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What Happens If You Cut Down a Tree with a Preservation Order?

5-8 Min Read

In the UK, Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) serve as vital legal protections for trees that contribute significantly to local environments and heritage. Instituted primarily by local councils, TPOs safeguard trees that enhance public spaces, provide ecological benefits, and have historical significance. This article explores the robust legal framework supporting TPOs, outlining what happens when these regulations are breached.

Understanding Tree Preservation Orders

A Tree Preservation Order is a regulation made by local planning authorities aimed at protecting specific trees, groups of trees, or woodlands. These orders are put in place to prevent damage to or the removal of trees that are deemed significant for public enjoyment, environmental health, or aesthetic value. TPOs are enforced under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, empowering local authorities to ensure that any work done on protected trees has explicit consent.

Legal Implications of Violating a TPO

Cutting down, uprooting, or wilfully damaging a tree protected under a TPO without the necessary permission can lead to severe penalties. These may include fines of up to £20,000 if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court, or an unlimited fine if the case escalates to the Crown Court. Offenders might also be mandated to plant a replacement tree in the same location. Such stringent measures underscore the seriousness with which tree preservation is regarded in the UK. For a deeper understanding of the legal implications of violating a TPO, refer to the detailed analysis in the Arboricultural Journal (Read the article).

Case Study Analysis

A notable case occurred in Goring-on-Thames, where a landowner illegally felled a tree covered by a TPO. The case, adjudicated at Isleworth Crown Court, resulted in a hefty fine for the landowner, highlighting the stringent enforcement of tree protection laws. This case serves as a pertinent reminder of the legal consequences of non-compliance with TPOs and the vigilance of local authorities in prosecuting such offences (Read more about this case).

Environmental and Community Impact

The unauthorised removal of protected trees not only disrupts local ecosystems but also diminishes the community’s quality of life. Trees play a crucial role in enhancing urban air quality, providing wildlife habitat, and offering shade and cooling, which are increasingly important in urban settings. The community impact is often immediate and noticeable, leading to public frustration and increased local government action.

Preventive Measures and Best Practices

To avoid the legal repercussions of violating a TPO, property owners and developers must ensure they have the appropriate permissions before conducting any work on protected trees. Local councils often provide guidance and can grant consent for work on TPO-covered trees where justified. Regular community engagement and education about the value of TPOs can foster a cooperative approach to tree conservation, encouraging public reporting of potential violations and enhancing the effectiveness of TPOs.

Safeguarding Our Natural Heritage

Tree Preservation Orders are a critical tool in the conservation of the UK’s natural heritage. They balance the need for urban development with the imperative to protect significant landscapes and ecosystems. By adhering to TPO regulations, communities not only comply with the law but also contribute to the stewardship of their environment, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the UK’s natural beauty and biodiversity.

If you’re planning any work that might affect a tree with a preservation order, or if you need guidance on how to care for protected trees, contact Green Canopy Tree Consultancy. Our experts are here to help you navigate the complexities of TPOs and ensure that your actions contribute positively to our natural heritage. Let’s work together to keep our environment green and thriving.


  • Kelsey, J., & Lawson, J. (1989). The Consequence of an Infringement of a Tree Preservation Order. Arboricultural Journal. Access here
  • Currell, A. (2004). Reviewing Tree Preservation Orders: Implications for Local Planning Authorities. Arboricultural Journal. Access here

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