Trees are a precious natural resource. They take in carbon dioxide, one of the biggest pollutants on earth, and release life-giving oxygen into the air. Trees decrease the effects of urban heat islands and help to mitigate climate warming. Pollutants in the water are trapped by the roots and leaves. Stormwater causes flooding and soil erosion, whereas trees slow down the water, protecting vegetation and decreasing the loss of life. The shade provided by trees reduces temperatures. When this occurs by streams, it ensures the survival of multiple organisms living in the water. When a property is designed with trees placed strategically, it decreases the need for heating or air conditioning, saving money on electricity bills.
With all these benefits, trees are sheltered by legislation in the UK and cannot simply be removed. We help you make sense of the regulations and illustrate the conditions under which trees are protected and when unwanted trees can be removed.
Getting rid of a tree in your garden
When you are the owner of the property and live on it as your home, you can remove any tree you want, provided it does not fall into one of two categories. Tenants, on the other hand, need the owner’s consent to proceed. The first tree protection category is any tree that has a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). The second category protects trees in designated conservation areas. TPOs can apply to a species of tree, such as an endangered one, in which case it includes all trees in that group. It can also cover individual trees in certain locations.
A TPO forbids the following actions from being carried out against any protected trees without the written consent of your local council authority. Conditions may be attached to such permissions if granted. You may not cut them down, uproot them or cuts their roots, or cause any deliberate destruction or damage to these trees. The law also prohibits the lopping and topping of TPO trees.
When a tree has its trunk in your neighbour’s garden, it belongs to that property and owner, and you cannot remove the tree. However, you are allowed to cut off any branches that hang over into your property. Should your neighbour who owns the tree fell it, and it causes damage to your buildings or injures people or animals on your property, the owner is liable and must compensate you.
Bear in mind that if a tree is currently being used for nesting birds, it is illegal to cut it back or cut it down.
When do you need a felling Licence?
If you want to fell trees that are located outside of your private property, you may need a felling licence. This requires you to calculate the volume of timber that will result from the felled trees. Here is a timber volume calculator to simplify the process. You will be committing an offence if you do not have a felling licence and remove trees that make up five or more cubic metres of timber, worked out by volume. These licences can be obtained from the Forestry Commission and are issued with conditions you need to comply with. For example, the permission may be conditional on you replanting the area and ensuring the health and survival of these new trees for a specified period.
What happens when a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) Is Violated?
The violation of a TPO without local council permission in writing could result in a fine. The guilty party would also have to replace the tree. Your local council will issue a tree replacement notice.
There is a strict policy and process for dealing with these offences. This is illustrated in Flowchart 6: Offences. As shown, these cases can be heard either in the Magistrate’s Court or the Crown Court. Fines vary between 2,500 pounds, 20,000 pounds, and an unlimited amount.
When do you need a tree survey?
A tree survey may be requested by your bank before a mortgage can be approved or by your local council prior to giving approval for a new development to proceed. Sometimes, an insurer will want a tree survey done to ensure that there are no trees in danger of falling onto your home and resulting in an insurance claim. Other instances in which a tree survey will be required are if you wish to do anything to trees that are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) or when these trees are planted in dedicated conservation areas.
Council insists on a British standard BS5837 (trees in relation to design, demolition, and construction) tree survey. The aim is the preservation of healthy trees. Any tree which has a diameter of 7.5 centimetres or more that is on the property being assessed or is growing within ten metres of the property boundary line has to be recorded in the BS5837 tree survey.
Just because a tree has been included in the BS5837 tree survey, this does not mean that it will necessarily affect your application negatively. Although all trees matching the required circumference must be listed, their quality will decide their fate. Trees are split into four categories, A, B, C, or U. The tree survey will determine what is needed to protect the branches and roots of healthy trees that you are required to retain. The Root Protection Area of each healthy tree is plotted, and the development must not intrude on that space.
If the institution which required the BS5837 tree survey, such as your local council, imposes restrictions on your development to protect trees on the construction site, you will need to complete an Arboricultural Impact Assessment. You can have a tree survey performed by an arboricultural consultancy such as Tree Survey. Tree Survey uses the latest equipment to conduct their survey, and, coupled with their extensive knowledge and experience, they can help get you the planning approval you need. Their services are offered throughout the UK. These services come with a money-back guarantee in the event that your planning submission is declined.
This comprehensive guide on dealing with unwanted trees on your property simplifies this complex topic and empowers you to make the correct decisions.