Tree preservation orders

Information about tree preservation order, council owned trees, apply to carry out work to a tree, how much will it cost, what if it is refused, types of trees covered, find out if a tree is covered, viewing applications and how to object or support.

What is a tree preservation order and its purpose?

A tree preservation order (TPO) protects trees which make a significant impact on their local surroundings.  This is particularly important where trees are in immediate danger.

The principal effect of a tree preservation order is to prohibit and make it an offence to:

  • cut down
  • uproot
  • top
  • lop
  • wilfully damage trees, or
  • wilfully destroy trees

without the council's planning authority's permission.

Criminal offence

Anyone who undertakes such is guilty of an offence. Anyone found guilty of this offence is liable, if convicted in the Magistrates Court, to a fine of up to £20,000. In serious cases a person may be committed for trial in the Crown Court and, if convicted, is liable to an unlimited fine. In determining the amount of any fine for this offence, the court must have regard to any financial benefit, which has accrued, or is likely to accrue, in consequences of the offence.

Assessing trees for a TPO

Tree preservation orders (TPOs) are used to protect selected trees and woodlands if their removal would have a significant impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public. The benefit may be present or future; trees may be worthy of preservation for their intrinsic beauty or for their contribution to the landscape or because they serve to screen an eyesore or future development.

The value of the trees may be enhanced by their scarcity, and the value of a group of trees or woodland may be collective only. Other factors, such as importance as a wildlife habitat, may be taken into account, which alone would not be sufficient to warrant a TPO.

In order to assess the value of trees for their inclusion within a TPO, this council carries out an amenity evaluation, which takes into account the above factors as well as other set criteria. This ensures that the council is consistent in the way it makes TPOs. 

Working on protected trees

Formal consent is normally required to cut down or carry out work to protected trees. Applications to undertake such work are made to the council who will inspect the tree or trees with reference to each individual application. Before making a decision, criteria are used to assess the tree's amenity contribution whilst taking into account the applicant's reason for undertaking works.

The council will not usually refuse consent for works to trees covered by a TPO where it can be proven that such work is necessary. For example, where trees are affecting nearby buildings and causing structural damage, or where they become an inherent danger due to their size, location and condition. However, each tree is assessed individually. The existence of a TPO allows the council to require replacement planting should a tree need to be removed.

What type of trees can be covered by a tree preservation order ?

All types and species, including hedgerow trees, but not hedges, bushes or shrubs. A tree preservation order can cover anything from a single tree to groups of trees and woodlands.

How can I object to or support a proposed tree preservation order?


If, following the notification of a proposed tree preservation order, you want to support the order, write to the council within 28 days saying why and giving details of the relevant trees. The council will take these comments into account when it decides whether to confirm the order. 


Should you wish to object to a tree preservation order you should submit a written objection within 28 days of the date you receive your notification of the proposal. The council will take these comments into account when it decides whether to confirm the order. 

Please note: The notification will give you details of how and where to submit your comments.

How do I apply for consent to undertake works to a tree(s) covered by a tree preservation order?

If you wish to apply to carry out works to a tree(s) covered by a TPO you will need to seek permission by completing an application form. 

Please note:  You must complete all sections of the application form and where answering 'Yes' to Section 8 of the application form, please ensure that the requested supporting documents are provided. 

If you are applying to prune a tree you must specify 'a full, clear and detailed specification of the works applied for'. You may find it helpful to contact an arborist (tree surgeon) to provide guidance on appropriate tree work and accompanying detailed specification, in accordance with British Standard 3998.

The application process takes approximately 8 weeks.

Visit our planning application page  which gives you access to all forms of planning applications including works to trees covered by a TPO and works to trees within a conservation area. You will, within the process of obtaining the correct forms, need to specify which type of application form you require.

Alternatively you can download the application form from this page.

Tree Preservation Order application form (pdf 558kb opens in new window)

You are advised to note carefully the guidance notes that accompany the application form.

Tree works application - Guidance notes - (pdf 103kb opens in new window)

How much will my application cost?

There is currently no charge. 

What happens if my application is successful?

Any works undertaken on trees on your property that you have been granted permission to carry out must comply with regulation BS3998. We are unable to provide copies of this British Standard document or make it available to view online as it is a copyright-protected document.  Members of the public are however, welcome to make an appointment to view a copy at their local customer service centre free of charge (no photocopying allowed).

Alternatively you can purchase your own copy of the BS3998 document.  However, if you're employing a tree surgeon to carry out the work, most will have their own copy and/or will be aware of the standards of compliance required for any work to be carried out.

You can purchase a copy of the BS3998 document:

Tree Work Recommendations document BS 3998:2010 (external website)

What happens if my application is refused?

If your application is refused you can lodge an appeal against the decision. The following link gives access to the appeal process.

Guide to making a TPO appeal - Planning Portal (external website)

Where can I view applications relating to protected trees?

View applications through the council's Public Access system:

Public access planning (external East Riding website)

Follow the instructions to the 'Planning > Simple Search' page.

Choose the type of search required and enter the required information into the search box. You can also register your details on this website in order to submit comments against any pending applications.

Please note:  To view the documents associated with the application, you will need to select the 'Associated Documents' tab and then select the link 'View associated documents'.

Choose the type of search required and enter the required information into the search box.  You can also register your details on this website in order to submit comments against any pending applications.

Facilities are available for you to view current applications on the Public Access website at any of the council's libraries.

Find your nearest library

You can also print copies at a charge.

View library charges

For ease of search you will need either the application reference number, postcode or single line of an address to view the application. A member of the library staff will be able to assist you if required.

What if there is wildlife in the tree?


Many wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 making it an offence to kill, injure or take wild birds, their young, their eggs or nests. 

Non-urgent major tree work involving tree removal/reduction and hedge cutting operations should not normally be undertaken during the bird nesting/breeding season, which is considered to be from 1 March to 31 August, subject to the species and the season. 

If any proposed works is scheduled to take place in the main bird breeding season the potential impact on nesting birds and the risk of committing an offence is increased. 

Therefore, in such an instance the council would advise that a survey for active bird nests should be carried out. 

If active nests are found works should be avoided until the breeding attempt has ended.

Further information can be found at the RSPB website detailed below.

RSPB - Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981- Section 1 (external website)


Bats are European Protected Species and are protected by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).  

RSPB - Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981- Section 1 (external website)

It is an offence to kill, injure, or take, any bat.  It is also an offence to interfere with places used by bats for shelter or protection, or to intentionally disturb bats occupying such places.  The presence of bats or bat roosts is not always obvious and it is recommended that you consult a qualified bat surveyor. 

The Forestry Commission website contains more details and guidance:

Forestry Commission (external website)

How do I report a wildlife offence?

If you suspect an offence is/has been committed in relation to wild birds or a protected species then report the incident to your local police force. 

Ask for the case to be investigated by a Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) if possible and ask for an incident number so you can go back to them if needed.  If the offence is on-going report it to the police by telephoning 101.

Will I have to plant a replacement tree?

The council will require replanting where trees protected by a tree preservation order are felled and where it is feasible to do so.  In all other cases, the council will seek to encourage replanting to ensure continuity of natural visual amenity. 

Visual amenity, beauty and diversity of plants in your area is important to its character and the council recommend that all felled trees are replaced with species suitable for the location.

Replacement planting is vital to ensure that your area and the East Riding of Yorkshire remains an attractive place with a healthy environment.

Do I need permission to cut down a dead or dangerous tree that I own?

Unless work is urgently necessary because there is an immediate risk of serious harm, five working days prior written notice must be given to the authority before cutting down or carrying out other work on a dead tree. The authority’s consent for such work is not required.

The exceptions allow removal of dead branches from a living tree without prior notice or consent.

Tree owners, their agents and authorities should consider biodiversity. Dead trees and branches can provide very valuable habitats for plants and wildlife, which may also be protected under other legislation. To conserve biodiversity it can be good practice to retain dead wood on living trees and at least the lower trunk of dead ‘ancient’ or ‘veteran’ trees unless, for example, safety reasons justify removal. Safety has priority, but safety considerations may not necessitate removal of all dead branches on living trees or the whole of a dead tree. It may be helpful to seek expert arboricultural and ecological advice.

Where a dead tree not covered by the woodland classification is removed, the landowner has a duty to plant a replacement tree.

For further information refer to Planning Practice Guidance.

What is my common law right?

If a tree or hedge located on neighbouring land overhangs your property, you can exercise your common law right to prune any overhanging branches, or encroaching roots back to the boundary, providing you do not de-stabilise the tree or hedge, or damage it unduly.

You must not go beyond the boundary without the tree owners consent and any material removed from the tree or hedge should be offered back to the owner. 

If the tree is protected either by a tree preservation order or is located within a conservation area, you must obtain the consent of the council prior to any works taking place.

How do I deal with a tree causing damage to property?

If you believe trees are causing structural damage to your property, the first step you should take is to contact your buildings insurer.  If the damage is not covered by insurance or you don’t wish to contact your insurance company, you should contact a structural engineer and arboriculturalist (tree surgeon) to determine whether trees are implicated in the damage.
You or the tree owner must establish if there are restrictions on carrying out work to the trees ( is the tree protected?), which can include protection by a Tree Preservation Order, being located within a Conservation Area or by a Planning Condition before any work is carried out.

In all cases if the trees are not in your ownership, you should first approach the owner to see if they will carry out any works to resolve the problem.  If the owner is unwilling to act you may wish to exercise your common law right  or seek your own legal advice.

What if I don't agree with my neighbour's request to work on my tree?

If the neighbour is unable to resolve the problem by exercising their common law right and you do not give them consent to work beyond the boundary or enter your land, you may wish to seek independent legal advice on this civil matter.  Legal advice can often be obtained from the citizens advice bureau or a solicitor.

Citizens advice bureau (external website)

If the tree is protected either by a tree preservation order or is located within a conservation area, the consent of the council must be obtained prior to any works taking place including the neighbour implementing their common law right.

How tall can a tree grow?

Trees will naturally grow to the normal mature height for their species and the council has no powers to deal with tall trees unless they fall within the parameters of the High Hedge legislation

Can the council work on private trees?

Yes. The council has powers under the Local Miscellaneous Provisions Act to deal with trees on private land when they are considered to be imminently dangerous. 

This is where there is a real danger of them causing damage to property, or injury to people, but not a perceived danger due it being a tall tree or a tree located close to a building. 

The Local Miscellaneous Provisions Act is a last resort and we would expect you to write to us with your reasons for considering the trees to be imminently dangerous. 

A tree report from a qualified arboriculturist (tree surgeon) could be provided to prove that your concerns are justified.  The council has no powers to work on private trees that are healthy.

How do I report an enforcement issue?

To report works being carried out on protected trees that you do not believe have received the benefit of consent from the council, please contact us by:

Email:  treesandlandscape@eastriding.gov.uk
Telephone: (01482) 393719

Who do I contact if the tree is owned by the council?

The council owns and controls quite a number of trees growing on council owned land including public parks, school grounds and on public highways and it carries out maintenance and tree planting where appropriate.

If the tree is on council-owned land you will need to discuss your concerns with the council's streetscene services.