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Trees and hedges

Trees and hedges

You must get consent before any work is carried out on protected trees, except in cases where the tree is dead or dangerous. When permission is granted for the felling of a tree, a replanting condition may be appropriate to make sure the tree is replaced with the same or a similar species. The tree preservation order (TPO) then automatically applies to the new tree.

Anyone wishing to carry out work on trees over 75mm in diameter within a conservation area will need to give the council six weeks' notice of their intention. This ensures the council can make a TPO where necessary. You can use our online mapping system to check if the tree is within a conservation area or covered by a Tree Preservation Order. Planning application forms and guidance can be downloaded from the pack finder page

Prosecution for unauthorised works to trees can lead to a maximum fine of £20,000 or twice the value of the tree. This applies to breaching a TPO or works to a tree in a conservation area where proper notice has not been given to us.

Many planning permissions have landscaping conditions attached to them to make sure that new development blends in with the surroundings. Considerable help and advice is given to applicants to make sure that a high standard is met.

We are consulted on applications for felling licences administered and determined by the Forestry Commission. Further information can be found on the Forestry Commission website. Certain trees are exempt from felling licensing such as garden or fruit trees, trees under eight centimetres in diameter and trees that are either dead or dangerous if the felling is in accordance with an approved plan under the Dedication or Forestry Grant schemes.

What protection exists for trees?

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO's) can be placed on trees by the local authority. TPO's can be placed on individual trees, groups, areas or even entire woodlands. TPO's give the trees a high level of protection as local authorities must give consent on any proposals for potential work or felling.

Trees within conservation areas are protected so long as they meet the minimum size requirements. Trees 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, they are protected regardless of their species. In cases where removal of trees is proposed under a thinning exercise, the size at which the protection becomes valid is increased to a trunk diameter of 10cm measured at 1.5 metres above ground level. 

Felling licences

Felling licences must be obtained from the Forestry Commission, for felling and thinning of trees.  This does not apply to domestic gardens, churchyards, orchards or any pruning or remedial works to trees. There are a number of exemptions which apply to this type of application along with minimum requirements regarding the amount of felling works. It may be advisable to check with the Conservation Team or Forestry Commission for clarification. 

Tel: developmentmanagement@wiltshire.gov.uk
Email: 0300 456 0114

Planning restrictions prohibiting the removal of trees can be in place without a TPO or conservation area restriction. In most cases prohibition is a result of planning permission conditions e.g. permission to build an extension granted at a property subject to a large tree in the garden being retained.

Trees - frequently asked questions


Work can be done to protected trees, the protection is just there to ensure the local authority can exercise what works, if any, would be appropriate. Requests to fell or prune protected trees must be submitted to the council through a formal application. You can download any of our forms on the application forms and guidance page. 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 your application has been approved. 

Trees covered by a TPO

If a tree has a TPO, the application has a deadline of eight weeks from the date it is received by the council. The applicant should receive a decision before the eight weeks have expired but in the unlikely event this doesn’t happen, the tree is still protected and work cannot commence until permission is given.

Trees within a conservation area

A formal notice is also required for trees in conservation areas. This notice has a deadline of six weeks from the date it is received by the council. Unlike the TPO application, if the notification passes its deadline without a decision then you may proceed with the work.

Felling licences

The Forestry Commission decides whether a felling licence application can be granted. If you wish to register for a felling licence please use the Forestry Commission website. If the tree(s) in question are also the subject of a TPO or are within a conservation area then we will be consulted by the Forestry Commission.

In the case of planning restrictions (which normally apply to the felling of trees only), the Development Control team should be contacted and the necessary amendments or applications should be submitted.

Tel: 0300 456 0114
Email: developmentmanagement@wiltshire.gov.uk

There are other conditions that may restrict works that can be carried out such as nesting birds which are protected by law. Pruning during the nesting season should be undertaken with extreme care. There may also be restrictive covenants protecting some domestic trees so we recommend anyone wishing to fell a tree checks the deeds of their property. 


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The new regulations surrounding Tree Preservation Orders exempt works on trees that have died or become dangerous. Due to uncertainty around dying trees, they have now been removed from the list of exemptions. The new regulations have also introduced an exemption for removing dead branches from a living tree.

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The original TPO documents are held by development control and they are able to supply copies at a charge. The charge will vary slightly depending on the size of the document.

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We will consider serving a TPO on an unprotected tree if it is in good condition and of visual importance to public areas. When requesting a TPO, the proposer needs to state why the TPO is needed (is the tree under threat?), where the location of the tree is and the species so the team can identify the right tree. 

TPO’s cannot be introduced solely to block development. It may take some time to issue a TPO as it is a legal document and must be correctly prepared. Trees in the process of being felled cannot be protected instantly. 


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Hedgerows on non-domestic land are usually protected by the Hedgerow Regulations Act 1997.The protection applies to hedgerows on field boundaries or roadsides but not on garden boundaries. If you wish to completely remove a section of protected hedgerow you must make a formal removal application to the council. There is no charge for this application and although there is a six-week deadline, no work may commence until the council's decision is made available.

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This will normally be the responsibility of the tree owner. The council will only take responsibility for trees they own, in this case please contact Wiltshire’s tree inspection officer.

If the tree is not owned by the council, the complainant will need to contact the owner of the trees and discuss the situation with them. If the trees are protected (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 the council. Please visit the application forms and guidance page.


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Copies of TPO documents can be requested by contacting development management at: 

Email: developmentmanagement@wiltshire.gov.uk
Tel: 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: 30 May 2017 | Last reviewed: 30 May 2017