It is widely acknowledged that the presence of trees enhances urban living. Aesthetics, living history, cleaner air, shade and wildlife are just some of the qualities that only trees can bring to an urban environment.
There are those who argue that trees are for the countryside - but this ignores the fact that there is a creative role for trees to play within the sphere of proper, considered and long-term planning. It is estimated that privately owned trees make up some 80% of all trees within urban areas.
Information on the benefits of trees and the Council’s approach to tree and woodland management can be found in the Trees & Woodlands Strategy (theme 2 of the Doncaster Green Infrastructure Strategy 2014-2028, adopted April 2014).
How are trees protected?
Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended), Doncaster Council, as local planning authority, has specific powers to protect trees and woodlands in the interest of amenity. Tree protection practices are briefly summarised below. For more detailed explanations please refer to the central Government Planning Practice Guidance - Tree Preservation Orders and Trees in Conservation Areas.
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) gives special protection to the tree or trees covered by the Order and an application for consent must be approved by the Council before any work is carried out. Any person contravening the provisions of a TPO by cutting down or pruning a tree without consent may be guilty of a criminal offence and liable on summary conviction to a heavy fine.
A TPO is used to protect selected trees and woodlands if their removal would have a significant negative impact on the local environment and its enjoyment by the public. It can be used to protect individual trees, trees within an area, groups of trees or whole woodlands. Protected trees can be of any size or species. Orders covering a woodland protect all of the trees and saplings within the identified area, including those planted or growing naturally after the Order was made.
A conservation area is an area designated by the Council because of its special character, architecture or historical importance. There are 46 Conservation Areas in Doncaster and, in recognition of the special contribution that trees can make to the character and appearance of such areas, they are afforded a level of protection similar to that of a TPO.
In general, the Council must be notified in writing six weeks before any work is carried out to any tree with a stem diameter of 75 millimetres or more so that it has opportunity to assess whether the tree(s) should be made subject to a TPO. Any person removing or pruning a tree within a conservation area, without first giving the statutory notification, may be guilty of a criminal offence and liable on summary conviction to a heavy fine.
Planning conditions are often applied to trees within new developments, whereby the local planning authority's written permission is required before any work is carried out on a tree or hedgerow. Planning conditions may be applied to newly planted trees as well as more mature specimens. You should contact Doncaster Council before any work is carried out.
The following controls are not administered by Doncaster Council but must also be considered:
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) confers protection of habitats commonly found in trees and used by nesting birds, bats and other protected species such as owls. Breach of this legislation is investigated by the police.
A Felling Licence may be required when felling a number of trees, even where they are not otherwise protected. It is a criminal offence to fell licensable trees without having first obtained a licence from the Forestry Commission.
Is Doncaster Council responsible for looking after protected trees?
No. The owner remains responsible for the trees, their condition and any damage they may cause but we offer free advice on their management.
Please use the contact details at the bottom of this page to request an appointment with a trees and hedgerows officer.
How do I get consent to prune or fell a protected tree?
All applications to work on trees protected by a TPO MUST be made on the standard national application form either on-line or by downloading the form from the Planning Portal. Notifications of work to trees within a conservation area can be submitted either on the application form, or by letter or e-mail but this must still include all the information required by the form.
It is essential that an application CLEARLY sets out what work is proposed. A proposal simply to ‘cut back branches’ is too vague because it fails to describe the extent of the work. Equally, a proposal to fell a tree will not be acceptable unless it is clear which tree is to be felled. Where an application is made for more than one tree it must be clear which operations are specified for each tree. You may find it helpful to consult a Tree Work Contractor or to discuss the proposal informally with the Council before making an application.
Please be aware that Doncaster Council will not be able to validate any application that is vague or incomplete. Please read the guidance notes carefully and make sure that all the information required by the application form is included.
Details of our processes can be found at Getting consent to work on a protected tree. The central Government Planning Practice Guidance - Tree Preservation Orders and Trees in Conservation Areas gives a detailed explanation of the application process and guidance on how TPO applications and Conservation Area Notifications are assessed.
How can I find out if a tree is protected or if someone has permission to prune or fell a tree?
Contact Doncaster Council giving details of the tree(s) and its/their location. Before you purchase a property, your solicitor should make a land charges search, which should reveal the existence of a TPO or whether your property is in a conservation area. Make sure your solicitor tells you whether any trees are protected. Copies of most TPOs can now be provided in electronic form or can be viewed at the Planning Departments offices during office hours. Please use the contact details at the bottom of this page to request information or to make an appointment with a trees and hedgerows officer.
Doncaster Council also keeps a register of applications and notifications to work on protected trees and of the decisions made. This information can now be viewed on-line via Doncaster Council's Public Access for Planning and can be found in the Planning part of the site by either a Property Search (entering the details of the property) or an Application Search (selecting either 'Tree Preservation Order' or 'Works to Tree in Conservation Area' from the Application Type drop-down list). A user guide is available on the page.
Please note that only information on conservation area tree works registered after 1 September 2007 is available on line. Information prior to this date can be made available for inspection at the Planning Department Offices during office hours.
There are trees that I think should be protected. What can I do?
Complete the e-form via the Tree Issue link giving details of the trees, and the reasons why you think they should be protected.
The future development of land may be a reason for protecting trees, but a TPO is not a tool for blocking development. Doncaster Council has to consider the risk to protected trees when deciding planning applications.
Do I always need Doncaster Council's permission to work on a protected tree?
No, there are some exceptions in the legislation whereby it is permissible to cut down or prune a protected tree without the consent of the Council.
However, anyone proposing to carry out work on a protected tree under these exemptions is strongly advised to discuss the proposals with a Trees and Hedgerows Officer first and written notice may have to be given to the Council five days before carrying out the work, except in an absolute emergency. This is in your interests - you could be prosecuted if you carry out the work but cannot prove that it was essential or if it exceeds that allowed by the exemptions.
The central Government Planning Practice Guidance - Tree Preservation Orders and Trees in Conservation Areas gives a detailed explanation of the exceptions to the requirement for a TPO application or Conservation Area Notifications.
What happens if I carry out work on a protected tree without permission?
Unlawful work to a protected tree is a criminal offence and can result in a criminal record. Any person deliberately destroying a tree, or damaging it in a manner likely to destroy it, could be fined up to £20,000 per tree if convicted in the magistrates' court, or subject to an unlimited fine upon indictment to the crown court. In determining the amount of the fine, the court will take account of any financial benefit arising from the offence. The Council can also require the planting of a suitable replacement tree.
For other offences (for example, cutting back branches that overhang a boundary without consent) fines can be up to £2,500.
For more detailed explanations please refer to the central Government Planning Practice Guidance - Tree Preservation Orders and Trees in Conservation Areas.
If you need further information on protected trees or would like to make an appointment with a trees and hedgerows officer please contact:
- tel: 01302 736000
- Trees and hedgerows
- Grass, trees and hedgerows
- Choosing a tree surgeon
- Getting consent to work on a protected tree
- Environmental planning