What is a Conservation Area?

General Information about Conservation Areas is available on the Conservation Areas page. To check the location of the conservation areas, please use the interactive mapping and then follow the instructions below.

Icon for pdf Searching for Conservation Areas Using Interactive Mapping [789.06KB] (PDF download) 


Which trees are protected in a Conservation Area?

Trees in conservation areas are protected if their main stem (trunk) is 75mm or greater in diameter, measured at 1.5metres from ground level - about the width of a tin can

Trees in a Conservation Area which are subject to a Tree Preservation Order are dealt with under the Tree Preservation Order regulation. You will need to make a separate application in this case.

Please use the Interactive Mapping to find out if your tree or the tree you are interested in is subject to a Tree Preservation Order and/or within a Conservation Area.

To check the location of the conservation areas, please use the interactive mapping and then follow the instructions below.

Icon for pdf Searching for Conservation Areas Using Interactive Mapping [789.06KB] (PDF download) 

Trees in a Conservation Area hold the same level of protection against unauthorised works as trees subject to a Tree Preservation Order. Unauthorised tree works can lead to hefty fines (up to £20,000) and criminal prosecution of the offenders.


Who is responsible for maintaining trees in Conservation Areas?

Trees, including those in a Conservation Area, are the responsibility and legal liability of the landowner. Landowners are responsible for the maintenance of trees on their land. We are only responsible for the general inspection or maintenance of trees on land which is owned by the District or Borough Council.

Devon County Council Highways are responsible for maintaining road safety. Hazardous trees alongside a highway, byway, bridleway or footpath can be reported to DCC Highways.

If you would like to find out who owns a particular tree, you will need to carry out a search via The Land Registry. We cannot provide general information on tree ownership.

If you think your tree may require routine maintenance or remedial work, you will need to find a tree surgeon or arboricultural consultant. Useful information on finding a fully qualified and insured professional is available on the Arboricultural Association website.

The Council will not make a site visit unless we have received a valid tree works application.


How can someone apply to work on or fell a tree in a Conservation Area?

If you wish to make an application to work on or fell a tree in a Conservation Area which is not currently subject to a Tree Preservation Order, please visit the Planning Portal to submit an application (also known as a s211 Notice).  You can also choose to download the application form and post the completed application with any supporting documents to the address at the top of the form or email it to dm@swdevon.gov.uk.

We strongly advise you to send photographs in support of your application in addition to the documents required by the application form. This may allow us to quickly determine your application once the statutory consultation period has passed.

Once a valid application has been submitted, the applicant or agent will receive confirmation of receipt of sufficient information in writing (validation letter). The Council then has six weeks to assess whether the tree fits the criteria for protection by a Tree Preservation Order. As part of this process, consultation takes place with the public, Town and Parish Councils and tree wardens. If the tree does not fit the criteria for the serving of a Tree Preservation Order, once six weeks have passed since receipt of the validation letter, the applicant or agent can proceed with the works as applied for.

If, following an application for tree works in a conservation area, a Tree Preservation Order is served, a new application may need to be made under the Tree Preservation Order procedure.

For guidance on completing the application form and the level of information required to process an application for works to protected trees, please see the Guidance notes.


I believe a tree in a Conservation Area is suffering from Ash Dieback

If you have ash trees on your land, you should monitor them throughout the growing season.

The most effective way of monitoring is to photograph the tree at regular intervals throughout the growing season (March to September). The photos should show crown density, non-seasonal leaf loss or colour changes, excessive amounts of dead wood, and/or any lesions or damage to the main trunk. This will allow you to identify changes to the health of the tree. 

It is rarely possible to diagnose Ash Dieback disease outside of the growing season (i.e. when the tree is not in leaf).

There is general information about Ash Dieback available on this page.


Dead or Dangerous Trees in a Conservation Area (5-Day Notice/Exemption)

If the tree or part of the tree is completely dead or an immediate threat to life and limb, you can submit a 5-day notice for emergency works. The applicant and/or tree surgeon (agent) must be able to prove the works qualify for a 5-day notice.

The criteria for this type of application is very strict and it can only be used for works to make the tree immediately safe. Further additional works will need to be applied for under the standard procedure (s211 Notice). The applicant and/or tree surgeon (agent) must be able to prove the works qualify for a 5-day notice.

If, following our enquiries, it turns out that the works should have been dealt with under the standard procedure, you could be investigated by our Enforcement Team for carrying out unauthorised works.  The applicant or agent will need provide evidence that the works were immediately necessary to avoid this.

In the first instance you are advised to immediately take photos of the tree or damaged part of the tree to submit as evidence with your 5-day notice. We strongly advise you provide the same level of information for a 5-day notice as you would for a standard tree works application, including photographs. This will allow us to accurately determine your application promptly, and ensure a smooth conveyancing process if you decide to sell your property.

The basic level of information required is essentially the same as for a routine tree works application, so we do suggest you use the application form to submit your notice. However, we do require you supply photographic evidence of the emergency state of the tree(s) for your legal protection and our records. This will also facilitate a swifter response from an Officer. We have produced this guidance on completing a tree works application.

Please note, if you wish your application to be processed as a 5-day notice, please state this clearly on your application form.


What should I do if I believe works are taking place without permission?

Anyone who carries out works to a tree in a Conservation Area without submitting a s211 Notice may be found guilty of a criminal offence and fined. Fines can be as high as £20,000. In serious cases an unlimited fine can be imposed. Fines may also take into account whether unlawful works have resulted in financial gain - for instance if the removal of a tree has led to an increase in property value, the offender could be seen as having benefitted financially.

South Hams and West Devon Councils have recently successfully prosecuted offenders. We also have a number of ongoing prosecutions.

To check whether permission has been granted for works to trees in a Conservation Area, all applications are available to view using the online planning search.

If you suspect works are taking place at this present moment without authorisation, please call us immediately on the number below: 

01803 861234

If you suspect unauthorised works have been carried out and the contractors have left the site, please report the incident online.

Further details on Tree Protection and Preservation Orders can be found in the Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas - government guidelines