Communicating the South Downs

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Works to Trees & Hedges

You will need permission to carry out work on trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and may also need it in conservation areas.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)

It is an offence to carry out work to a TPO tree without permission.

All types of tree can be covered by a TPO – including hedgerow trees – but not hedges, bushes and shrubs.

The TPO can cover anything from a single tree, groups of trees or woodlands.

If a tree has a TPO, the owner remains responsible for its condition but will need permission before carrying out any cutting back or cutting down the tree unless:

  • it is dying, dead or dangerous (see paragraph below),
  • it is to allow compliance with a statutory obligation,
  • it is directly in the way of development that is about to start for which detailed planning permission has been granted that includes works to the tree,
  • it is in a commercial orchard, or pruning fruit trees in accordance with good horticultural practice,
  • you have a felling licence from the Forestry Commission or the work is in accordance with one of the Commission’s grant schemes.

However, in all of these cases we recommend that you check first. For dead, dying and dangerous requests you must give a minimum of five working days notice before carrying out any works unless imminently dangerous. Please provide a description of the proposed works, a sketch plan showing the location of the tree, species (if known) and photographs. This is in your interest as you may be prosecuted if the work is unauthorised. All dead, dying and dangerous requests should be sent to planning@southdowns.gov.uk.

Conservation areas

For trees in conservation areas, which are not subject to a TPO, you will need to give six weeks’ notice before carrying out any work. This allows us to confirm whether the proposed work is acceptable in terms of good arboricultural practice and visual amenity. The exceptions to this are trees less than 75mm in diameter (measured 1.5m above the ground) or 100mm if thinning to help the development of better trees.

Note: The dead, dying and dangerous exemption also applies in conservation areas. Please refer to the above note.

Applications for works to trees in a conservation area or covered by a TPO

If you want to carry out work to a protected tree (and don’t need a felling licence) you will need to fill in the relevant application form. You should always provide as much evidence as possible to support your case. We aim to determine applications for work to a TPO tree in eight weeks and for trees in a conservation area in six weeks.

Felling licence

If you want to cut down trees containing more than five-cubic metres of wood in any calendar quarter (excluding trees in gardens), whether or not a TPO is in force, you will also need to apply to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence.

Note: The calendar quarters are: 1 January to 31 March, 1 April to 30 June, 1 July to 30 September, 1 October to 31 December.

Countryside hedgerow removal

Hedgerows are protected by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. Under these regulations, it is against the law to remove or destroy certain hedgerows without permission from the local planning authority. Permission is required before removing hedges that are at least 30 years old and meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Marks pre-1850 parish or township boundary.
  2. Incorporates or is associated with an archaeological site.
  3. Marks the boundary of, or is associated with, a pre-1600 estate or manor.
  4. Forms an integral part of a pre-parliamentary enclosed field system.
  5. Contains certain species of birds, animals or plants listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
  6. Includes between five and seven woody species in a 30 metre length.
  7. Runs along a bridleway, footpath, road used as a public path, or a byway and includes at least 4 woody species on average in a 30 metre length.

If you want to remove a hedgerow, or part of a hedgerow, covered by the above criteria, you will need to submit a hedgerow removal application.

More guidance can be found on the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs website.

These regulations do not apply to any hedgerow within the curtilage of, or marking the boundary of, the curtilage of a dwelling house.

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