Trees in Conservation Areas
The following notes serve as a very brief summary of the legislation, anyone wishing to learn more on this subject should contact their Local Authority for leaflets and information. If you have any doubts regarding Conservation Areas you should contact your Local Tree Officer, they are paid by you, to serve you, so make use of them!
Legislation concerning Conservation Areas is contained within Part 2 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 makes special provisions for trees located within Conservation Areas; for details regarding this Act and other relevant Acts see the web page on Law.
If a tree located within a conservation area is already the subject of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) then this tree is automatically covered by the TPO legislation. If no TPO exists, then prior to carrying out any works to the tree, 6 weeks notice in writing should be made to the Local Planning Authority describing the trees and works to be carried out. The applicant must then wait 6 weeks for the LPA to consider whether or not to place a new TPO on to the tree(s) in question.
The LPA can not grant or refuse you consent to carry out works to the trees unless they are the subject of a TPO. If the LPA feels that the tree should be protected from the works that you are considering, they must assign a TPO onto the tree to prevent you carrying out the works. If the LPA fails to make the tree a subject of a TPO within 6 weeks then you can carry out your intended works. If the LPA fail to inform you of their decision within 6 weeks then you can carry out your intended works. If the LPA does assign a TPO to the tree within the 6 week period then you must apply to carry out the works under the procedure described within the section on Tree Preservation Orders.
You are under no obligation to use any of the Local Planning Authority's own notification forms for works to trees within Conservation Areas and they can not demand that you do so.
Trees located on private land (such as your garden) located within Conservation Areas are not owned by the LPA nor does it mean that they are responsible for the cost of their maintenance!
Trees with stem diameters of less than 75mm (measured at 1.5m from ground level) are exempt from the controls described above. If the works being carried out are to help promote the growth of other trees then trees with stem diameters of less than 100mm (at 1.5m) may be removed or pruned. Similarly, works which are exempt under the TPO regulations also apply here i.e: removal of deadwood, dying or dangerous trees etc.
A tree owner would be prudent to provide the LPA with 5 days notice prior to cutting down a tree which they deem as being dead, dying or dangerous; unless such works are required in an emergency. It is the tree owners responsibility to provide proof that the tree was indeed dead, dying or dangerous should this exception be challenged; hence, it is advisable always to request an inspection by a Local Tree Officer prior to carrying out such felling operations.
The penalties for cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilfully destroying or damaging a tree within a conservation area are the same as those applicable to TPO's. The maximum fines are £20,000 for destroying a tree and up to £2,500 for anyone who does not completely destroy a tree but has carried out some other works without consent.
If the LPA decide to assign a TPO to the tree(s) then any objections to the TPO must be made in writing within 28 days. The TPO must be confirmed by the LPA within 6 months for it to become permanent, otherwise it will lapse.
Once the TPO is established anyone wishing to carry out works to a tree must make their application in writing, state the reasons for making the application, the works required and make it clear which trees the application relates to. The applicant is under no obligation to complete the LPA's own forms that they may have produced for this purpose. LPA's should respond to applications for works within a period of 2 months. Should the LPA refuse to grant permission for the requested works the applicant may appeal to the Secretary of State; this should normally be made within 28 days. Appeals can be made in respect of other items such as: conditions imposed with any consent, article 5 certificate, failure for the LPA to respond to an application within 2 months etc.
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