Bedford Borough Council has duties and responsibilities under the Town and Country Planning Act, Government Regulations and Circulars to protect trees within its administrative area in the interest of amenity. These duties and responsibilities extend to making Tree Preservation Orders, which in general makes it an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or destroy a tree without the Borough Council's written permission, and to special provisions for trees within conservation areas.
The maximum fine for the wilful destruction of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or conservations area tree (TCA) is £20,000 per tree, Wilful damage carries the maximum fine of £2,500 per tree.
Trees that grow in council owned property or on public open spaces are also protected as they are deemed as council property. Anyone willfully damaging these can be prosecuted.
Check if a tree is protected or in a conservation area in the following:
- Tree preservation order register - refer to How To Guide 3 for assistance
- Conservation area maps
- Planning interactive map for both Conservation areas and Tree Preservation Orders and other planning details - refer to How to Guide 7 for Assistance
Requesting tree advice
If you would like to discuss potential works to a tree that is protected or in a conservation area you can do this by submitting a pre-application enquiry. The full details of how to do this can be found by clicking on the following link:
Pre-application Advice - Please note that there is a fee applicable for this advice.
Works to trees under Tree Preservation Orders
The written consent of the Borough Council is required for cutting down or carrying out work on trees protected by a TPO. However, there are a number of exemptions including:
- Dead dying or dangerous trees. A TPO does not prevent cutting down or other tree works being undertaken on trees which are dead, dying or dangerous. This exemption additionally covers the removal of dead wood from a tree or the removal of dangerous branches from an otherwise sound tree. There is no statutory requirement to notify the Borough Council but anyone who intends to fell a tree or carry out major works under this exemption is requested to give the Local Planning Authority five days notice before carrying out the work, except in an emergency. It is wise to seek independent professional advice before undertaking works in the scope of this exemption as the onus of proof of condition of the tree in any legal proceedings lies with the owner. There is a duty to replant where trees have been felled.
- Statutory obligations imposed by Act of Parliament.
- Land subject to a forestry dedication covenant under the Forestry Act 1967.
- Land subject to the grant of planning permission where the development directly affects the trees.
- Fruit trees cultivated for fruit production in an orchard or garden.
- Trees on land owned by statutory undertakers listed in the Legislation where works on the land cannot otherwise be undertaken or the reason for the works relates to safety purposes. (Electricity companies are additionally permitted to cut down or carry out any work on trees which obstruct the construction of an electric line or interfere with the maintenance or working of an electric line).
A planning application for works to a protected tree(s) is free of charge.
Works to trees in conservation areas
Trees in conservation areas which are already protected by a TPO are subject to the normal TPO controls. Trees which are not covered by a TPO are the subject of a special provision in the legislation. Any felling or other works to trees in conservation areas may only be carried out following a six week period of notice given to the Borough Council if consent is given within that period.
A planning application for works to a tree(s) in a conservation area is free of charge. Access the TCA planning application form.
Making Tree Preservation Orders
Tree Preservation Order powers are used selectively in accordance with Government advice. Under the Town and Country Planning Act the Borough Council may make a TPO if it appears to them to be:
"Expedient in the interests of amenity to make provision for the preservation of trees in their area".
Government advice provides the following:
- TPOs may be used to protect selected trees and woodlands, that if removed, would have a significant impact on the environment and its enjoyment by the public.
- A reasonable degree of public benefit must accrue from the creation of a TPO.
- Trees should normally be visible from a public place (such as a road or footpath) although exceptionally other trees may be included.
- The benefit may be present or future (for example, when proposed development has taken place).
- The trees are worthy of preservation for their intrinsic beauty or for their contribution to the landscape.
- The trees screen an eyesore or a site for new development.
- The trees have scarcity value.
- The trees are a part of a valued group.
- Other factors (such as importance as a wildlife habitat) may be taken into account, which alone would not be sufficient to warrant a TPO.
Importantly, although a tree may merit protection on amenity grounds Government advice is that it is not necessary to make a TPO to protect it, unless, the Borough Council believe it is at risk of being cut down either immediately or at some time in the future.
If it appears that judged on the above criteria that the making of a TPO is justified, the Borough Council will also need to be satisfied, following a detailed inspection, that:
- the tree has a reasonable life expectancy, and
- the tree is sound, healthy and free from disease or serious defect, and
- the tree is not causing structural damage to existing buildings, utility services or public highways and is not likely to do so in the near future, and
- the tree will not cast excessive shade or otherwise interfere with occupier's reasonable enjoyment or property, and
- there are no issues of public safety or other impediment.