Take some time to con­sider law about trees on your land

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE - Jeremy Scott

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

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