Trees are an important part of our heritage and environment. In England, Local Planning Authorities have the power to protect important trees by making a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Trees are also protected if they are in a conservation area.
Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and trees in conservation areas
A TPO is a legal document made, administered and enforced by us as the local planning authority. It protects specified trees and woodlands, and prevents cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage or destruction of trees (including cutting roots) without our permission.
A TPO can protect anything from a single tree to all trees within a defined group or woodland. There are currently around 700 TPOs in County Durham.
The Tree Preservation Order data shown on the map, while based upon our register, is not the legal document and is supplied for information purposes only. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the data, Tree Preservation Orders are subject to change and amendment and we will not accept any liability sustained as a result of reliance on this data.
There are 93 conservation areas within towns and villages in County Durham - find out if a tree is within a Conservation areas.
Getting permission to prune/remove a protected tree
If you intend to carry out any work to protected trees, you must apply for consent from us first. If you do not own the tree you must also obtain the owner's permission before carrying out the work.
You may also need to submit supporting technical information if the reason for your application relates to the condition of the tree - for example due to the presence of pests, diseases, fungi, or structural defects affecting the safety of the tree. Written evidence from an appropriate arboricultural professional may be required to support your application. The Arboricultural Association has a list of arboriculturalists who are members. If the reason for your application relates to suspected structural damage caused by the tree, please submit a report from a structural engineer/surveyor together with technical advice to support your application.
Consent is not required where the tree is dead or dangerous, but we should be given five working days notice before any works are carried out, unless works are urgently necessary to remove an immediate risk of serious harm. In this case you should notify us as soon as practicable after the works become necessary.
Work on trees with in a Conservation Area
If a tree has a stem diameter greater than 75mm (3") measured 1.5m from the ground level, you are required to give us six weeks notice of any tree works that you are proposing. This enables us to assess the proposed works and if necessary serve a TPO. If no decision is received within six weeks then consent is gained by default. Please notify us by using the standard 'Tree Works' application form.
Please contact us by using the standard application form, available from the Planning Portal or by downloading a planning application form from Planning Portal: planning application forms. If sending your application by post, please send it to our Local Area Planning Office and not to our Tree Officers. Please note: Any application not made on the standard form, is incomplete, or fails to include the required information will be invalid.
Once an application has been submitted, we may either grant or withhold consent for work on a tree with a TPO or we may give a conditional consent. Permission to fell a preserved tree usually carries a condition to plant a replacement, which will automatically become the subject of the TPO.
You have a right of appeal (see for Planning Portal: Tree Preservation and Replacement Appeals details) both against the making of a TPO or any refusal of consent to do work to the tree.
Removing a protected tree without permission
If you carry out work on a protected tree without our consent, this may result in a criminal prosecution and a fine of up to £20,000.
If you would like further information about protected trees, please read. It is written for the benefit of tree owners, the general public and amenity groups and answers some of the most common questions about tree preservation procedures.
Other protection of trees
In addition to TPOs and conservation areas, there are various other factors which may constrain work to trees. These include:
- Felling - a felling licence from the Forestry Commission may be required if you wish to fell more than five cubic metres of timber per calendar quarter. For further information, see by the Forestry Commission.
- Many wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act making it an offence to kill, injure or take wild birds, their young, their eggs or nests. Non-urgent major tree work involving tree removal/reduction and hedge cutting operations should not normally be undertaken during the bird nesting/breeding season, which is considered to be from 1 March to 31 July.
- Bats are European Protected Species and are protected by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It is an offence to kill, injure, or take, any bat. It is also an offence to interfere with places used by bats for shelter or protection, or to intentionally disturb bats occupying such places. The presence of bats or bat roosts is not always obvious and it is recommended that you consult a qualified bat surveyor. The Forestry Commission website contains more details and guidance.
- Where planning permission has been granted, trees may be protected as a condition of that permission. Any works to such trees will require consent from us and an application for a variation of the planning condition may be required.
- Occasionally, restrictive covenants attached to the deeds for a property may restrict what work can be undertaken to trees.
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