We regret that the RFS cannot provide legal advice pertaining to trees and woodlands. However, the following information may be useful if you are seeking help.
Statutory law is written law set down by Government legislation. Trees are protected by a number of statutes which control felling licences, tree preservation orders and hedgerow regulations.
To help protect our trees and forests a felling licence is normally required to fell trees (Forestry Act 1967). The felling of trees in Great Britain is controlled by the Forestry Commission. For a quick guide or to apply for a licence click here.
It is an offence to fell trees without a licence unless an exemption applies.
In Northern Ireland felling is overseen by the NI Forest Service and within the inner London Boroughs it is controlled by the local authorities.
For additional help, please see the Forestry Commission publication: Tree felling; getting permission.
Local planning authorities have specific powers to protect trees by issuing a tree preservation prder (TPO) under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. A single tree or a whole area of woodland can be protected using a TPO. Under TPO legislation it is an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, diliberately damage or destroy a protected tree or area of woodland without the written permission of the planning authority. The legislation was revised in 1999 under The Town & Country Planning (Trees) Regulations 1999.
Trees in Conservation Areas which are already protected by TPOs are subject to normal TPO control. However, the 1990 Act also makes provision for other trees in Conservation Areas too. Anyone proposing to cut down or carry out work on a tree in a Conservation Area is required to give the local planning authority six weeks prior notice. The planning authority can then assess whether a TPO should be made in respect of the tree or woodland. There are exemptions, so contact your local Tree Officer for more information. You can also read the Government’s guidance document on Tree Preservation Orders.
The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 were introduced to help protect important hedgerows in the countryside from destruction or damage. Owners must give their local planning authority notice of their intention to remove a hedgerow, along with a plan and a reason for doing so. Permission is required before removing hedges that are at least 20m (66 feet) in length, more than 30 years old and contain certain species of plant. The authority will assess the importance of the hedgerow using criteria set out in the regulations.
For more information and further reading please refer to Natural England’s page on Hedgerow Regulations, which also provides advice on good management.
High garden hedges
The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 specifically exclude any hedge within or bordering a domestic garden. A separate law came into operation in 2005 to assist local authorities in England and Wales in dealing with complaints about high garden hedges (Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003).
Under this Act, district and local authorities, the City of London and the London Boroughs, are required to adjudicate on whether a hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property. The authority may then issue a formal notice setting out the actions required, and a timescale for taking the actions. Failure to carry out work could lead to a fine.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published two free explanatory leaflets for the public. Click on the links to download or order a copy.
- Over the garden hedge, offers advice on how people can settle these disputes themselves
- High hedges: complaining to the Council, explains how the council can help.