Trees are a vital component of our landscape, enhancing the environment of our towns and villages and making a positive contribution to the quality of life. In certain situations they are protected by legislation. Trees can help integrate new development into its setting, but they can easily be lost or damaged through lack of consideration while the development is taking place.
There are a number of ways in which trees are protected; Tree Preservation Orders,Conservation Areas, Planning Conditions, Felling Licences and restrictions on title.
Further guidance on protected trees is provided by Planning Advice No.12 (pdf 48KB)
Do I need permission before I cut down or prune trees?
If the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order or a condition of a planning consent a formal application to Aberdeenshire Council will be required. View the public register of tree preservation orders (pdf 36KB). If the tree is within a Conservation Area, then you must give the Council six weeks written notice of your intention to carry out tree works. Large scale operations (in excess of 5 cubic metres of timber) will require a Felling Licence which is issued by the Forestry Commission. They can be contacted on 01466 794 542 at the Conservancy Office in Huntly.
How do I apply for permission?
Responsibility for the management of trees, including protected trees, rests with the owner of the land upon which they stand. However anyone may apply to carry out work to trees, provided they receive the landowners permission prior to undertaking the work.
It is advisable to employ the services of a suitably qualified person to both assess and undertake necessary work.
It is an offence under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 to fell or to carry out any work on protected trees without permission. The offence can carry a fine of up to £20,000.
Applications for works to protected trees can be viewed using the Public Access Register
How do I get a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) put on a tree?
If you feel that a tree is worthy of long term protection and is currently under threat you may request a Tree Preservation Order be made. An officer will consider the request and assess the tree. If a TPO is made there will be a period of 28 days in which representations and objections can be made after which period a decision will be taken as to whether to make it permanent. Given the high number of TPO’s in place across Aberdeenshire and the cost of implementing and administrating such an order, a TPO is usually only made in extreme circumstances where the tree is of significant value and the threat level is high.
Review of Tree Preservation Orders
Aberdeenshire Council is currently undertaking a review of Tree Preservation Orders across Aberdeenshire. The review will be undertaken in phases over the next three years. Priorities for review will be selected on the basis of age, type and the extent of change in character or circumstances relating to each TPO. Where necessary, consideration will be given to varying out of date TPOs and revoking redundant TPOs in order to achieve consistency across Aberdeenshire.
Proposals to change, revoke or make new TPOs will be advertised in the local press and affected property owners will be notified by letter.
Trees and Development
Aberdeenshire Council have produced a leaflet giving advice about trees and development and is available here to download.
Considering trees at the start of development.
The presence of trees on a site is a material planning consideration when planning applications are being assessed. To enable an accurate assessment of the possible effects of development on trees, planning applications must include a sufficient level of information.
Where a tree survey is submitted with a planning application it should include:
- the location and size of the trees (both on, and immediately adjacent to the site)
- the height, crown or canopy spread
- age (i.e. young/mature/over mature)
- and any structural defects
In addition it is necessary to note the ground levels and any watercourses or services that may affect the tree roots. It should also identify which trees will be removed and those to be retained together with measures for their protection during development.
Protecting Trees During Development
Damage to, or loss of, trees during development is often caused accidentally by failing to appreciate how vulnerable trees are. Irreparable damage can be caused to the tree’s trunk, branches and roots by site clearance, earth moving, excavation, compaction and storage of materials.
Before any development starts, the trees to be retained should be securely fenced off, to a specification agreed by the Council. The fence should remain intact until the development is fully completed. No building materials, site huts or rubble etc should be stored or dumped, and no fires lit within this area.
It is always important to have your site surveyed by an expert in arboriculture. They will be able to advise on which trees should be retained and which will require any surgery. Survey and tree protection measures should meet the requirement of British Standard 5837
Further advice about protection of trees and woodlands during development can be sought from the relevant council office.