Trees and hedges
Under the UK planning system, we have a statutory duty to consider the protection and planting of trees when granting planning permission for proposed development. Our Arboricultural Team are responsible for matters relating to trees and hedges in the Wycombe area.
The potential effect of development on trees, whether statutorily protected (e.g. by a tree preservation order or by their inclusion within a conservation area) or not, is a material consideration that is taken into account when dealing with planning applications. Where trees are statutorily protected, it is important to follow the appropriate procedures before undertaking any works that might affect the protected trees.
Tree Preservation Orders and conservation areas
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is a form of planning control that protects trees which make a significant contribution to the amenity of the area. TPOs are usually made to protect trees which are visually prominent, but factors such as wildlife value, rarity or cultural significance can also be taken into account.
The making of a TPO is often prompted when trees are under a known or suspected threat of being cut down or damaged. They are sometimes also made following notification of works in a conservation area. Trees in a conservation area that are over 75 millimetres stem diameter at 1.5 metres above ground level are protected in a very similar way to TPO trees.
You can find out if trees are protected by a TPO, and also view our conservation areas by following the steps below:
- Go to MyMaps
- Enter an address or postcode
- Open the 'Planning Constraints' map category using '+'
- Select the 'tree preservation order' map layer by clicking the box
- Open the 'Planning Policy' map category using '+'
- Select the 'Conservation Area' layer by clicking the box
- Select the area you're interested in to see if it is within a conservation area or is covered by a TPO
How to get a paper copy of a Tree Preservation Order
The Council offers a service to print paper copies of Tree Preservation Orders. You can request this service on our planning and building control services and fees page.
It is illegal to cut down, prune, or damage a tree in a conservation area or one which is protected by a TPO, without our consent. The unauthorised lopping or felling of a protected tree is a serious criminal offence and can result in a large fine and a criminal record.
We take several people to court each year for illegal work to protected trees. Fines can be up to £20,000 per tree plus costs, a requirement to replace the tree and a criminal record.
If you are aware of unauthorised work to a protected tree please report it to our planning enforcement team.
If a protected tree (or part of tree) is dead, or there is an imminent risk of it causing serious harm, that tree (or part of tree) can be removed without submitting an application. However, the tree owner or contractor must give us five days' notice in writing of the intention to carry out the exempted works. Please ensure your claim is supported by satisfactory evidence before contacting the Council.
You may give us written notice (at least five days' notice) by post to Trees, Queen Victoria Road, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP11 1BB, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include photographs of the tree(s), a location plan and details of the reason why you think it is dead or dangerous.
We may make a site visit to examine the dead or dangerous trees. It should also be noted that there is a duty to replace trees removed under exemption.
Trees and hedges provide homes, food, and a way to travel across the countryside to many species of animal, bird or insect. Whilst all wildlife is important, some species are legally protected. Protected species which are often found in trees and hedges include nesting birds and bats. Birds tend to nest between March and August and so particular care must be taken to ensure that they, and their nests, are not disturbed. Bats roost in trees but they are often very hard to find as they hide in holes, cracks under lose bark or amongst ivy.
You must ensure that bats will not be disturbed, but if they are found during work, stop and contact the Bat Conservation Trust on: 0845 1300228.
Felling licences issued by the Forestry Commission controls the quantity of timber that can be felled. Trees in private gardens are exempt from this control. Contact the Forestry Commission to find out if you need a license and obtain an application form.
Council-owned tree management
Requests for work to council-owned trees are assessed by our tree officers.
In general, we carry out work to our trees:
- Where the trees are touching buildings
- Where the trees are blocking the road
- Where the trees are at imminent risk of causing harm to people or property
- To ensure clear passage along public rights of way or highways
- To maintain clear sight lines at junctions
- To ensure streetlights and road signs are not obstructed
- Where the trees have caused proven damage to property
The Council is NOT obliged to cut or remove trees:
- For reasons of loss of light
- For reasons of loss of view
- For reasons of loss or interference of television or radio service (contact your supplier for advice)
- To remove overhanging branches (you have rights to cut back overhanging trees if they encroach on your property). See overhanging trees below
- Where they encroach on utility cables or wires (contact your supplier for advice)
- To allow building works to proceed (regardless of whether permission has been granted or where building works are permitted development)
- To reduce or remove the source of sap (honeydew)
- To reduce or remove a source of pollen (eg for allergy sufferers)
- To remove ivy (other than to allow for inspection or to reduce the additional wind sail which ivy can create)
- We are not obliged to remove blossom, leaves, fruit, nuts or seeds that have fallen from our trees
Where one of our trees is causing a serious obstruction or is at imminent risk of causing harm to people or property, please report it to us.
During office hours: 01494 461000 | email@example.com
Out of hours: 01494 463890
If you suspect that a council-owned tree has caused damage to your property, you will need to contact your insurance company and arrange a survey
Where a claim is made against us we will tell you what evidence we need so we can investigate.
We will only consider undertaking tree works where sufficient evidence has been provided to demonstrate that roots from a council-owned tree have caused damage to drains.
- Where a claim is made against us we will tell you what evidence we need so we can investigate.
- If you are concerned about the condition of your drains, contact a drainage specialist (for drains inside your property boundary) or your water company (for shared sewers or drains outside your property boundary).
Privately-owned tree management
For more advice about privately owned trees, you can contact an independent tree professional by visiting the Arboricultural Association website. We do not undertake tree inspections to provide advice to private tree owners.
Under common law, you can cut back any branch or root from a tree that comes onto your property. You must do this at your own expense and follow these criteria:
- You must not trespass onto the land on which the trees are growing. We do not permit the use of chainsaws, pruning saws or similar tools on our land unless the work is being carried for us by an approved contractor.
- Branches or roots must not be cut back beyond the boundary.
- You must dispose of any material responsibly and at your own expense. Dumping rubbish is illegal. Anyone caught dumping rubbish could face legal action. See fly tipping
- All work must be carried out carefully. You must avoid damaging property or carrying out work that would leave the tree unsafe or dangerous.
- You cannot alter the height of trees or hedges.
Before doing any work to trees:
Large trees are not necessarily dangerous. Trees will grow as large as its species type and surrounding environment will permit.
Leaning trees are not necessarily dangerous as the tree will put on additional growth on one side of the trunk to stabilize itself. A tree growing in competition with neighbouring trees may naturally develop a lean over time as it grows towards the light.
If a tree suddenly develops a lean there is likely to be an underlying problem which requires further investigation.
Swaying in the wind does not necessarily mean that a tree is dangerous. Trees will naturally bend and sway. The flexibility of branches acts as a natural mechanism to prevent the tree from breaking.
Hollow trees are not necessarily dangerous. Strength depends on the percentage of healthy to unhealthy tissue. Hollowing usually occurs over a number of years. While the heart of the tree may become hollow, the tree will continue to lay down wood around its trunk every year. For peace of mind you may wish to consult an independent arboricultural consultant
Landowners have a legal duty of care to ensure their trees are maintained in a safe condition. If you suspect a tree to be unsafe, the first step is to contact the owner and tell them your concerns.
Where owners do not make dangerous trees safe, the affected person can contact us in writing. We may be able to use our discretionary powers under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 section 23 and 24. The act is intended for use only where there is imminent danger or an unreasonably high risk to persons or property.
Anyone making a formal written request will be asked to explain how circumstances have changed to lead to there being an imminent danger.
If we consider a tree to be dangerous, we will serve a notice on the land owner/occupier giving a period of time (not less than 21 days), along with a level of works necessary to make the tree safe. If the works are not completed within the time period (and no appeal has been made) we can enter the land to carry out the works and recover all reasonable costs.
We do not have responsibility for trees that we do not own. We have no legal obligation to take action and are not liable for any damage caused.
Shade cast by trees is legally not an actionable nuisance as it does not cause actual damage or harm.
- In law there is no automatic right to light. A right to light can be established under the Prescription Act 1832 if the light entering a building has been uninterrupted for at least 20 years.
- An established right to light only refers to buildings and light, not to gardens and sunlight.
The Council do not intervene in disputes about trees on private property.
Hedgerows are distinctive features of the countryside as the most traditional form of field boundary. Countryside hedgerows and the banks they sit on are often of considerable interest for landscape, wildlife and historic reasons and so they are protected through a system of notification by the hedgerow regulations.
Hedges are also used as boundary features around residential properties as they can be attractive and can give an element of privacy. However, sometimes residential hedges can be considered a nuisance and in some clearly defined instances complaints can be made about them under the high hedges legislation.
The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 control hedgerow removal through a process of notification.
To apply for consent to remove hedgerows you must complete a form and send it to us. We will assess the hedgerow and determine whether it can be removed or whether to serve a Hedgerow Retention Notice.
Details on how to apply to remove hedgerows can be found on our planning and building control services and fees page.
If you feel that you are being negatively affected by a high hedge on neighbouring land, you are encouraged in the first instance to work with your neighbours to resolve the issue.
Please see our planning and building control services and fees for what you can do to resolve a high hedge dispute.
For frequently asked questions, please see our tree and hedges FAQs.