Frequently asked questions about trees

Frequently asked questions about trees, tree preservation orders, conservation areas and other related questions.

Do I need permission to cut down or carry out work to my / my neighbour's tree?

Yes - for most tree works - if the tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) a planning application must be made or, if the tree is in a Conservation Area  you are required  to give the council six weeks prior notice to allow the Local planning Authority to assess the proposed works and to determine whether or not the tree is worthy of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). You should also discuss proposed works to your neighbour's tree -e.g. pruning back of overhanging branches - with your neighbour, as this may help to establish and keep communications on an amicable basis.

Application form

Guidance notes

Works to Trees in a Conservation Area and or subject to a Tree Preservation Order Application Checklist

What is a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) ?

A TPO is a legal protection given to trees, primarily those that are considered to be important because they significantly contribute to their local surroundings and by doing so provide a benefit to the public.

In general it is an offence to cut down, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or destroy a protected tree without the planning authority's permission.

What is a Conservation Area ?

A Conservation Area is defined as "an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance". Planning legislation allows local authorities to give special attention to these areas and their enhancement; accordingly this extends to trees in Conservation Areas and requires that written notification must be given six weeks in advance of proposed tree works.

How do I find out if a tree is subject to a Tree Preservation Order or if it is in a Conservation Area?

You can use the council's  'online maps' to search for a particular address to see if there is a TPO or find out if the tree is in a Conservation Area. Unfortunately we are unable to confirm in writing whether a tree has a TPO or is in a Conservation Area.

I am worried about the health and safety of my tree(s) or someone else's tree(s) - Can the Tree Officer come and inspect them?

The land-owner has a responsibility to do all that is reasonable to ensure that their trees are healthy and safe. This is a "Duty of Care" under Common Law.

If you need some advice about your trees and whether any work is required you should seek the advice of reputable arboricultural professional - e.g. Arborist (Tree Surgeon) or Arboricultural Consultant to see if they can be of service or guidance.

A useful source of information regarding Arborists and tree work is the Arboricultural Association

If you have concerns about your neighbour's trees you should bring this to their attention in a polite way by clearly explaining the nature of your concerns.

The Council's Tree Officer cannot inspect privately owned trees. Applications to work on protected trees (TPO or Conservation Area) are assessed by the Tree Officer through the planning process.

To make enquiries about Council Owned Trees - Please Contact Mendip District Council Operational Assets & Contracts Team on 0300 303 8588.

To make enquiries about trees in the Highway - Please Contact - Somerset County Council's Roads and Transport Team  Contact SCC

For trees on privately-owned land where the land-owner is not known after  extensive enquiries have been made you may be able to find out who is the registered owner of the land by contacting Land-Registry

What can I do if I believe that a neighbour's tree is affecting my property ?

In the first instance, you should discuss the tree issues with your neighbour as they may not be aware that their tree is a cause of concern.

Under Common Law it is a land owner's responsibility (Duty of Care) to do all that is reasonable to maintain their tree(s) in a healthy and safe condition. This is best demonstrated by having the trees inspected regularly by a suitably qualified person and by following the recommendations of that professional, if remedial works are identified as being necessary; it would be prudent to keep a record of these inspections and of any works carried out.

You may also like to consider seeking the advice of an arboricultural professional to inspect the trees in question, for example - to ascertain if there are any serious defects that require remedial work to prevent a foreseeable incident (damage or harm).

If you are concerned that your neighbour's tree is affecting the structure of your property you may also need to contact your house insurer to establish a course of action or investigation.

How do I get a Tree Preservation Order placed on a tree?

If you would like the council to consider the suitability of a Tree, Trees (group or area) or Woodland for protection by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) - please write or send an e-mail to the Council. To assess your request we will need to know:-

  • The exact location of the tree(s) - postal address (if known) with a sketch map or a plan with OS co-ordinates would help)
  • The species and number of trees (if known)  - photos can sometimes be useful but are not essential and can use very large amounts of disk space, memory e.g. in electronic mail.
  • The reasons why you consider them to be important or significant enough to be worthy of TPO or why they may be under threat
  • The assessment of a tree(s) suitability for a TPO is made by the council's Tree Officer using criteria including:- visual amenity, form, health, structure, longevity, impact on the local and wider landscape, rarity of species and suitability for its location.
  • TPO's are made on a priority basis and can include those under imminent threat through to those that contribute significant amenity but are not considered to be at risk in the short term.

Are there any grants available for carrying out work to my trees ?

There are no grants available from the Council for works to privately owned trees.