Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Some of our services have temporarily stopped or changed. See our Changes to Council services page for services’ status and our Coronavirus updates section for latest information.

Are my Trees Protected

Protected Trees

Before carrying out work on any tree you will need to check to see if it is protected.

Trees may be protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), because they are Trees in Conservation Areas, or because they are part of a relatively new development (up to 5 years) and maybe protected by Planning Conditions.

Works in woodlands may also require a Felling Licence from the Forestry Commission.

Hedgerows in rural areas are protected if they are considered to be important.

It is an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, willfully damage or destroy any trees protected  by a TPO or within a Conservation Area.

If you cut down a protected tree without permission you could get a fine up to £20,000 from the Magistrates’ Court.

If you carry out work, without permission, but it doesn’t destroy the tree, you may still have to go to the Magistrates’ Court and can be fined up to £2,500.

In serious cases a person may be committed for trial in the Crown Court and, if convicted, is liable to a much larger fine.

If you are in any doubt about the protected nature of a tree, you should contact us giving the location and species of the tree, and a plan of the area if possible.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)

There are over 600 TPOs in effect in Tunbridge Wells Borough.

Copies of TPOs can be obtained by contacting us, please give the TPO number if you know it and the address

TPOs are usually made to protect trees which contribute to the visual amenity of an area. Any species of tree may be protected, either as an individual, part of a group or area of trees, or as a woodland.

General information about TPOs and trees in conservation areas is available on the Government Planning Guidance website

The council has a legal duty to protect trees and may choose to make a Tree Preservation Order to do the following:

  • Strengthen a condition imposed on a planning permission
  • Protect a tree or group of trees which are in danger of being cut down
  • Keep and protect woodland, trees or groups of trees which add to the appearance and character of the borough
  • Make sure that new development takes into account the landscape setting

How we decide which trees to protect

We may identify trees under threat from planning applications, from contact with local residents or for strategic landscape purposes. We will then consider any threat and the importance of the trees before we decide whether or not to make a TPO.

What happens when we make a TPO?

When we make a TPO, it becomes effectively immediately.  We then notify the landowners and occupiers, who are able to object to or support the order.

After consideration of any comments we receive we will confirm, withdraw or amend the TPO. We have 6 months to do this, or the TPO expires.

If you wish to work on a protected tree, you need to make an application.

Can I request a Tree Preservation Order be made?

Trees can be considered for a TPO if they are very visible from a public place, in good health and condition and under immediate threat of damage or removal.

To request a TPO please contact us with your details, the location of the tree or trees and the reasons for your request.

Trees in Conservation Areas

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has 25 Conservation Areas.

All trees which have a stem diameter of 75mm or above at 1.5m above ground level are automatically protected in a Conservation Area, and cannot be pruned or removed without first giving us 6 weeks’ written notice.  See Applications for carrying out works to protected trees.

Trees which have a diameter greater than 75mm (3 inches) when measured at 1.5 meters (5 feet) from ground level are proteted under the conservation area legislation introduced in 1967.

Shrubs are not protected in a Conservation Area, whilst trees that form a hedge and multi-stemmed trees are protected if they conform to the dimensions above.

Planning Conditions

Sometimes where development has taken place, trees are protected by planning conditions.

To find out if trees are protected by planning conditions, you will need to look at the planning history of an address.

If your tree is covered by a planning condition, you may need to write in if you want to carry out work to it.  The planning condition will make this clear.


If agricultural type hedgerows meet certain criteria, they are considered to be important.

If a hedgerow is considered to be important, then you may need to submit a Hedgerow Removal Notice.

You can find more information about managing hedgerows and the rules and regulations if you want to work on them on the GOV.UK website.

If you wish to work on a Hedgerow you will need to submit a Hedgerow Removal Notice

Applications for carrying out works to Protected Trees

Works to trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders

Anyone wanting to carry out any works to prune or cut down cut down a TPO tree, or otherwise involve removal of 'live' wood needs to apply for formal consent.

The Planning Portal allows you to submit an online application, or download and complete the application form from the right-hand menu.  There is no cost for submitting an application.

Once we have received you application, we have 8 weeks to consider it.  Please see What Happens to Your Application for more information on the process.

Works to Trees within a Conservation Area

Anyone wishing to carry out works to a tree in a Conservation Area which is not already protected by a Tree Preservation Order must give us 6 weeks written notice.

Trees in a Conservation Area which are exempt from the requirement to make a notification are those which have a diameter of less than 75mm (3") when measured at 1.5 meters (5 feet) from ground level (or not more than 100mm (4") diameter at 1.5 meters where the act is to improve the growth of other trees), fruit trees cultivated for fruit production, and trees which have to be felled in order to carry out development for which planning permission has been granted.

The Planning Portal allows you to submit an online application, or download and complete the application form from the right-hand menu. There is no cost for submitting a notification.

Once we have received you notification, we have 6 weeks to consider it.  Please see What Happens to Your Application

Dangerous Trees

If a protected tree is dead and/or immediately dangerous, then permission to make the tree safe is not required from us. The works should be limited to those necessary to make the tree safe however.

Anyone wanting to carry out tree work under this exemption must give us five days' notice in writing. You must contact us before carrying out the work, except in an emergency.

The responsibility lies with the owner and/or the person carrying out the work to prove that the tree is/was dangerous. Photographs and the written opinion of a qualified tree specialist can be helpful.

Only those works required to make the tree safe are included in this exemption.

What happens to your application

This guidance note explains what happens to your application or notification for works to protected trees or hedgerows.

Please note that we strongly advise that you discuss your proposals with any neighbours and others who may be affected.

For example, if you have proposed work to a tree on someone else’s land and we grant consent, the owner could still take legal action against you for trespass or damage to their property if they have not given their permission for you to proceed.

  1. Your application/notification will be checked to ensure the correct information has been provided.  If there are any problems we will contact you and you will be asked to provide the details we need. In some cases the Local Planning Authority (LPA) may ask for additional time to carry out their investigations and as a result may seek to agree a longer time period with you.
  2. Once everything is correct your application/notification will be registered and given a reference number.  Your acknowledgement letter will tell you this number and will give a date by which you can expect a decision.  It will also tell you who your Case officer is and how to contact us.
  3. Please ensure that you check the description of your application/notification.  If there are any errors you will need to advise us within 10 working days of the date of this letter.
  4. The Tree Officer may need to inspect and take photographs of the trees/hedgerows if they have not already done so.  If you need to be present to enable access to the site please phone us within 10 working days from the date of this letter.  In the absence of an arranged appointment we will assume that access is freely available and will visit during normal office hours.  You will not be advised of the date of the site visit.
  5. Having considered the views of the consultees and any further plans/ information, the Case officer will make a recommendation on your proposals.  They will balance any views for and against the proposal against current policy and guidance.  For this reason, we cannot be drawn into private neighbour disputes.
  6. Sometimes the issues are more complex and a decision will need to be made by our Planning Committee.  If this is the case we will let you know.  You can come to the meeting and speak about your proposal.  The letter we send you will give the details.
  7. The Local Planning Authority may:

    For trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO):
    • Grant consent with or without conditions
    • Grant consent for lesser work with or without conditions
    • Refuse consent
    • Issue a split decision e.g. part grant consent and part refuse consent
    For trees in a Conservation Area:
    • Raise no objection
    • Make the tree(s) the subject of a TPO
    For Hedgerows:
    • Issue a Hedgerow Retention Notice
    • Raise no objection
    • Issue a split decision e.g. part raise no objection and part issue a hedgerow retention
  8. The LPA aims to issue a decision on your application/notification before the expiry of the time period stated in the attached letter.
  9. Please be aware that it is not always possible to meet this target and delays sometimes occur.  If you wish to check the progress of your application/notification you may do so using the contact details provided.
  10. If a decision has not been issued within the target time:
  • For trees protected by a TPO you cannot proceed without a consent being granted or  you may be found guilty of committing an offence.
  • In the case of conservation area and hedgerow notifications, if the agreed   time extension has expired or six weeks have elapsed from the date on which   we validated your notification, you may proceed to carry out the works    notified.
  • Once the case has been decided you will be sent a decision notice or letter which will set out any conditions that you need to meet.
  • Authorised tree/hedgerow work should be carried out by a competent person working to current best practice.  If the work is not carried out within 2 years of submitting the notice or the decision date for TPO applications, a fresh notification/application will be required.
  • In the case of applications for consent under a TPO there are rights of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against refusals of consent, conditions attached to consent and the LPA’s failure to issue a decision within eight weeks of a valid application being registered. There is also a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against the issue of a Hedgerow Retention Notice. An appeal must be lodged within 28 days of the LPA’s decision, or from the date the decision was due. The details for making an appeal will be with your decision notice.
  • If a TPO has been made as a result of a notification for works to trees in a Conservation Area you can make a written objection to the order within 28 days of its making.  Details of how to do this will be included with the order documents.  You can also submit a fresh application for tree works under the order but, as your original proposal was considered inappropriate or detrimental, you may want to seek further advice on your intentions before proceeding.
  • A - Z of council services