrate and to leave an even, well-balanced branch structure. It involves the removal of weak, thin and crossing branches and as many secondary branches. Normally a 25-30 per cent thinning is regarded as the maximum amount acceptable.
Crown lifting involves the removal of lower branches to provide a desired amount of clearance above ground level. This can be achieved either by the removal of the whole branch or only those parts which extend below the desired height.
Crown reduction is a method of re-shaping the crown of a tree to make it smaller. It involves cutting back all branches to a suitable side bud or fork. It is a technique best used on broad crowned trees but it is not always suitable, eg beech and birch, which tend to die-back from the cuts. Reduction needs to be carried out with care and is not recommended as a regular treatment.
Pollarding otherwise known as topping or lopping involves removing the whole branch structure to leave only the main trunk. It is regarded as bad practice and will rarely be acceptable. With many species the resultant vigorous re-growth will form a dense crown creating more problems.
Cleaning out sometimes described as 'dead wooding' involves the removal of all dead, dying and obviously diseased or dangerous branches and stumps, together with unwanted climbing plants.
Major tree surgery should only be undertaken by suitably qualified contractors, both for reasons of safety and to avoid irreparable damage to trees. All work should be carried out in accordance with the appropriate British Standard 'Recommendations for Tree Work' BS 3998:1989.
Preserved trees which are dead or obviously dangerous may be felled without the need to first obtain permission from the Council. However owners should still give at least five days' notice (except in emergency) of their intention to fell a dead or dangerous tree. This is to give the Council the opportunity to inspect the tree and confirm the need for action. An owner could be prosecuted if the Council consider action has been taken without good reason. The onus of proof remains with the owner.
When a dead or dangerous tree has been felled the owner is required to plant a new tree in the same place unless the Council agree that it is not necessary.
Before carrying out work to any tree in a Conservation Area, not already covered by a TPO, an owner must give a minimum of six weeks notice in writing identifying the trees and proposed work - preferably using the 1App form (see no. 31 on the application form). This is to give the Local Authority the opportunity to assess the appropriateness of the work and to make a Tree Preservation Order, if necessary. Permission is not required to cut down or work on trees less than 75mm in diameter (measured 1.5m above ground level) or up to 100mm, if this is to help the growth of other trees.
If the notification is for pruning work only, the Council will usually seek to agree the specification to ensure that the amenity value of the tree is not affected.
This information only covers the basic legislation and procedures relating to the preservation of trees. In particular instances reference to more detailed aspects of the legislation or specifications may be necessary. If in doubt, seek qualified advice or contact the Council.
For enquiries about Tree Preservation Orders, trees in Conservation Areas and applications for tree work contact Customer Services or email Planning Department
For enquiries about trees in parks, open spaces and amenity land contact Neighbourhood Services.
For enquiries about street trees contact Surrey County Council.
Amended June 2010