When it comes to cutting down trees, it’s important to take the appropriate legal considerations into account. While there may be instances where it’s necessary to fell a tree, such as for safety reasons, there are various laws in place that regulate the process. Whether you want to cut down a tree or protect it, the following information will help you understand the legal aspects involved.
Legal Regulations on Felling Trees
If you require information on the legalities of felling trees, seek advice from your local council or the Forestry Commission in England.
It’s essential to remember that it is illegal to cut back or fell a tree if it will affect nesting birds.
Felling Trees on Private Property
As a homeowner, you generally won’t need permission to cut down a tree that’s within the boundary of your property, unless it’s under a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or in a Conservation Area.
If you live in privately rented accommodation, you’ll need permission from your landlord to carry out any work on trees on the property, including pruning or felling.
If you cause injury or damage to a neighbor or their property while carrying out tree work, you’ll be held liable.
If a tree in your garden has branches overhanging neighboring property, the neighbor has the right to cut back the branches. However, the branches remain your property, and they should offer them to you.
When a Felling License is Required
If you plan to fell trees outside of private gardens, you may need a felling license. If the volume of the tree or group of trees you intend to fell amounts to five or more cubic meters of timber, it’s an offense to cut them without a license. Use the government’s Timber Volume Calculator to estimate the volume of timber you wish to fell.
You’ll need to apply to the Forestry Commission for a license, which will set out conditions before issuing it. You may be required to replant the area and maintain the new trees for a specific period.
Alternatives to Felling Trees
Before deciding to fell a tree, it’s crucial to consider the impact it’ll have on wildlife and people. Felling should always be the last resort.
If a tree poses a safety risk, such as being storm-damaged, diseased, or growing in a hazardous location, felling is usually the best option. However, it’s worth considering alternative courses of action, such as pruning or pollarding, which can remove hazardous branches and reduce the impact of the tree without removing it.
A qualified tree surgeon can help you determine the best course of action and provide expert guidance on managing trees causing problems.
What to Do After Felling a Tree
After felling a tree, you must follow the license conditions. To compensate for the lost tree, the Woodland Trust recommends planting at least three trees for every one cut down or as outlined in the felling license conditions.
If you had permission to cut down a tree with a TPO on it, you must replace it. If the reason for felling the tree was that it was too big or growing too close to property, consider planting a smaller species of tree and positioning it further away from the property.
How to Protect Trees from Felling
If you’re concerned about a tree being at risk of felling and want to protect it, you can apply for a TPO. This is a written order from the local planning authority designed to protect individual trees or entire areas of woodland. The aim is to protect trees of value to the public by preventing them from being deliberately damaged or destroyed.
Once a tree has a TPO, it can’t be pruned or cut down without permission. If you feel the risk to the tree is imminent, you can request an emergency TPO that will prevent any work being carried out while the council investigates