A solicitor is warning landowners to thoroughly check for tree preservation orders (TPO) before carrying out landscaping work, or face large fines.
A TPO is an order made by the local planning authority to protect trees – perhaps a specific tree or woodlands – and prevents activities including cutting down, lopping and willful destruction without the authority’s written consent.
Anyone found guilty of breaking a TPO may be taken to court and face a fine of up to £20,000 per tree affected. Landowners may also be required to replace such a tree which has been removed, uprooted or destroyed.
One recent case saw a homeowner in the Lake District fined £15,000 for breaching an order after cutting down a number of trees on her property to help improve a view and make the property more attractive to buyers. A local farmer who helped cut down the trees was also fined £3,000.
Terry Griffin, partner in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team at regional law firm Napthens, said it is up to landowners to ensure that they comply with TPOs which may affect their property, particularly when planning for landscaping work.
He explained: “There can be serious repercussions for landowners if they damage or remove a tree or woodland area subject to a TPO, but we do see this happen from time to time.
“Land earmarked for development, or the expansion of a property, farm or business could all face this issue, so landowners must take care to check whether their property is affected by a TPO and take steps to comply with the necessary rules.
“This can be done by checking property deeds and making checks with the local authority, which keeps records of such orders. Some TPOs date back more than 50 years so it is entirely possible a landowner is unaware that there is one in place.
“Any checks should be done before any work is carried out, and if there are any doubts an appropriate expert should be consulted.”