Homeowner’s guide to tree removal

If you’ve decided to cut down a tree, you’ve probably discovered that tree removal is not for the faint hearted. There’s a few things worth knowing. So we’ve created this guide that has all the information a homeowner needs.

In this guide, we cover:

  1. Whether or not you need permission to cut down a tree in your garden
  2. Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas
  3. What responsibilities you have as a homeowner

Do I need permission to cut down a tree in my garden?

If you own your home, you don’t need permission to cut down a tree that’s in your garden unless it is:

  • Subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)
  • In a Conservation Area

If you rent your home, you will need to get your landlord’s permission before you can cut down a tree.

If you’re in doubt about the legalities of tree removal, you can always seek advice from your local council or relevant government department.

Alternatively, you can organise a survey by an tree surgeon who will be able to advise you on your
responsibilities and options.

felling a tree trunk

What is a tree survey?

A tree survey is an in-depth inspection of a tree (or trees) conducted by an arborist. Its purpose is to provide information about the trees so that you can make decisions regarding its maintenance or removal.

Tree surgeons use the British Standard BS5837 to assess trees. This standard provides recommendations relating to tree care. The survey provides information such as:

  • Species
  • Age
  • Life expectancy
  • Measurements
  • Health
  • Care and management recommendations
  • Removal or retention
  • General observations

Do I need a tree survey?

If you have home insurance, you may find that a tree survey is a condition of your policy.

More and more companies are requiring homeowners to organise regular inspections of their trees to qualify for protection. It’s worth checking your insurance policy to see if this is the case.

On top of insurance, there are circumstances in which a tree survey may be mandatory:

  • If you are planning an extension
  • If you are planning to construct new, ancillary buildings
  • If there is a proposed change of access or the moving of service lines
  • If there are trees within a proposed planning application site or on land adjacent to the application site that could influence or be affected by the development
  • If you live in a specified region (to protect certain trees from being cut down)

Another use of a tree survey is simply to identify any hazards that might exist on a property. Diseased or dead trees can pose a real risk to health and safety, so it’s useful to understand the condition of any trees within your land.

A tree survey should only be conducted by a professional arborist.

To organise a tree survey, post a job now to get quotes.

Ready to get quotes from tree surgeons (it's free)?

What is a tree preservation order?

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an order made by a local planning authority to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands. The aim is to protect trees that have an ‘amenity value’ for the public, that is visual, environmental or emotional. An order prohibits the:

  • Felling
  • Topping
  • Lopping
  • Uprooting
  • Wilful damage
  • Wilful destruction

of trees without the local planning authority’s written consent.

It is an offence to cut down a tree that is subject to a TPO without obtaining permission from your local planning authority. Penalties for breaching a TPO vary depending on where in the country you live but include:

  • Fines
  • Criminal record
  • A notice to replace any trees that have been destroyed

Can I object to a Tree Preservation Order?

Yes, it is possible to object to a TPO. Local authorities have the power to vary or revoke any orders.

You simply need to submit an application to your local planning authority specifying the particular tree, group of trees or woodlands and your reasons for objecting. The application will have a ‘consultation period’ where the authority will take into account all objections and representations made so you can get your neighbours involved as well.

For more information on how to submit an application and the overall process, read over the government’s guide on objecting to a TPO.

How do I know if a tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order?

You can contact your local planning authority, which will have details of all the TPOs in your area.

Some local planning authorities may also have maps you can check to see if a tree has a TPO or is in a conservation area.

Alternatively, if you’re having a tree survey, your tree surgeon should be able to let you know which trees are protected.

Can I cut down a tree that’s in a conservation area?

It depends.

If the tree is already protected by a TPO then you cannot remove it without permission.

If it isn’t protected by a TPO, you must notify your local planning authority six weeks before removing the tree – unless an exception applies.

This notice gives the authority the chance to consider whether to make an order on the tree. If the LPA gives consent, any work can go ahead.

It is an offence to cut down, damage or do any work on a tree in a conservation area (that is not already protected by a TPO) without giving such notice. The same penalties apply as for a Tree Preservation Order.

For more information, visit the government’s website where it offers guidance on trees in conservation areas.

tree surgeon hanging from tree

Tree removal: homeowner’s responsibilities

Homeowners are responsible for the trees on their property.

This includes:

  • Organising regular inspections and undertaking any necessary maintenance
  • Keeping an eye out for signs of disease or damage
  • Arranging inspections for home insurance
  • Taking reasonable action to ensure no tree on your land causes harm, damage or nuisance to any neighbouring land

Trees are at the heart of many neighbour disputes, so it’s worth knowing what your rights are as well as those of your neighbours. The Citizens Advice website offers advice on settling tree disputes with your neighbour.

And for information on how much it costs to remove a tree, read our tree removal cost guide.

To get quotes from tree surgeons near you – post a job now.

Ready to get quotes from tree surgeons (it's free)?