Permitted development rights and protected trees

Permitted development allows improvement and extension of homes without the need for a planning application. Even if your work does not require planning permission, you must still consider the impact your work may have on trees.

If you work will affect trees that sit in a Conservation Area or are covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), you must not carry out any work on them without our authorisation. Trees in these situations are legally protected, and carrying out unauthorised work, or causing them any damage, is a criminal offence.

You can even cause harm to trees by storing building materials by them or driving machinery close to them. Failure to plan for trees during building projects is commonly overlooked and can result in prosecution and a criminal record. We want to protect trees and help residents. We are always happy to give advice, so please speak to us before you start any work and follow these steps:

Step 1 - find out if trees are protected

We can advise you where Conservation Areas are and which trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders.

Step 2 - finding tree roots

If your planned work is close to protected trees on either your or somebody else’s land, you must carry out an assessment to work out if and to what extent trees will be affected.

A diagram showing how to measure the diameter of a treeA diagram showing how to calculate the root diameter of a tree

A simple test is to measure the diameter of the trunk at 1.5 metres above ground level and multiple this figure by a factor of 12 - the sum of these figures equals the radius from the tree trunk along the ground. Any planned work falling within this ‘root protection area’ radius can be considered to affect the tree(s). For example a tree with a trunk diameter of 50 centimetres will have a root protection area radius of six metres from the trunk (500mm x 12 = 6m).

The majority of roots that take up water are located in the top 60 centimetre layer of soil, so even shallow trenches cause a great deal of damage.

You may want to employ an arboricultural consultant to carry out a development site survey. A list of qualified professionals can be found on the Arboricultural Association’s website.

Step 3 - tree branches

If your project requires cutting off or pruning tree branches, it affects the tree(s). On development sites, it is often necessary to remove lower branches from trees to accommodate new buildings. This alone may be harmful to trees and should not be carried out on protected trees without our authorisation.

Step 4 - building project footprint

During your build, you should try to avoid cutting branches from protected trees or carrying out any engineering work in root protection areas.

Step 5 - consider working space

Make sure you have enough space on site to accomodate materials and machinery both before and during construction work.

You must avoid causing harm to trees, including materials and machinery soilling over into tree root protection areas. You should also keep machinery away from trees and their branches. This can be controlled by careful planning and installing temporary tree protection measures such as fencing and/or bog mats - these prevent ground compaction and rutting which can kill tree roots.

Step 6 - applying for tree work permission

If you cannot avoid encroaching on a tree root protection area and/or you need to carry out work such as pruning or cutting through tree roots you must apply for permission before work starts. Carrying out unathorised work on protected trees is a criminal offence.

More information

If you have been granted planning permission through a full planning application, or reserved matters application, you automatically have permission for tree works. In most cases the permission will outline planning conditions to protect trees during the building phase. These conditions must be complied with.

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