Specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands can be protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). A TPO gives legal protection to a tree, group of trees or area of woodland that is considered to be of value to the community. TPOs are served and enforced by the Council.

Which trees are protected by TPOs?

Please use the Interactive Mapping to find out if a tree, group of trees or woodland is subject to a TPO.

If subject to a TPO, an application for permission must be made to the Council and a formal decision received before any works or felling can be lawfully carried out.


Who is responsible for maintaining trees protected by TPOs?

Trees, including those subject to a TPO, are the responsibility and legal liability of the landowner.  This means that landowners are responsible for the maintenance of trees on their land. The Council is only responsible for the general inspection or maintenance of trees on land which it owns.

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 here.

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

If you think your TPO'd tree may require routine maintenance or remedial work, you should seek advice from a tree surgeon or arboricultural consultant. Useful information on finding a fully qualified and insured professional is available here.

The Council will not make a site visit unless in receipt of a valid tree works application.


Do I need to apply to work on or fell a tree subject to a TPO?

If you wish to make an application to work on or fell a tree with a Preservation Order, please visit the Planning Portal.

If you prefer, you can 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 council has eight weeks to issue a decision. During this time we will consult with the public, Town and Parish Councils and tree wardens. The Council can approve or refuse all or part of your application. If refused, you have the right to appeal to the Planning inspectorate.

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


I believe a tree subject to a TPO 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 and can be submitted as evidence in support of a future application, should works become necessary.

It is rarely possible to diagnose Ash Dieback disease outside of the growing season (i.e. when the tree is not in leaf). Without supporting evidence we will be unlikely to grant consent for requested works on the basis of Ash Dieback.

There is general information about Ash Dieback available here.


Dead or dangerous trees subject to a TPO (5-day notice/Exemption)

If the tree or part of the tree is completely dead or poses an immediate risk to people or property, you can submit a 5-day notice for emergency works. The applicant and/or tree surgeon must be able to provide evidence that the works qualify for a 5-day notice.

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 will require the same level of information to process a 5-day notice as we would for a standard tree works application.

The basic level of information required is essentially the same as for a routine tree works application, so we recommend that you use the application form to submit your notice. However, we will need you to supply photographic evidence of the emergency state of the tree(s) for your legal protection and our records. This will also help you to get a quicker response from an Officer. Guidance on completing a tree works application is available here.

Tree owners, their agents and contractors, should take care not to exceed an exemption. You should not carry out works that you believe to be exempt without first seeking advice from a suitably qualified arboriculturalist, and checking with the Council about what is and is not required.

Unauthorised works could be dealt with by our Enforcement Team, unless the applicant or agent can provide evidence that the works were immediately necessary.


How do I get a TPO placed on a tree?

Tree Preservation Orders can only be served on trees which have been assessed as having significant value to the community, and where there is a possible threat to the tree.

If you wish to request the Council consider serving a Tree Preservation Order, please apply to us using the TPO Assessment Form.


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

Anyone who carries out works to a tree subject to a TPO without completing the formal application process 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 District and West Devon Borough Councils have recently successfully prosecuted offenders. We also have a number of ongoing prosecutions.

To find out if consent has been granted for works to trees or in a woodland with a TPO, you can use the online planning search to search.

If you suspect works are taking place at this present moment without permission, 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 here.


Further information

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

If you wish to be emailed a copy of a Tree Preservation Order, please identify the TPO reference number on the Interactive Mapping and send this and full postal address (including postcode) of the TPO to trees@swdevon.gov.uk.  This will take up to 5 working days to process.  


How do I find a suitable tree surgeon?

Please see this link for advice on choosing a qualified, insured tree surgeon.