Increasingly trees are being protected by local authorities, either individually or on a blanket basis, and you need to be sure you have the right permissions before felling a tree. Failure to do so may bring a fine of up to £20,000 so it’s worth doing your homework.
Tree Felling and Insurance Companies
Local authorities are concerned about the increase in tree felling in residential areas which is why blanket or individual tree preservation orders (TPO) are being put in place.
Insurance companies often believe that structural damage to insured properties is caused by the roots of nearby trees. These can grow under a property, taking all the moisture out of the ground, leading to subsidence.
While trees that are too large and too close to a property are often the culprits, insurance companies are sometimes too quick to take the easy way out. They make policyholders fell trees first, then do more expensive structural repairs to the property later, if felling the tree hasn’t resolved the problem. At least that’s the view that many local authorities take.
Check Your Property with the Council
So the first step to finding out whether or not you can fell a tree, even if it is in your own garden, is to approach the council. All councils now have websites which will almost certainly have a section addressing trees. Look first to see if your area is subject to a conservation order. If it is then it is very likely that trees within that area will be protected by default.
Whether or not you are in a conservation area it’s then time to see if there is a TPO on the specific tree or group of trees you need to fell. Again the council website should help, many of them have a postcode lookup where you can identify your exact property and check the restrictions in force.
Check Restrictions with Councils in Any Case
If your council doesn’t have that facility then you will have to ring up or write in to ask. Writing is perhaps better so that you will then have a record of the reply to keep in case there are any queries after the tree felling. You may find out that you are in a conservation area AND there is a TPO in force. If that is the case then the TPO takes precedence.
Even if your investigations don’t turn up any evidence of a TPO or a conservation area it is still worth checking with the council because there may have been restrictions placed on tree felling as part of a planning approval. But if none of this turns up anything to the contrary you then need to check a few other areas before felling.
Getting Permission From People Around Your Property
Assuming you are now clear to cut the tree down from a council point of view you need to get local approval. If you are a tenant you will need the landlord’s permission. If you own the property but the tree is on a boundary you will need your neighbour’s permission.
If the tree is completely on your property but you will need access to a neighbouring garden to carry out the felling operation then again you will need your neighbour’s permission.
Overturning a TPO
Going back to the local authority permissions, if you are in a conservation area or there is a TPO on the tree, this doesn’t mean that you can’t fell it. You can apply for permission from the council and it will be granted as long as you can demonstrate the damage the tree is doing.
The council is required by law to give you an answer within six months and you may need to hire experts to write reports to back up your case. But once the permission is granted you can then go ahead and fell that tree.