Take some time to consider law about trees on your land
WITH spring just around the corner it is a popular time of year to consider putting your house on the market or making some home improvements.
The Land Registry recorded an increase of six per cent for house sales in the period between September 2010 and September 2011 showing the housing market is slowly starting to recover. Therefore if you have been holding off selling during the economic downturn, then 2012 may be the year you decide to sell.
Whether you are preparing your house for sale or simply making some general home improvements, do not forget to consider trees.
Do you know what your rights and liabilities are in relation to your trees? Is there a tree in your garden you wish to trim? Or perhaps there was once a tree on your land but you chopped it down several years ago. If this is the case, you may have committed a criminal offence and be liable for an unlimited fine.
There are strict rules and regulations regarding trees and not many householders are aware of them.
The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulations 1999 gives local planning authorities the ability to make provisions for the preservation of trees and woodlands in their area. This includes making a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) for trees located on private land, for example the one in your garden.
Any variety of trees can be protected by a TPO regardless of shape, size or age and therefore not just trees which are rare or endangered.
While hedgerow trees can be protected, hedges, shrubs and bushes cannot.
The purpose of a TPO is to prevent a person from cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilfully damaging or destroying the tree. There are many reasons why a Local Authority chooses to protect a particular tree or area of trees and these include:
The protection of trees which are important to the appearance of the general area and which may be cut down if a proposed new building is built;
The protection of certain trees which may be under threat and need protecting immediately;
The protection of trees in areas where trees are not plentiful.
It is a crime to breach a TPO without permission from your local authority and the penalty is a fine up to £20,000 if convicted in the magistrates’ court or an unlimited fine if convicted in the Crown Court. You cannot use as your defence the fact that you were not aware of the TPO as the onus is on you to check the position prior to commencing work on a tree.
In addition to facing a criminal prosecution you may also be ordered by the local planning authority to replace the tree and this can often be expensive, running to thousands of pounds.
If you are contemplating doing anything to a tree in your garden or on your land then, given the very grave consequences of breaching a TPO, it is best to check if your tree is subject to a TPO. To ascertain whether a tree on your land is subject to a TPO call the planning department of your Local Authority. If your tree is subject to a TPO, they will have a record of it. The local authority should be able to give you the information over the telephone but if you require a copy of the TPO there is likely to be a small fee payable for this.
If you wish to carry out any works to a tree that is subject to a TPO, you need to apply for written permission from your local council.
Help and guidance in relation to applying for permission will also be available from your local authority.
For more about TPOS you can also visit the Government’s website: www.communities. gov.uk/publications/ planningandbuilding/tposguide
Jeremy Scott is a lawyer with Langleys Solicitors LLP, York, www.langleys.com