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Tree preservation orders

The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation)(England) Regulations 2012 protects certain individual and groups of trees.

Those trees that have Tree Preservations Orders (TPOs) or are within Conservation Areas are protected under a range of legislation that makes it an offence to carry out any work on those trees without permission from the Council. If any trees around a property are protected by a Tree Preservation Order, approval from the Council is required before any works are carried out on those trees.

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is an order made by a local planning authority in England to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands in the interests of amenity. The order prohibits:

  • cutting down
  • uprooting
  • topping
  • lopping
  • wilful damage
  • wilful destruction

Trees that are exempt from TPOs are those that are dead, diseased, dangerous or are fruit trees grown for the commercial production of fruit.

Unless you’re sure that a tree or hedgerow is not protected, then you should not start work on it.

Applications to fell trees which are Protected by Tree Preservation Order must be supported by appropriate evidence from either a Structural Engineer or an arborist, to enable the Council to determine an application. Failure to provide appropriate evidence is likely to result in an application being refused.

A brief guide to tree work terminology and definitions

A brief guide to can be found here The Arboricultural Association

Protected trees in the Borough of Darlington

There have been 370 TPOs issued in total, the earliest order dating from 1945. Some 4,800 individual trees and 300 groups of trees are included altogether. Most of these trees are on land in private ownership and a large number are situated within gardens of domestic properties.

To find out whether a particular tree is protected, please:

  • email [email protected]
  • write to the Planning Department, Town Hall, Feethams, Darlington, DL1 5QT

We do not provide this information over the telephone.

Issuing an order

Planning authorities have the power to issue a Tree Preservation Order for the purpose of protecting any trees that are deemed to be at risk of damage or destruction. A single TPO can be issued to cover either:

  • a single tree;
  • several specified trees;
  • a defined area to include all trees within (or several defined areas);
  • a woodland area (or several woodland areas);
  • any combination of the above.

TPOs can not be applied to hedges, bushes or shrubs.

Trees in a conservation area

All trees located within a conservation area are protected against pruning or felling without prior notification to the Local Planning Authority. The Council has to be given six weeks notice before works can be carried out to any other tree (a tree not covered by a TPO) but which is within a Conservation Area. This is to give the Council an opportunity to decide if a tree is worthy of further protection (if a TPO should be issued).

If a tree is protected by both means, then the TPO takes priority.

Works to protected trees

Permission is needed to carry out works to any tree that is covered by a Tree Preservation Order. Similarly, an official notification is required before carried out works to any tree in a Conservation Area. To carry out work on any protected trees, you will need to fill in a tree works form.

Dead or Dangerous Tree Notice (5 day Notice)

If intending to carry out works that are an exception from the normal requirements to gain written consent, the tree owner (or contractor on their behalf) is advised to provide at least 5 working days notice in writing, to Darlington Borough Council before doing so.

Exceptions include:

  • Cutting down a tree when the whole tree presents an 'urgent and serious safety risk' (see note)
  • Pruning part of a tree which presents an 'urgent and serious safety risk' (see note)
  • cutting down a dead tree


The law makes it clear that in terms of exceptions, dangerous means ‘immediate risk of serious harm’.
Therefore a risk assessment would address the size of branch or tree (being assessed) and the likelihood of it falling on a vulnerable or valuable target.

How to submit a Notice when an exception applies

Email [email protected]

Subject: Tree requests (5 day notice) 

The following information must be provided;

  • Identify the tree
    • Species/type of tree
    • Size
    • Location
  • Describe the planned works 
  • Describe why the works are an exception
  • Include contact details for the owner and contractor/arborist

Within 5 days our Arboricultural Officer will inspect, determine whether works to a tree can be done under a five day notice and advise you of their decision.

Tree preservation orders and notices