A Guide to Responsible Tree Management
When to Avoid Lopping or Removal
Deciding whether to remove a tree on your property can be complicated.
This is especially true if it is protected by a tree preservation order or located in a conservation area.
This article provides guidance on tree permits, the application form process, and legal considerations.
Protection for Trees in Conservation Areas
Trees over a certain metres above ground level (usually 75cm) diameter in a conservation area are protected. Carrying out works like cutting down, topping, lopping without consent is illegal and subject to significant fines under breach of planning control.
You must submit the proper application for consent paperwork and wait the public notice period of time before removing trees subject to preservation orders. Even for individual trees not protected, it is best practice to plant additional trees as replacements.
Tree Preservation Orders and Permits
Trees protected by a legal tree preservation order require additional permitting called a “consent application“. The planning authority reviews factors like tree health, safety issues etc. They then decide whether to allow removal of tree or apply conditions to protect the original tree.
Consent application forms are available on the Planning Portal website or your local council office. Expect to pay a planning fee with the paperwork.
The process takes 5-6 weeks typically including the public notice period. The authority issues their decision in writing granting or denying work consent.
When Is Tree Removal Permitted?
You have the best chance for a consent approval if evidence shows:
- The tree is dead, dying or diseased beyond recovery
- The tree is damaging buildings, infrastructure and removal of tree is the only viable option.
But even then consent is not guaranteed under a Tree Preservation Order. Also, the planning department may offer alternatives like pruning maintenance to save the tree subject to the order.
Their priority is preservation of tree rather than removal of tree, so you may need specialist advice from arborists and engineers to help argue your case.
Penalties for Unauthorised Removal
Cutting down a protected tree without consent means potential prosecution and fines. The council may also require replacement tree planting on your land as retribution for loss of the protected tree canopy.
Fines range dramatically from $1000-$20,000+ depending on the tree size, condition and number destroyed illegally. Jail time is also technically possible for the worst offenses against protected trees.
Do I need a tree permit to remove trees not protected by an order?
Yes, if in a conservation area you need consent even for smaller trees and shrubs not subject to a specific TPO.
Can my neighbor force me to cut down a hazardous tree on my property?
No, but relevant authorities like the council Tree Officer can require you to manage serious risk trees. And neighbors can pursue legal action and legal advice if they can demonstrate damage from your neglected property.
If I’m denied, how soon can I reapply?
Reapplications typically require a 5 year wait. But if new information comes forward about the tree or site conditions, exceptions occasionally occur.
Tree removal regulations aim to strike a balance.
Preserving canopy cover and nature while dealing with legitimate property hazards.
Follow proper protocols to avoid costly fines or enforcement actions.
Seek expert guidance to navigate confusing requirements, and double check application forms to prevent errors.