Protecting trees and hedgerows
Trees and hedgerows make a vital contribution to our environment. They provide us with oxygen, help with pollution, reduce the sound of traffic, make our towns and villages more pleasant and attractive, and add value to our properties. They also provide essential habitats for wildlife and are a living link to the past.
The Forestry Commission
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting sustainable management of woodland, and for increasing the value of trees and woodland to society and the environment. Tree felling is a legally controlled activity and you may require the need for a Felling License (exemptions apply) to fell trees outside of gardens which may not be protected by Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and also if there is a TPO and permission has been given by us as Local Authority.
Felling trees without a licence, where one would have been required, is an offence.
Further information is available on the Forestry Commissions website:
Tree preservation orders (TPOs)
We deal with planning applications for works to trees in conservation areas, and those protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).
A TPO is an Order made by the local planning authority in order to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands. TPO trees are usually mature, of good form and, most importantly, can be clearly seen from a public area. However, other factors are also relevant such as rarity, size and form, contribution to the character of the area. View the criteria for issuing a TPO.
View our register of confirmed tree preservation orders (PDF File, 602kb) to identify if there are any on your development site. Please note that whilst this is a definitive list of confirmed order, some trees might be located on land just outside of the named land. It is therefore important that prior to undertaking any work to a tree that you contact the Council prior to undertaking any works. If you require a copy of the order and plan or assistance regarding whether a tree is protected by TPO, please contact us.
We do not provide specialist advice regarding tree works. If you intend to undertake works to trees with a TPO or in a conservation order, you must provide as much information as possible with your planning application.
If works are to trees protected by a TPO, it is your responsibility to seek independent advice from a tree specialist, including reasons and details of proposed works, all of which you’ll need to send as part of your submission.
Further guidance and details on how to submit your tree work application are available on the Planning Portal website.
Advice on hiring tree work contractors
Tree work needs to be undertaken safely and in the best interest of the tree. Pruning trees at any height or using dangerous tools are jobs where you should only consider using a skilled tree surgeon or arboriculturalist.
One of the best place to find a suitable contractor is in the Arboricultural Association's register of approved contractors or telephone 01242 522152. Another recognised body is the International Society of Arboriculture.
Top tips for hiring a professional to work on your trees:
- reputation is a good indicator - good and professional firms pride themselves on their reputation by word of mouth and work very hard to maintain it
- avoid firms that promote 'Topping & Lopping' in their advertisements, as these are very outmoded terms and may reflect a lack of knowledge of modern arboricultural techniques
- look for firms that work to British Standard 3998:2010 Recommendations for Tree Work - this British Standard ensures precise and sound pruning techniques that promote safe and healthy pruning
- look for firms that have had their employees NPTC (National Proficiency Tests Council) assessed - this means their skill has been certified by the body that assesses competence in tree works
- make sure that the firm is suitably insured to work on your property- a minimum of £1million pound public & products liability cover is adequate although £5 million is ideal, in addition to employers liability insurance
- ask lots of questions - you’ll get a good idea of how well a contractor knows his subject by how willing he is to give sound answers for your queries
- good firms will always check if the tree they are working on is protected by a tree preservation order or if it is protected by a conservation area - are they prepared to submit an application to us on your behalf as part of their business service to you?
- ensure that the company you use will dispose of the debris legally and have the appropriate ‘waste transfer licence’ - you may be faced with a heavy fine if fly-tipped material is traced back to you
If contractors are working on a boundary tree, you’ll need to notify your neighbour of the works as the entry of the operatives, even into their airspace will technically constitute a trespass.
Be sure that if you have a contractor working on a protected tree, they have the appropriate permission in writing if they have been your agents in the application process. Ask them to provide you with a copy of the council’s letter for your records.
Trees in a conservation area
Conservation areas are usually found in the most historic parts of our towns and villages. The buildings and structures there are usually of an historic nature and trees have a very important place within these special areas.
View further information relating to conservation areas in the district (including maps showing the location of each of our conservation areas).
In conservation areas you’ll often find very old trees, some as old as or even older than the buildings. But it's not just the old trees that make a significant contribution. Younger trees are trees of the future, and are sometimes protected to create green havens and ensure an area remains green in years to come, long after the veteran trees have gone.
The way the trees are protected in a conservation area is different to that of tree preservation orders. A conservation area is a clearly defined area within a settlement that usually encompasses many properties. Any tree within this defined boundary becomes subject to the protection of the conservation area.
Prior to carrying out any work on a tree within conservation areas you must seek permission from us. View guidance and details on how to submit your tree work application on the national Planning Portal website.
Completing the application enables an assessment to be made of the works needed, and the threat to the tree. A TPO may be made to ensure that important trees remain.
Hedges create living boundaries for our gardens, providing colour and all year round interest. They provide a home for wildlife and can trap air pollution and they’re often seen as a defining character of our landscape.
Hedges can help with:
Pollution capture - plants with small rough or hairy leaves can trap dust and pollution particles. Good for pollution are yew, cotoneaster and western red cedar
Noise reduction- wide, tall and multi-layered hedges and borders are best for noise reduction. Good options include berberis, cherry laurel and holly with a shrub border planted in front
Flood mitigation - plants with large leaf surface and evergreen canopies are associated with greater rainfall retention and reducing runoff. Helpful hedges include cotoneaster, forsythia, golden privet and hawthorne
Supporting wildlife - some hedges provide food for birds and nectar for insects, most provide shelter for birds. Good for wildlife include beech, yew, hawthorne, pyracantha and rosa rugosa.
Planting a hedge at home
Most hedges are formed from plants that naturally want to be trees, so face and top trimming is usually needed once or twice a year to keep them tidy. Hedges can last for many years if properly maintained making them reliable and cost effective. Most hedges benefit from an open sunny site.
Plant deciduous hedges from late October to March provided the ground is not too water logged or frozen. Evergreen hedges are best planted in October or early November or March.
Removal of hedgerows
Any owner of a hedge forming the boundary of agricultural land must make an application to us if they wish to remove it.
We’ll assess the importance of the hedge using criteria set out in the Hedgerows Regulations 1997. If the hedgerow is important in terms of its wildlife or historical value, then consent to remove it will not be granted.
You should avoid trimming hedgerows between 1 March and 31 July as this is the main nesting season for birds. Exemptions apply if the hedgerow overhangs a public highway or public footpath, or if it obstructs the view of drivers.
Read more guidance on hedge trimming on the RSPB website.
Cupressocyparis leylandii, to give it its proper name, is a widely used hedging plant, well known for its evergreen habitat and fast growth rate.
When clipped regularly in the growing season it can make a fine, neat and dense hedge that offers privacy and sound suppression in a very short time. However, if neglected for even a couple of years it can become difficult to DIY and control.
Being a hedging plant, it is most often planted along property boundaries. As a result, if the hedge is neglected, it is often neighbouring properties that suffer the most. In some extreme cases, people have been forced to suffer rows of leylandii of about 25m high.
Residents who are seriously affected by high hedges on neighbouring properties can contact us and request an independent adjudication on the problem.
Find further information on how to contact us about a nuisance hedge.