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How Much Can You Cut Off a Tree with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)?

5-8 Min Read

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) are legal protections placed on trees that have significant value to the environment, landscape, or community. If you have a tree with a TPO on your property, you might wonder how much you can legally cut without breaching the order. This article explores the guidelines and procedures for legally pruning or cutting a tree under a TPO.

Understanding Tree Preservation Orders

A TPO is a legal instrument used by local authorities to protect specific trees, groups of trees, or woodlands that offer considerable public amenity. Under a TPO, it is an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, or wilfully damage or destroy a tree without the local planning authority’s consent.

When Can You Cut a Tree with a TPO?

To carry out any work on a tree with a TPO, you must seek written consent from your local planning authority. This includes pruning, cutting branches, or any other form of tree management. Unauthorised work can result in significant fines and legal consequences.

Applying for Consent

  1. Submit an Application: You need to apply to your local planning authority using the specific forms they provide. Your application should detail the exact nature of the work you intend to do and the reasons for it.
  2. Provide Supporting Information: Include photographs, diagrams, and any other supporting information that justifies your request. This might include safety concerns, disease, or damage to property.
  3. Await a Decision: The local authority will review your application and may send an arboricultural officer to inspect the tree. The decision can take several weeks.

Pruning Guidelines

Even with consent, there are guidelines on how much you can cut:

  • Crown Reduction: Typically, no more than 30% of the tree’s crown should be reduced. This ensures the tree remains healthy and retains its structural integrity.
  • Crown Lifting: Raising the canopy by removing lower branches is generally allowed to improve clearance for pedestrians and vehicles. However, it should be done carefully to avoid harming the tree.
  • Deadwood Removal: Removing deadwood does not usually require consent as it is necessary for safety reasons. However, it’s best to check with your local authority.

Reasons for Pruning

Authorities are more likely to grant consent for the following reasons:

  • Safety: If the tree poses a risk to people or property due to dead or damaged branches.
  • Health: If the tree is diseased or infested with pests that require pruning for treatment.
  • Property Damage: If branches are causing damage to buildings, power lines, or other infrastructure.

Legal and Environmental Considerations

Before you proceed with any work on a tree with a TPO, consider the following:

  • Legal Implications: Unauthorized work can lead to fines up to £20,000 or more, depending on the severity of the breach.
  • Environmental Impact: Trees with TPOs are protected for their public amenity value. Pruning should be done carefully to preserve their environmental and aesthetic benefits.

Protecting Your Trees While Complying with TPO Regulations

If you need to cut or prune a tree with a Tree Preservation Order, it is crucial to obtain the necessary permissions from your local planning authority. Follow the guidelines and procedures to ensure that the work is carried out legally and sustainably. For expert advice and assistance with TPO applications and tree management, contact Green Canopy Tree Consultancy. Our professionals can help you navigate the regulations and maintain the health and beauty of your protected trees.

Green Canopy Tree Services

We carry out Tree Surveys in London, Essex & Hertfordshire.


  • Arboricultural Association. “Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).” Read more
  • Royal Horticultural Society. “Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and Conservation Areas.” Learn more
  • Forestry Commission. “Tree Felling – Getting Permission.” Find out more
  • GOV.UK. “Apply for a Tree Preservation Order.” Apply here

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