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Planning FAQs

Trees and hedges

What is a Tree Preservation Order?

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a written Order, made by a Local Planning Authority, to protect trees that contribute to the appearance and amenity of an area and/or have particular cultural or historic value. It is a criminal offence to cut down, prune, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy a tree protected by a TPO without the council's permission, unless an exception applies. This includes root pruning.

Anyone found guilty of an offence could be fined up to £20,000 if convicted in the magistrates' court. The most serious cases may be dealt with in the Crown Court where unlimited fines can be imposed. 

How can I find out more about TPOs?

You are able to view council guidance on TPOs and Government guidance on TPOs.

How do I find out if a tree is protected by a TPO?

You are able to view all TPO zones and trees on Southwark Maps

How do I apply for permission to carry out work to a tree with a TPO?

Apart from a few limited exceptions, you must get permission from the council prior to the work being carried out.

You can also apply online via the Planning Portal. It may take up to 8 weeks to decide on an application from the day it is registered.

Is there a charge for making a TPO application or submitting a Section 211 notice?

There is no charge for making an application to carry out works on trees protected by a TPO or for submitting a notice of intent to carry out works on trees in a conservation area.

I’ve seen work being carried out on a protected tree. How can I find out if the owner has permission?

Our Planning Register lists all applications and decisions.

If you think that work is being carried out without permission, report it to our planning enforcement team.

Branches from my neighbour’s tree overhang my boundary. Am I allowed to cut them back?

Under common law, you may, at your expense, cut back overhanging branches to your boundary without the landowner's permission. However, you must first check that the trees are not in a conservation area or subject to a Tree Preservation Order prior to doing so. There are considerable fines for unauthorised works. You also must not trespass onto the land on which the trees are growing or cut back branches beyond the boundary, without the permission of the tree owner.

The branches belong to the tree owner and must be offered to them first. If the owner doesn't want them, you must dispose of them at your expense, in a responsible manner.

All work must be carried out carefully. You must avoid damaging property or carrying out work that would leave the tree unsafe or dangerous. You cannot alter the height of trees on neighbouring land without permission from the tree owner.

Whilst not required under common law, it is recommended to notify the tree owner of your intentions to avoid any misunderstanding.

Page last updated: 18 July 2024


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