Trees in Conservation Areas: What You Can and Can’t Do

Trees are often a valuable part of the landscape. They can be important parts of local ecosystems, have historic value and play a significant role in a landscape’s appearance.

In England, Local Planning Authorities have a duty to preserve and enhance conservation areas as much as they can. Part of this can include looking after the trees growing there.

Keep reading to learn more about conservation areas and the rules Local Planning Authorities have regarding trees growing there.

What’s a conservation area?

A conservation area is a space of historic or architectural interest that’s protected by law. There are lots of different types of conservation area. These include:

  • Historic town and city centres
  • 18th and 19th century suburbs
  • Country houses in historic parkland
  • Mining and fishing villages

Local Planning Authorities restrict what people can do to properties, trees and landscapes in these areas to protect them.

Can I carry out work on a tree in a conservation area?

If a tree in a conservation area is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), you should follow the relevant rules and restrictions this sets out. TPOs stop you from doing things like cutting down, uprooting and damaging trees that they protect, unless there are special circumstances. You can find out more about TPOs here.

If the tree isn’t protected by a TPO, there might still be some rules you need to follow. You can go straight ahead with the work if:

  • The tree measures 7.5cm or less in diameter at 1.5m above ground level
  • The tree measures 10cm or less in diameter at 1.5m above ground level and is going to be removed for the sole purpose of improving the growth of other trees
  • The tree is dangerous, dead or a fruit tree
  • You have the permission or are working on behalf of your Local Planning Authority, the Forestry Commission or the Environment Agency

However, if the tree doesn’t meet any of these criteria you need to tell your Local Planning Authority about the work you want to do before you start. This has to be in writing and at least 6 weeks before you want to begin. Telling your Local Planning Authority about the work on a tree you want to do is called giving ‘section 211 notice’.

What will happen after I give section 211 notice?

Once they’ve received your notice, your Local Planning Authority will respond in one of three ways. They will:

  • Create a TPO for the tree you want to work on, restricting what you can do to it;
  • Decide not to make a TPO and tell you you can go ahead; or
  • Decide not to make a TPO and not tell you. If this happens you can do the work at any time up to 2 years after the 6-week notice period ends.

If at any point you are confused about what work you’re allowed to do to a tree in a conservation area, you can contact your Local Planning Authority for advice. You can also get more information on the government’s website.