Trees and hedges
Before carrying out any tree work you must check if a tree is covered 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 unsure if a tree is protected, please contact us.
If you are planning to carry out works under the exemption of a five-day notice, you should first seek the advice of a tree expert. You must also give the council five working days prior written notice before carrying out any work, except in an emergency, to avoid the risk of prosecution.
Felling of dead trees can be carried out without an application, but only after giving five working days prior written notice, except in an emergency.
Any work carried out in an emergency must be followed by notifying the council of the work as soon as possible 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.
It is not the intention of a TPO to keep unsafe trees, or to prevent work that is needed 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. This could be 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.
If you are concerned that important trees may be at risk of being felled or damaged and need protection, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. We are happy to discuss your concerns and where appropriate, we will assess whether a TPO should be placed on the tree or trees. We have strict criteria for where a tree may be eligible for a TPO and we will only issue 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.
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 give trees a high level of protection because the local authority must give permission on any proposals to fell or carry out 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 or more measured at 1.5 metres above ground level. If the trees in question measure this size or greater, then they are protected regardless of their species.
Contact your local planning office who can let you know if any protection exists on a tree. However, if the site in question has planning history, it may take a while to find out what restrictions apply to trees on the site. You can also check our Search for an application to see 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 carry out any works. You can download forms from our application forms and guidance pages.
It is not the case that a protected tree may never have any work done to it. However, the protection is there so the local authority can exercise control on what works, if any, are acceptable.
Requests to fell or carry out pruning works to protected trees must be submitted to the council in the form of a formal application detailing the work that you would like 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 carried out until the applications have been determined.
Other factors, outside of the control of the council, may have a bearing on tree works. For example nesting birds are protected by law, and pruning should not be carried out during the nesting season. There may also be restrictive covenants protecting some domestic trees. We recommend that anyone wishing to fell or prune a tree checks the deeds of their property.
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.
A formal notice is required for trees within conservation areas. This notice runs for six weeks from the date the council deems to be valid. Unlike a TPO application, if a conservation area tree works notification passes its deadline without a decision, then the work may proceed.
The Forestry Commission decides whether a felling licence application can be granted. If the trees in question are also subject to a TPO or within a conservation area, the council 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. It also doesn't apply to any pruning or remedial works to trees.
There are several exemptions which apply to this type of application as well as minimum requirements regarding the amount of felling works. It may be advisable to check with the Forestry Commission for clarification.
Planning restrictions exist on some sites prohibiting the removal of trees, separated from a TPO and conservation area restrictions. These are normally conditions attached to the granting of planning applications. An example is 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 council as the local planning authority.
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 looking to carry out what they believed to be exempt.
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.
A five-day notice can be applied for works on dead or dangerous trees. This gives the Arboricultural Officer time to assess the need for works while 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 five-day notices can be found on GOV.UK - Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas .
The original documents are held by Development control who can supply copies on request.
We will consider written requests to serve TPOs on trees received by letter or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The proposer must state why the TPO is needed, for example, what threat are the trees under. They would also need to provide details of the location and species of the trees to avoid misidentification.
For a TPO request to be successful the trees have to meet certain criteria such as being of good quality, in good condition and should be of visual importance viewing from public areas.
A TPO cannot be used solely to block development. It is also a legal document and must be correctly prepared. It cannot be prepared in an instant to protect trees, for example, trees that are in the process of being felled.
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.
To remove a section of hedgerow, a formal Hedgerow removal notice application must be made to the council. There is no charge for this application.
The application has a six-week deadline date, and no work may commence until a decision is made available.
These applications are usually to facilitate temporary access and the hedgerow should be replaced once the access is no longer required.
Yes. Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. gives local 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 email@example.com for a complaint form.
To find out if you are in a position to make a complaint, please take a look at this leaflet - GOV.UK - High hedges: complaining to the council
For more information regarding high hedges go to GOV.UK - High hedges: prevention and cure
If the issue involves a tree the council is responsible for, please report the issue to the Tree and Woodland Officers using MyWilts online reporting
If the trees are 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, for example by a TPO or if they are growing within a conservation area, then permission will need to be sought from us in the usual manner before carrying out 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.
For further help or advice please contact Planningtrees@wiltshire.gov.uk or 0300 456 0114
High hedges FAQs
The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 Part 8 came into effect on 1 June 2005 and gives local authorities the power to deal with complaints about high hedges.
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.
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.
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.
A fee of £500 should accompany the application for investigation. The fee is non-refundable, and no investigation will take place without receipt of cleared funds.
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. Contacting the council should be the last resort.
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.
Once the council is satisfied that the complaint can be dealt with, an exchange of representations and a site visit will take place.
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
No, the height restriction placed on the hedge will depend on the circumstances of each case.
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 carried out between March and August. Disturbing nesting birds may violate the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.
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. 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 £1,000.
If the owner of the hedge still fails to comply (without reasonable excuse), the council may make arrangements to have the necessary work carried out and charge the hedge owner for all the costs involved. These costs would be registered as a local land charge on the property.
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
Regus House, Room 2/15
1 Friary, Temple Quay
Bristol, BS1 6EA
Call: 0117 344 5687
Call: 0300 456 0114