Types of tree preservation order

If you or your specialist advisers are concerned that the trees near your property might be causing a subsidence issue, you may need to find out if the tree is protected before anything can be done to the tree.

Your Local Planning Authority (who is usually the borough, unitary or district council) should be your first point of contact. If it turns out that your trees are protected, you will need written permission to remove them or to carry out any tree surgery works.

Legal protection

There are three main ways by which a tree may come under legal protection. The first is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), the second is where a planning condition has been applied that covers the tree, and the third is where a tree is within a conservation area. The latter does not protect the tree in the strictest sense; it merely requires that the owner gives notice to the council before works can be undertaken. TPOs may be applied to a tree of any age and of any species or type. No particular species or tree of a given size is given any automatic protection.

Liable for prosecution

If a tree is protected and you carry out work on it without permission, you may be liable to prosecution. You or your arboricultural consultant/contractor might apply to carry out work on protected trees using standard forms of application. Decisions to grant permission for works on trees in conservation areas will usually be made within 6 weeks in the case of conservation areas, or 2 months in the case of planning conditions or a TPO. Sometimes you might be required to plant replacement trees of the same type and in the same location if you wish to remove a protected tree.

The land owner's responsibility

A tree protected by a TPO remains the responsibility of the land owner, this includes looking after the tree and maintaining it if necessary. It also means that the land owner is responsible for any damage the tree may cause. There are a number of exemptions where a tree will not be protected by a TPO, including situations where "works to prevent or control a nuisance" might be able to be carried out even when a TPO has been made on the tree. The problem here is the legal requirement to prove that a nuisance exists, that plus if a TPO is on a tree in a neighbour's property and it is causing subsidence to your home, you cannot simply go next door and chop it down.

Four types of TPOs

There are four types of TPO: individual, group, area and woodland. Individual pertains to a single specific tree, while group (obviously) applies to a group of individual trees which when seen together make up a feature that they might not on their own. Area TPOs are not often made these days, but are still common in the UK, where all trees present in a designated area (when the order was originally made) are protected. A woodland TPO covers an entire wooded area, regardless of how old the trees are within.


If your property has been affected by subsidence at any point in the past, even if you have since had the problem corrected, you are likely to have trouble finding the subsidence home insurance you need to protect you should it reoccur. With HomeProtect you can get a quote for home subsidence insurance at a competitive price conveniently online.

We assess your case based on the risk your property is at now, not the risk it was at when it was still suffering subsidence. Buildings insurance with subsidence should come as standard but, when you are perceived as being in non-standard circumstances, other insurers will deny this to you.

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