You need to apply for permission before any works are carried out to a protected tree including minor pruning.
About the Tree Preservation Order (TPO)
Some trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders or because they are in a conservation area, so you need to apply for permission before any works are carried out to a protected tree.
Tree Preservation Orders are made to protect trees that bring significant amenity benefit to the local area. A TPO makes it a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage, or destroy a tree protected by that order, or to cause/permit such actions without the authority’s permission and you may be liable to a fine of up to £20,000.
All types of trees, but not hedges, bushes or shrubs, can be protected, and a TPO can protect anything from a single tree to all trees within a defined area or woodland. Any species can be protected, but no species are automatically protected by a TPO.
In Leicestershire, both the County Council and district councils manage their own TPOs. The County Council makes new Orders on land where it has a planning interest such as mineral or waste sites, or where trees are on County Council owned land, and where the land crosses a boundary between two authorities.
We advise any work to trees is done by a qualified and insured tree worker. See a list of contractors approved by the Arboricultural Association.
If you wish to apply to carry out works to a tree, please first contact the planning department of your local district or borough council who will tell you if the tree is protected by a TPO or located in a conservation area.
Contact your district or borough council
To see if a tree is protected by a Leicestershire County Council TPO, please see use the TPO map:
If the tree is in a conservation area and is covered by TPO, then you can apply to carry out works to a tree and submit it to the Local Planning Authority.
Trees in a conservation area that are not covered by a TPO
If a tree in a conservation area isn't covered by a TPO, you still can give written notice to the Local Planning Authority by letter, email, or using the section 211 notice application form below, at least six weeks before the work starts, and describe any proposed work and what you want to do. This gives the Local Planning Authority an opportunity to consider protecting the tree with a TPO.
You don’t need to give notice of work on a tree in a conservation area less than 7.5 centimetres in diameter, measured 1.5 metres above the ground (or 10 centimetres in diameter if removing small trees to provide more space for others to grow). It is always best to take photos as evidence before any work is done.
After you apply
If the tree is covered by a Leicestershire County TPO, this will then be forwarded on to our Tree Officer by the Local Planning Authority. Once we receive and validate your application, we will register it and publish it on our planning portal and begin the 8-week process for a decision. Applicants will be informed if their application isn't valid. For all validated and registered applications, our Tree Officer will inspect the site to assess trees for condition and amenity value.
A decision by the Local Planning Authority must be reached within 8 weeks, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as investigation into subsidence claims, then the application can be extended, but all interested parties must be informed of this extension. You will receive an acknowledgement letter with the 8-week determination date by email (if email address is provided). A notification is sent to the district council requesting any comments within 21 days.
If the application is to remove a tree, then other interested parties such as neighbours, parish or district councils will be consulted. In this case, the 21 days consultation period commences once the application has been validated by the Tree Officer and notification letters have been issued.
If no comments are received within the 21-day consultation period, the application can be progressed. If comments are received, these are evaluated by our Tree Officer before a decision notice is issued. This may extend the decision date but interested parties will be informed.
Decision notices will be issued to all interested parties within the 8-week deadline. If the consent hasn't been issued within the 8-week period, you have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State.
The outcome will be either to:
Grant consent unconditionally - Works as specified in the application are granted consent to be carried out within 2 years of the date on the decision notice.
Grant consent subject to conditions - Consent is given subject to the specified notes on the decision notice document. These may be such conditions as, but not limited to, a change in the works specified in the application or to plant a new tree. Works to be carried out within two years of the date on the decision notice.
Refuse consent - Works are refused and mustn't be carried out. A reason must be stated by the Local Planning Authority. An appeal against a refused consent can be made to the Secretary of State. This appeal must be within 28 days of the decision notice.
Felling licences are administered by the Forestry Commission
You don't need a licence to fell trees in gardens. However, for trees outside of gardens, you may need to apply to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence, whether or not they are covered by a TPO, depending on the amount of timber to be removed from site in cubic meters.
Tree work terms and expressions
Basic tree terms and expressions used by the industry.
Frequently asked questions
Can I cut my neighbours tree if it overhangs my property?
Always seek permission from the owner of the tree before doing any work. You may prune a tree provided it is done without trespassing onto other person’s property. It is also permissible to climb trees to undertake the work, again as long as it doesn't require going into the neighbour’s garden/land. Note that trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or in a conservation area will require prior consent from the local authority.
What do I do with tree prunings?
Once branches are cut off, they should be offered back to the tree owner. If the owner doesn’t want them, then you will be responsible for disposing of the prunings. You can’t simply throw them over the boundary into your neighbour’s garden.
If my tree has a TPO, does that mean I no longer have responsibility?
No, the owner retains responsibility and duty of care to the public for the tree's condition, safety, and any damage the tree may cause. The only difference is that the planning authority's permission is required before carrying out any remedial work.
If a tree is protected but causing subsidence, can it be removed?
In accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Trees) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2008, anyone wishing to undertake works to protected trees, due to suspected tree-related subsidence damage (to buildings, walls, conservatories, driveways, drains etc.), must submit a standard application form with relevant technical evidence, generally provided by a qualified arboricultural consultant.
A tree is blocking my light, can it be cut down?
In law there is no general right to light (other than that associated with high hedge complaints). If a tree has been assessed as worthy of protection, its value to the environment is considerable and as such any complaints relating to light must be weighed against this wider landscape importance.
Minor remedial tree works such as crown thinning may temporarily relieve the situation, but this depends on a tree's ability to cope with, and its species' response to, tree work. The responsive effect of crown thinning or pruning on some tree species (such as lime trees) is to grow back quicker with larger leaves and a more dense crown.
A tree is dropping leaves/needles/cones/sap onto my property - can it be pruned?
Pruning is unnatural process which comes with a degree of risk and as such shouldn't be undertaken without it being absolutely necessary. Pruning wounds can expose a tree to a large number of different diseases that can seriously affect a tree's health, safety, and survival, with older trees being more susceptible than younger ones.
In law it is reasonable to expect a tree to drop leaves, sap, etc. as such occurrences are part of a tree's natural physiological processes and only to be expected.
How do I get work done to a TPO tree?
You will require our written permission before undertaking any work to a protected tree (subject to a number of exemptions - these can be obtained by contacting our Tree Officer). You will probably find it helpful to contact a qualified tree surgeon to clarify what works are required and whether permission is needed.
Will I get into trouble if I cut down or a prune a TPO tree without permission?
Courts have powers to fine anyone contravening the tree regulations laid down in part 8 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This includes penalties for cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilfully destroying or damaging protected trees.
If you deliberately destroy a protected tree, or damage it in a manner likely to destroy it, you could be fined up to £20,000 if convicted in the magistrates' court.
In determining the amount of the fine, the court will take account of any financial benefit arising from the offence.
For other offences, including working on the tree without permission, you could be fined up to £2,500.
There is also a duty to replace any protected tree that has been removed illegally, the new tree being automatically protected by the original order. Should the replacement tree die, a further replacement would then be required.
What do I do if a tree becomes an emergency over the weekend?
If the worst should happen and the tree becomes an immediate safety hazard over a weekend or bank holiday, it is important you gather as much evidence as to the tree's hazardous condition as possible. This could include comprehensive photographic evidence, names and addresses of any witnesses, and an independent arboricultural report by a qualified tree surgeon, as well as keeping a record of which tree surgeon is employed to attend to the tree.
To avoid possible prosecution, these details should be forwarded to our Arboricultural Officer as soon as possible after the tree's removal. Remember the onus of proof lies with the tree owner.
How do I avoid harm to other species such as bats and birds?
Bats and the Law in the UK
In Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected by both domestic and international legislation. Find out more about bats protection.
You may be prosecuted if you:
- deliberately take, injure, or kill a wild bat
- intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats
- damage or destroy a place used by bats for breeding or resting (even if bats aren't occupying the roost at the time)
- possess or advertise/sell/exchange a bat of a species found in the wild in the EU (dead or alive) or any part of a bat
- intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost
Always ensure that your tree contractor has the relevant qualifications to check for protected species such as bats.
All wild birds, their nests and eggs are protected under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means that works wouldn't normally be undertaken in the nesting season (March to August), unless it can be demonstrated by the developer or tree surgeon that breeding birds won't be affected.
Some Section 1 birds such as the barn owl have further special protection. It is an offence to disturb these birds whilst breeding.
Further information on wild birds protection and licensing requirements
Further information on European protected species