Tree Law

A Brief Guide to Tree Law in England & Wales.

Please read the Disclaimer before proceeding.

Various court cases established the following points:

Note 1: You should take care not to promote disease or decay by poor pruning technique or unbalance a tree by severing anchor roots or by removing large limbs from one side of the tree only; should the tree subsequently fail due to your actions, you may be liable for any damages caused by your actions (seek professional advice if you are unsure).  If the tree is located within a conservation area or is subject to a TPO then permission must be obtained from the Local Authority prior to any branch or root pruning operations.

This Act contains legislation which gives powers to the Local Authority (LA) to protect single or multiple trees by way of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). The order prevents anyone from pruning or felling the tree without permission from the LA; anyone considering felling or pruning without such permission should consider the maximum penalty of 20,000 which the courts could evoke. Without this legislation many of our mature trees would have been lost.

Additionally, this act contains legislation to protect the immediate pruning and felling of trees contained within Conservation Areas. Both Conservation Areas and Tree Preservation Order's are detailed within this web site in specific chapters.

This Act contains legislation which gives the Forestry Commission powers to control the quantity of  trees being  felled at any one time. The basic rule is as follows:-

In any calendar quarter you may fell up to 5 cubic meters of wood providing you sell no more than 2 cubic meters.

The felling or selling of larger amounts will require a license from the Forestry Commission. Certain types of felling do not need a license, some of the exemptions are listed below.

The above list is a short summary, for a complete listing you need to read the Forestry Commission publication 'Tree Felling - Getting Permission'.

The above legislation would not normally affect an owner of a small garden unless it included woodlands; 5 cubic meters of timber is quite a sizeable quantity; if in doubt, obtain specialist advice.

This Act covers laws associated with roads. Section 41 states that the Highway Authority (H.A) have a duty to maintain the highway.

Section 154 deals with trees and shrubs located on private land; it gives the H.A powers to serve a notice on the owners of  trees which constitute a danger to the users of the highway. This would include dangerous trees that could fall onto the road, or trees and hedges that block a drivers view or interfere with the light level from an adjacent street lamp, etc. The notice served by the H.A gives the tree owner 14 days to carry out the necessary works; should the works not be carried out in this time, the H.A can do the works themselves and claim back the costs from the tree owner.

Section 79 gives the H.A powers to restrict planting and order the removal of trees and vegetation on private land should they be deemed to represent a danger on a road bend.  

Section 142 gives powers to the H.A to grant a license to a member of the public to plant and maintain vegetation in the highway.

This Act contains legislation in sections 23 and 24 that enables the Local Authority (LA) to deal with dangerous trees on private property. An example of such a situation could be   'that a tree is dangerous to third parties and the owner refuses to make it safe;  the LA can serve notice on the owner to make the tree safe, if the owner still refuses then the LA can enter on to the owners property to make the tree safe and recover the expenses incurred from the owner'.

This Act lays down a duty for occupiers to take reasonable steps to ensure that premises (including woodland) are reasonably safe for visitors permitted to be there.

This affects managers of woodland and forest who need to make regular safety inspections of trees adjacent to car parks, footpaths, picnic areas, public areas etc.

Should someone need to enter onto someone else's land to carry out works to their own land but can not do so because the owner refuses consent, they can use the legislation contained within this act to apply to a court for an access order. The courts will only grant such an order if it is satisfied that the works are necessary and that they can not be carried out, or would be substantially more difficult to carry out,  from the owners own land.

Such works include, amongst other things, the felling, removal or replacement of any hedge, tree, shrub etc which is, or is in danger of becoming, a hazard and danger.

In response to the wide spread loss of our hedgerows within the countryside the government has developed these regulations  in an attempt to reduce and regulate further losses.  The regulations were made law in 1997 and fall under Statutory Instrument (SI) No 1160; they describe the criteria and exemptions applicable to protected hedges. The regulations are published in their entirety on the HMSO web site (see below); however, for those of you who would prefer an easier read, the Department of Environment produce a leaflet and book explaining the regulations in a brief and easy to understand way. The leaflet is called 'The Hedgerow Regulations'.

This text is open to modification. If you have an item to add or change please send details.

2000 Chris Skellern. AIE.    Home  | News | A-Z Index  | Resources  |  Contact AIE  |  Terms of Use