Contents

Introduction

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 all trees in a Conservation Area with a trunk diameter of 75mm or more (measured at 1.5m above natural ground level) are protected (subject to some  exemptions).  It is an offence to prune, fell or otherwise damage a tree without first giving notice to the Council.

The purpose of this requirement is to give the Council the opportunity to consider whether a Tree Preservation Order should be made to further protect the tree.

The differences between tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order or a tree protected by a Conservation Area designation can be found here

What is a Conservation Area?

A Conservation Area is designated where special architectural or historic interest makes it desirable to preserve or enhance the area’s character or appearance. 

Conservation Areas usually cover the historic and central areas of our towns and villages.  There are over 30 designated Conservation Areas within Bath and North East Somerset at present. The City of Bath Conservation Area covers almost three quarters of the City making it one of the largest single Conservation Areas in the country.

How can I find out if a tree is in a Conservation Area?

You can view Conservation Areas and search for properties on the Council's mapping website. This link will take you directly to the Conservation Area Map.

Why are trees important in Conservation Areas?

Whilst a Conservation Area is generally centred on listed buildings and other historic built features, the landscape surrounding it and trees within it contribute significantly to its appearance.  The setting of a Conservation Area can be equally as important as the buildings or historic features themselves.

Trees also help to improve the quality and amenity of an area. They provide cool dappled shade and improve the quality of our air.

What is classed as a tree?

The High Court has held that a ‘tree’ is anything which ordinarily anyone would call a tree.  Bushes and shrubs are not protected.

What about hedges?

If the hedge forms part of a garden and has been clearly managed as a hedge, it is not protected.  However if it has been left unmanaged for many years and has grown into a line or row of trees they will be protected.  If the hedge is not part of a garden it may be protected by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.

With either of these it would be best to ask us first - email: mailto:trees_andwoodlands@bathnes.gov.uk

I want to prune or fell a tree in a Conservation Area–what do I do?

If you wish to prune or fell a tree within a Conservation Area you must give the Council six weeks notice in writing of your intention to carry out the work.

This notice should set out clearly what is proposed and should include at least the following:

  • the location of the tree and the species if known;

  • exactly what work is proposed (a proposal simply to ‘top’ the tree or ‘lop’ or ‘cut back’ some branches is too vague because it fails to describe the extent of the work);

  • you may also wish to include supporting reasons for the work because this may help the council in deciding what to do

You are not obliged to use any particular form, however you can submit your notification online through the Planning Portal (external link), or alternatively download the form entitled Works to Trees from our website. A simple form has also been compiled to assist you which is available to download as a PDF and included in the Documents section to the right.

What happens next?

Once your notification has been received a letter of acknowledgement will be sent to you.

Under certain circumstances the Council may also consult the Parish or Town Council before making a decision.

The Council has two options when considering their decision and these are:

  • to let the six week notification period run in which case the proposed works may be carried out after it expires.  The Council normally sends a letter stating they have no objection to the proposed works and lists the work together with the expiry date; or

  • to make a Tree Preservation Order on the tree to stop the work being carried out.  The notifier can object to the Tree Preservation Order and/or make an application for the work under the Tree Preservation Order procedure.

Do I always have to give the Council 6 weeks notice or are there exemptions?

Yes, you normally have to give 6 weeks notice but there are some exemptions:

  • you do not need to give six weeks notification to the Council for trees that are dead or have become dangerous, but the burden of proof will be on you to show that the work is being carried out under an exemption and is the minimum work necessary. You should give the Council five days written notice before carrying out the work.  In an emergency you should let the Council know as soon as possible what work has been carried out. (A photograph showing the condition of the tree may be all that is needed to prove your case should it be necessary)

  • Your five day notice can be submitted via e-mail or letter or online through the Planning Portal (external link), or alternatively download a Works to Trees form from our website. Whatever method you choose to use please be sure to indicate that it is a ‘five day notice’.

  • under certain circumstances works to trees that are the subject of a legal nuisance are also exempt.  You are advised to Ask Us First should you wish to use this exemption.

  • pruning fruit trees in accordance with good horticultural practice is also exempt, but any other works to a fruit tree including felling would require a notification.

Who should I get to carry out the work?

It is always advisable to have your trees pruned or felled by a suitably qualified tree surgeon.  A tree surgeon must be adequately insured and should be happy to show you his current insurance certificate if asked.

The appointment of a tree surgeon is entirely a matter for you. Further guidance on employing a tree surgeon is available on the website

Working near trees in a Conservation Area

All parts of a tree in a Conservation Area are protected and this includes the tree’s root system.  If you are proposing to work close to a tree that has not been the subject of a Planning Application you are required to notify the Council in the same way as if you were pruning or felling the tree.

If I fell a tree in the Conservation Area do I have to replace it?

If the tree has been unlawfully removed, uprooted or destroyed it is the duty of the landowner to plant another tree of an appropriate size and species at the same place. The same duty also applies if a tree is removed under an exemption, for example because the tree is dead.

The Council has powers to dispense with this duty if it considers that it would not be appropriate to replant.

What are the penalties if I cut down or prune a tree without giving the Council notice?

Anyone who cuts down, uproots, tops, lops, wilfully destroys or wilfully damages a tree in a Conservation Area without first giving notice is guilty of an offence.

For example, anyone who cuts down a tree in a Conservation Area without giving notice is liable, if convicted in the Magistrate’s Court, to a fine of up to £20,000 or on conviction in the Crown Court to an unlimited fine.  Anyone who carries out work in a way that is not likely to destroy the tree is liable to a fine in the magistrate’s court of up to £2,500.

Tree Preservation Orders

Some trees are specifically covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

Tree Preservation Orders can be either within or outside a Conservation Area but in either case require a formal application and approval before any works can proceed.  If you are unsure whether your trees are covered by a Tree Preservation Order then you can check by telephoning our Planning Information Officers on 01225 394041 or email: trees_andwoodlands@bathnes.gov.uk

How do I find out if notification has been given for work I have seen?

You can search for registered tree works notifications by following this link.

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