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Trees and hedges

Trees and hedges

Before carrying out any tree work it is important to find out whether the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), Conservation Area, or through another form of protection. You may have already been notified that a TPO covers trees that you own, either when the order was originally served or through a Local Land Charges search carried out by your solicitor prior to you purchasing the property. If you are at all unsure as to whether a tree is protected please contact us for clarification.


Anyone planning to do works under the exemption of a 5 day notice should first seek the advice of a tree expert and must give us 5 working days prior written notice before carrying out the work, except in an emergency, to avoid the risk of prosecution. Similarly, felling of dead trees can be carried out without an application, but only after giving 5 working days prior written notice, except in an emergency.

Any work carried out in an emergency must be followed by notifying us of the work as soon as practicable after the work starts. Anyone carrying out work under this exemption is strongly advised to retain evidence of the emergency (for example photographs), to reduce the risk of prosecution.

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It is not the intention of a TPO to keep unsafe trees, nor to prevent work that is needed in order to make a tree safe. There are specific exemptions within the legislation, which help to ensure works that must be done to a tree because of an imminent danger are not stopped. Examples are where a branch has split/broken in a gale and is hanging in the tree, or where a tree has begun to uproot and is likely to fall. In this case it is considered an actionable hazard. You must inform us if you fell a tree that is protected

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If you are concerned that important trees may be at risk of being felled or damaged and are in need of protection, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. We will be happy to discuss your concerns and where appropriate will assess whether a TPO should be placed on the trees. We have strict criteria for where a tree may be eligible for a TPO, and will only make a TPO where the tree is of sufficient size and quality, visible from a public place and is under some threat.

If you believe a protected tree is being felled or damaged please report this to us without delay. We will be able to clarify whether the tree is protected, and if the work contravenes a TPO we will launch an enforcement investigation.

Anyone who cuts down, uproots, tops, lops, wilfully destroys or wilfully damages a tree in contravention of a TPO or in a conservation area where proper notice has not been given to us, is guilty of a criminal offence and could be liable to a fine of up to £20,000.

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What protection exists for trees?

There are several different types of tree protection:

Tree Preservation Orders can be placed on trees by the local authority. Tree Preservation Orders, (known as TPOs), can be placed on either individual trees, or on groups, areas or even entire woodlands. TPOs afford the trees a high level of protection because the local authority must give consent on any proposals to fell or undertake any works to them.

Trees within conservation areas are protected as long as they meet the minimum size requirements. They must have a trunk diameter of 7.5cm measured at 1.5 metres above ground level. If the trees in question measure this size or greater than they are protected regardless of their species.

Contact your local planning office who will be able to inform you as to what, if any, protection exists on a tree or trees. However, if the site in question has planning history it may take a while to ascertain what restrictions apply to tree(s) on the site. You can also check on our online mapping systems to check if a tree is covered by a TPO or is in a Conservation Area.

If your site is within a conservation area or is covered by a TPO you will need to apply for permission to do the works, you can download our forms from the application forms and guidance pages.

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It is not the case that a protected tree may never have any work done to it. However, the protection is there in order that the local authority can exercise control on what works, if any, are acceptable. Therefore, requests to fell or carry out pruning works to protected trees must be submitted to us in the form of a formal application detailing the work that you wish to undertake. This application should include a site plan of the property/area in question, (hand drawn plans are acceptable), and a clear indication of the work proposed. No work should be undertaken until the applications have been determined.

Other factors, outside of the control of the council, may have a bearing on tree works. Nesting birds, for example, are protected by law, and pruning should not be undertaken during the nesting season. There may also be restrictive covenants protecting some domestic trees and therefore we would recommend that anyone wishing to fell or prune a tree should check the deeds of their property.

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In the case of a tree or trees covered by a TPO, the application has a deadline of eight weeks from the date the council deems it to be valid. The applicant should receive a decision before the eight weeks have expired. However, in the unlikely event that this doesn’t happen, the tree is still protected and work cannot commence until permission is given.

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In the case of trees within conservation areas, a formal notice is also required. However this notice runs for six weeks from the date the council deems it to be valid. Unlike the TPO application, if a conservation area tree works notification passes its deadline without a decision then the work may proceed.

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Felling licences

The Forestry Commission decides whether a felling licence application can be granted. If the trees in question are also the subject of a TPO or are within a conservation area then we will be consulted by the Forestry Commission.

Felling licences must be obtained from the Forestry Commission, for felling and thinning of trees. However, this does not apply within domestic gardens, churchyards, orchards or public open space, nor does it cover any pruning or remedial works to the trees.

There are a number of exemptions which apply to this type of application however, along with minimum requirements regarding the amount of felling works, and it may therefore be advisable to check with the Forestry Commission for clarification.

Planning applications

Planning restrictions exist on some sites prohibiting the removal of trees, other than through TPO and Conservation Area restrictions. These normally come about as conditions attached to the granting of planning applications. One example may be that permission to build an extension has been granted at a particular property, subject to a large tree in the garden being retained. That tree would then be the subject of a planning condition requiring its retention and protection during building construction. Works to trees protected by a planning condition require written approval from the Local Planning Authority.

Trees - frequently asked questions


Under the Tree Preservation Order Regulations that have been replaced, there were several circumstances where consent from the local planning authority was not required to carry out work to protected trees. This included trees that were dead or had become dangerous. The broad scope of this exemption presented some uncertainty for those wanting to carry out what they believed to be exempt work. The new Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012 omit dying from the exceptions. They also introduce an exemption for removing dead branches from a living tree.

In the case of a dead or dangerous tree(s), a five day notice can be applied for. This affords the Arboricultural Officer time to assess the need for works whilst allowing urgent works to be carried out without the need for a formal application.  A five day notice can be requested in the form of an email with details of the location, species and the reason for the works.  Photographs are also recommended to assist in determining the request.

Further information regarding TPO applications and 5 day notices can be found on gov.uk.

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The original TPO documents are held by Development Control and they are able to supply copies on request.

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We will consider written requests to serve TPOs on trees received by letter or emailed to Planningtrees@wiltshire.gov.uk The proposer would have to state why the TPO was needed, (i.e. what threat are the trees under?), and would need to provide details of the location and species of the trees in order that no misidentification occurs. We would then asses the request.

In order for a TPO request to be successful the trees would have to meet certain criteria such as being of good quality and in good condition and should be of visual importance from public areas.

A TPO cannot be used solely to block development. Furthermore a TPO is a legal document and must be correctly prepared. This will take an amount of time and it cannot be prepared in an instant to protect trees, for example, which are in the process of being felled.

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Hedgerows on non-domestic land are usually protected by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. These may consist of hedgerows on field boundaries or roadsides for example, but not on garden boundaries. These are usually to facilitate temporary access and the hedgerow should be replaced once the access is no longer required.

If someone wishes to remove a section of hedgerow they must make a formal application (Hedgerow Removal Notice) to the us. There is no charge for such an application but the application has a six-week deadline date and no work may commence until the decision is made available.

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Yes there is. It came in as Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. It gives councils power to intervene in hedge dispute between neighbours, but only as a last resort. The complainant must be able to demonstrate that they have tried to resolve the dispute both verbally and in writing before the council can deal with the complaint. If these attempts are unsuccessful, they must also write to the hedge owner informing them of their intention to complain to the council.

For the trees to constitute a high hedge they must be:

  • made up of a row of two or more trees 
  • more than two metres in height 
  • capable of obstructing light or views 
  • evergreen or semi-evergreen 
  • growing on land owned by somebody else

Making a complaint about a high hedge incurs a fee which is payable to the council with the completed complaint form. Please contact planningtrees@wiltshire.gov.uk for a complaint form.

To find out if you are in a position to make a complaint please see leaflet High Hedges – Complaining to the Council

For more information regarding high hedges see the gov.uk page 'high hedges complaints: prevention and cure'

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This will normally be the responsibility of the tree owner. The council will only take responsibility for the maintenance of trees we own. If this is the case please concact the woodland officers.

If the trees are not owned by us, the complainant will need to contact the owner of the trees and discuss the situation with them. If the trees are protected (e.g. by a TPO or by virtue of the fact that they are growing within a conservation area etc), then permission will need to be sought from us in the usual manner before undertaking any works. It is possible to carry out works on a tree that is not in your ownership but is impacting on your property. Please contact the planning office for more information.


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For further help or advise please contact Planningtrees@wiltshire.gov.uk or 0300 456 0114

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High hedges - frequently asked questions

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 Part 8 which came into effect on 1 June 2005 gives local authorities the power to deal with complaints about high hedges.

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A high hedge is defined in the act as a barrier to light or access, formed wholly or predominantly by a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees and rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level. Individual trees and shrubs are not covered by this legislation.

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The act does not cover complaints about the effects of a high hedge’s roots. The council will not deal with complaints made about roots under this legislation. This issue is a civil matter to be dealt with between you and your neighbour. 

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A complaint can be made under this act by the owner or occupier of the property affected by the hedge. The property must be residential and the hedge must impair the reasonable enjoyment of your home and garden. forms and guidance can be found on the download page. 

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A fee of £350 should accompany the application for investigation. The fee is non-refundable and no investigation will take place without receipt of cleared funds.

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The council may decline to accept any complaint if it is raised inappropriately or if the applicant has failed to take all reasonable steps to resolve the issue prior to raising a complaint. Remember that contacting the council should be your last resort. 

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The complainant should be able to clearly demonstrate ways they have tried to resolve the matter before contacting us. The complainant will need to provide written evidence that they have tried to reconcile the situation with their neighbour and any responses they received. 

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Once the council is satisfied that the complaint can be dealt with, an exchange of representations and a site visit will take place.

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In most cases the council will issue a ‘remedial notice’ on land which will be binding on whoever owns the property, the current occupier or their successors. The notice sets out:

  • what works should be carried out to the problem hedge
  • what preventative action is needed to maintain a reasonable height
  • what penalties the occupant will incur if they fail to comply with the notice
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No, the height restriction placed on the hedge will depend on the circumstances of each case. 

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Yes, there will be an issue date on the notice and a date 28 days after known as the ‘operative date’. The notice will also detail a ‘compliance period’ which is a reasonable amount of time given to the hedge owner so they can make arrangements for the work to be carried out. Only after the compliance period expires will the council commence with non-compliance proceedings. 

Due to nesting birds, it is recommended that hedge cutting should not be undertaken between March and August. Disturbing nesting birds may violate the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

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Failure to comply with the requirements of the remedial notice is an offence. The hedge owner can be convicted by a Magistrates Court and fined up to £1,000. The court may then issue an order for the offender to carry out the required work within a set period of time. Failure to comply with the court order would result in another fine of up to £1,000. After this point, the court would be able to set a daily fine of up to £50 for every day the work remains outstanding. It is also an offence to obstruct an officer of the council exercising a power under this Act and can also be punishable by a fine of up to £1000.

If the owner of the hedge still fails to comply (without reasonable excuse), the council may make arrangements to get the necessary work carried out and then charge the hedge owner for all the costs involved. These costs would be registered as a local land charge on the property.

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Yes, any appeal by the hedge owner against a remedial notice must be made in writing. Appeals should be submitted on an official form provided by the Planning Inspectorate. The forms are available on the Planning Inspectorate website or from the High Hedge Appeals Team at:

High Hedge Appeals Team
Planning Inspectorate
Regus House, Room 2/15
1 Friary, Temple Quay
Bristol, BS1 6EA

Tel: 0117 344 5687


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Last updated: 13 July 2017 | Last reviewed: 13 July 2017