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Tree Preservation Orders

When is a Christmas Tree not a Christmas Tree?

Answer: When it is a seed

Although this joke is unlikely to make it into even the worst Christmas cracker, the Court of Appeal has had to grapple with this question so far as it relates to trees generally (rather than just Christmas trees!)


Palm Developments Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2009] EWHC 220 (Admin) concerned Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). In this instance, no specific tree was identified in the TPO but rather the protection extended to two areas of woodland.
In 2012, contractors of the owner clear-felled two acres within the areas identified in the TPO. In 2014 the local planning authority served a notice specifying that 8,000 square metres had been cleared in breach of the TPO. The local planning authority required the owners to plan 1,280 trees – setting out the species and the height of the trees to be planted. The owner appealed on the basis that the stumps of the cleared area revealed that only 27 trees had been removed. The case went all the way to the Court of Appeal who held:
It was correct that the local planning authority could not require the planting of more trees than had existed prior to the breach; but there is an inherent difficulty in establishing that number after the event; and it is reasonable for the assessment to be made using current density proposals; and a sapling is considered a tree for the purposes of the protection given by TPOs.
Lesson to be learnt:
Landowners should consider having a survey carried out on the number of trees within an area identified within a TPO, particularly if it is likely that the existing density of trees within the woodland is less than may be assessed by standard planting densities.