Tree Preservation Orders
A tree is protected if it is covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), which is made by Mole Valley District Council (MVDC), or if it is located within a Conservation Area.
In the majority of cases, TPOs are made where it has been clearly demonstrated that trees of public amenity significance are under threat of damage or removal. Private amenity screening is not usually a consideration for a TPO, since the preservation orders are designed to provide MVDC with an element of control only, and may not necessarily stop the loss of some trees. In addition, protection cannot prevent reasonable pruning works from being carried out.
If you are concerned that publicly important or special trees are under threat of removal, please email email@example.com or call 01306 885001 in the first instance, providing as much detail as possible. MVDC will investigate and respond to your enquiry accordingly.
Viewing protected trees in Mole Valley
You can view TPOs in a specific area by typing a postcode into the 'My Mole Valley' box below. TPO details are displayed in the Environment section of the 'My Mole Valley' tab, and can be displayed on a map when 'Tree Preservation Orders' is selected in the Environment Category of the 'Maps' tab.
Alternatively, you can view and download a full list of the Mole Valley Tree Preservation Orders by area (see 'Downloads'). Selecting the link beside the address will display the full details of the TPO, including relevant documents.
Carrying out work on a protected tree
Everyone, apart from statutory undertakers, is required to inform MVDC if they plan to remove protected trees or parts that are dead or dangerous. MVDC cannot vary or revoke any consent, so both the applicant and MVDC need to ensure that any decision is right first time.
It is a criminal offence to cut down, prune or wilfully damage or destroy a tree covered by a TPO unless MVDC has permitted the work. Before commencing work on any tree, it is strongly recommended that you check the status by emailing details, including the site location and a description of the work you wish to carry out, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wish to carry out works on a tree protected by a TPO, you can make an electronic application via the Planning Portal website (see 'Internet links'). Alternatively, you can download a Application for Tree Works - Application form (see 'Internet Links'). When complete, email it as an attachment to email@example.com or send it to Planning Department, Mole Valley District Council, Pippbrook, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 1SJ. Guidance is also available to help filling in the form and providing any required documentary evidence (See 'Internet Links'). No fee is payable when applying for work on trees.
Tree Protection Framework - Frequently Asked Questions
“We should only protect special trees. However, if every tree was special then none would be so. Therefore we must be selective.”
Dr Charles Mynors QC, Specialist in tree related law
Why are trees protected?
Trees are mainly protected with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on development sites if MVDC feels that publicly important landscape trees might be unnecessarily removed or damaged where discussions fail to overcome officer’s concerns. Trees may also occasionally be protected in a Conservation Area where MVDC receives a formal Notice to remove trees it feels should be kept. TPOs give MVDC an element of control only, and the Council cannot prevent reasonable pruning or the removal of trees necessary to carry out acceptable development.
How are trees protected?
In accordance with the legislation, MVDC issues a formal document that identifies the property, lists the trees in a schedule, and identifies their location on a 1:1250 plan. A copy of the TPO is sent to the owners and anyone else with a legal interest in the land, as well as any neighbours near enough to be able to prune overhanging branches. Sections 197-198 of The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 set out the overriding duty, whilst The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012 and the online National Planning Policy Framework guidance set out the processes.
The Act states:
In the interests of public amenity, the Council has a duty to ensure that adequate provision is made for the protection and planting of trees when approving development and that it may do so through the use of conditions or by making Tree Preservation Orders to protect individual trees, groups, areas or woodlands.
MVDC’s Planning Tree Officer provides technical advice to managers and Planning Officers, councillors and customers on the quality of the trees in question and their wider landscape value. The main criterion is that the trees need to be healthy and visibly prominent to wider public views.
Can any tree be protected?
Yes, any species that would normally be considered a tree can be protected and at any size, although shrub species such as Laurel should not be. The trees do need to be of landscape importance however, in that they can be seen from wider public areas such as roads, and generally that will involve trees at the front of properties. They also need to be healthy, otherwise they might die or have to be excessively pruned on safety grounds. Similarly, trees that are causing damage cannot be included. Also, given the density of tree cover in Mole Valley, the trees need to be outstanding or special.
It is worth considering that protecting trees around somebody’s home is an imposition and should not be taken lightly. A TPO is a charge upon a property and could be considered an unnecessary complication to acceptable and routine management.
Can customers protect a tree?
Anyone can ask for trees to be protected, although MVDC will ask for certain information to identify the trees and to establish why they might need protection. We will need to know the address where the trees are situated and who you are. Importantly, we need to know why you believe the trees should be protected or are under threat, whether they are visible to public areas, what benefit you feel they provide, whether the trees are implicated in, or might cause, damage, the species involved, and whether the trees are privately or publicly owned. As a rule, the Council should not protect public trees in the ownership of another authority, and cannot do so without the permission of that authority.
It is also not usually necessary to protect someone’s trees at their own request if they are managing them well or just because they feel the trees are wonderful examples. Nor is it good practice to protect trees in an attempt to prevent a neighbour pruning their side if there is disagreement. The neighbour has a legal right to reasonably cut back an overhanging tree. Works to trees causing actual damage or a legally actionable nuisance may also be exempt from requiring formal consent
Which trees are protected?
As a general rule, special trees of high quality that are prominent should be selected, although trees can be protected for other reasons if they are under threat. Veteran and ancient trees can be included for conservation reasons provided that they can be retained safely in public areas. Veteran and aged trees are a special category. However, it needs to be clearly demonstrated that a real threat of the trees being removed exists.
Trees might also be protected for wildlife reasons, but wildlife interest is not sufficient on its own to warrant a TPO as the tree must also be publicly notable in itself. Wildlife reasons should only be used where the area has wildlife designations. For example, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), a Site of Nature Conservation Interest, Ancient Woodland, or supports specially protected animal species.
Trees within urban areas such as Leatherhead, Dorking, Fetcham, Ashtead and Bookham have a higher public value than those within the rural parts of the district where trees are far more numerous. Some village centres may nevertheless have a few very special trees at their heart. MVDC simply cannot protect all trees. Therefore it favours the best and most prominent.
Can MVDC protect trees when the offices are closed?
In an emergency, customers can call the Council’s out of hours service on 01372 204500 if they are concerned that trees are either being unlawfully felled, or if they feel that too many important trees are being removed to clear a potential development site to the detriment of public amenity. If the tree Officer or another senior officer is available, they will be contacted and asked to look into the matter, and they may go to site and make an emergency TPO if necessary.
Should all developments’ be protected as a precaution?
Protected trees must be sustainable. In other words, trees should not be protected if they have defects, or if the removal of other surrounding trees has left weaker trees exposed and liable to fall or be damaged in high winds. Nor should trees be retained too close to buildings where they might later cause damage or a nuisance, or be subject to repeated requests to prune them back excessively hard – ideally trees should be afforded good space on new developments. MVDC will not attempt to protect trees for the purpose of obstructing acceptable development. It is not appropriate to protect trees without good reason especially as the Council must make an amenity statement regarding the trees that explains why they were protected. Again, it is also not necessary to protect trees that are under good management and not appropriate to use a TPO for private screening.
How do MVDC approach TPOs on development?
Experience tells us that putting TPOs on potential development sites too often can lead to a culture of owners removing trees, often at weekends, before the Council can respond, in order to optimise land potential. MVDC take a positive approach with developers to avoid this happening. We discuss potential sites with developers at an early stage to achieve the retention of as many appropriate trees as possible. Therefore a balanced and considered view is taken to work with developers in order to achieve acceptable tree retention and appropriate developments that can be integrated with the local character of the area. This is considered to be working well in Mole Valley, and MVDC have very few cases of large scale pre-emptive tree removal.
Are trees such as English Oak protected by default?
No, trees have to be specifically made the subject of an Order or be located with in a Conservation Area to afford them protection. Less important trees can also be required to be retained on development sites for a limited period of up to 5 years by a condition of planning consent.
TPOs and Conservation Areas cannot be used to protect hedges and shrub species including plants such as Elder or Cherry Laurel, and the Council cannot control trees in a Conservation Area that have a stem diameter less than 75mm (3”) at chest height.