Trees and Hedges: The Law and What You Need to Know
Trees and Hedges. Kingston Council works very hard to ensure that the Borough remains a pleasant place for everyone to enjoy and live in by protecting areas and buildings that have a significant historical or architectural interest, with trees playing a large and vital role in this preservation.
Some trees in the Borough of Kingston may fall into one of two categories or even both – they are protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or they fall within Kingston’s conservation area and are therefore also protected.
Many people may not be aware that they have trees that fall under these categories growing on their property and that it is against the law to cut down or prune these trees without first applying to Kingston Council for permission to do so. Indeed, some people assume that as the tree is growing on one’s property, they are entitled to do as they wish to the tree or trees and do not realise that they could be subject to a substantial penalty by doing so.
If you are unsure if your tree or trees are protected you can “view a map on Kingston’s website” which shows the areas where trees are protected. If you are still unclear, a quick phone call to their offices will soon clarify things for you.
Below you will find some useful and valuable information about trees that fall within Kingston’s conservation area or that have Tree Preservation Orders on them.
Trees and Hedges: Preservation Orders in Kingston
A Tree Preservation Order not only protects a single tree, but it can also protect a group of trees and indeed a woodland, may also include fruit trees and hedgerow trees and can also apply to trees of any age, size or species, although bushes and shrubs are excluded from being given a TPO.
These trees are given protection because Kingston Council considers them to be of a high amenity value to the local area. This protects them from any unnecessary works, which in turn makes it an offence to damage intentionally, destroy, uproot, cut down, lop or top a tree without prior permission from Kingston Council first.
As the owner of a tree or trees that fall into this category, you will always be responsible for them and it is, therefore, important that you are mindful of their condition and any damage that they could cause to another person or their property.
Tree and Hedges: Trees that fall within Kingston’s Conservation Area
Kingston’s conservation area not only protects buildings and places with significant historical and architectural interest, but trees are also protected due to the unique role they also play in this vital conservation work.
Trees with a TPO that fall under this category are automatically protected. Those without a TPO but within the conservation area, a planning application will need to be submitted to Kingston Council should you wish to remove or carry out any form of tree surgery on a tree that has a trunk which is over 75mm in diameter, with this measurement being taken at 1.5 metres from ground level.
Again, as with trees covered by a TPO, as an owner of a tree or trees within a conservation area it is still your responsibility to ensure that they are in good health and do not pose a danger to another person or their property.
If you carry out any tree work in a conservation area without seeking prior permission from Kingston Council first, it will be considered an offence and substantial penalties will apply.
Trees and Hedges: Sending an application to Kingston Council for Permission to work on a Tree Protected by a Tree Preservation Order
In almost all cases you will need written consent from Kingston Council before carrying out any works on a tree or trees with a TPO and this written consent can be obtained by “applying for permission through Kingston’s online Planning Portal” website.
It is important that the form is both filled in and worded correctly to avoid rejection. A local, knowledgeable, reputable and fully qualified tree surgeon will, in most cases, apply for planning permission for you which should be free of charge if you have engaged them to undertake the works. Apart from being able to advise you exactly what sort of surgery the tree requires and if permission is needed, they are also extremely proficient in knowing how to word the application for a favourable outcome.
Kingston Council will aim to process, assess and give a decision within eight weeks.
There are a few exceptions where permission to either cut back or cut down a tree with a TPO order on it are not necessary:
- When a tree is either dangerous, dying or dead (Kingston Council will still require at least five days’ notice).
- The works fall in line with an obligation under an Act of Parliament.
- Some organisations that have been specified in the TPO may request works or removal to be carried out.
- Detailed planning permission consent has already been obtained and the tree or trees are immediately in the way of a starting development.
- Commercial orchards that need to carry out fruit tree pruning.
- When a tree or trees may be causing some form of legal nuisance, although checking with a fully qualified solicitor in these matters is highly recommended.
Trees and Hedges: Applying to Kingston Council for Permission to work on a Tree in a Conservation Area
Trees that fall within a conservation area and have a trunk diameter of 75mm when measured 1.5 metres from ground level are also protected and will, therefore, require you to apply for planning permission via Kingston Councils planning portal for any works or removal. It is important that this application is filled in and worded correctly to avoid rejection. Again, any good tree surgeon that you have engaged to do the works will happily advise if planning is required and will, free of charge, make the application for you. Remember, it is an offence to carry out any works before consent has been granted.
- Points 1 to 6 above also applies to trees in conservation areas.
Once your application has been received an officer or officers will visit the site and then decide whether they have any objections or require some adjustments to be made to your planned works. Should Kingston Council fail to give you a decision within six weeks, then you will be free to go ahead and carry out the proposed works.
When hiring a tree surgeon, it is imperative that you only use fully qualified, reputable and fully insured “tree surgeons Kingston”. A list of reputable tree surgeons in your area can be found through the Arboricultural Association. Unfortunately, there are cowboys out there posing as tree surgeons and who will willingly cut down or carry out works without bothering to get proper consent, leaving you, the tree owner with possible court action and an enormous fine to deal with.
Trees and Hedges: Kingston Council – Works carried out without Prior Permission
There are grave consequences to courts having the power to fine anyone carrying out works to a tree or trees that have been given protection without first obtaining prior permission.
A maximum penalty of £20,000 can be imposed when completely destroying a tree, with less severe fines of up to £2,500 for smaller works that have been carried out without permission.
There are also some circumstances where you will be required to replant another tree and these are:
- When cutting down or destroying a protected tree without permission.
- If Kingston Council has given you permission to cut down a protected tree on condition that you replant a new tree.
- When a tree with a TPO has been felled by you because it was dangerous, dead or dying but you did not give Kingston Council the required minimum of five day’s notice.
Trees and Hedges: Works Being Carried Out to Protected Trees in the Kingston Area
If you see works being done to “protected trees in Kingston” and feel concerned that the relevant permission has not been granted, ask either the tree surgeon undertaking the works or the landowner to let you see a letter or document giving them permission from Kingston Council. Alternatively, Kingston Council has an ISIS map online where you will be able to review the relevant planning history.
You can also make a report to Kingston Council should you think any tree works are unauthorised by filling in an online form (reporting a planning enforcement breach) or by contacting Kingston Council directly by email or phone.
If the works are in the process of being carried out, an urgent call to an officer at Kingston Council should be made as quickly as possible as they may be able to get to the site in time to prevent any further work.