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Trees

Cornwall Council has the power to protect trees and woodlands where they:

  • make an important contribution to a public amenity
  • are considered to be at risk.
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Public amenity can be described as the benefit to, or enjoyment by the public.

A joint statement by the Environment and Planning & Sustainable Development Services was issued in September 2020.  This note provides guidance on the proper use of Tree Preservation Orders "Right tree - right place".

On this page you can find out how trees are dealt with in the planning system and what it means if your tree is protected.

Before you carry out any work on a tree, please find out if the tree is:

  • protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)
  • within a conservation area

You can do this by checking the online map below.

It is a criminal offence to prune, cut down or damage a protected tree without following the correct procedures. This can result in substantial fines. 

View the Tree Preservation Order Interactive Map

Green dots relate to individual trees, whereas the green shading will relate to a group, area or woodland. 

Purple hatching shows where there is a Conservation Area.

The mapping overlay shows the position of the trees at the time the order was made.

Please note that changes including felling and replanting may have occurred since this time.

Although the system is updated, new Orders will not automatically become visible on the map. Therefore a new Order may be in force, but not viewable on the system.

We advise anyone using the system to take a dated screen shot as evidence of their check.

If you have any queries please contact planning@cornwall.gov.uk.

Please read this useful guide about tree preservation orders and tree protection. This has been produced by the Communities and Local Government Department.

Outside a garden, the felling of more than five cubic metres of timber may require a felling license from the Forestry Commission. They can be contacted on 01392 834242. 

It is important that you read these documents before completing the form:

Apply online to work on protected trees

There is also a printable version of this form: apply to work on protected trees.

Applicants should provide a detailed description of the proposed works and set out why they wish to carry out the work.

Pruning should be measured as a distance, however, when crown thinning is proposed, it should be measured as a percentage. Examples are given below:

  • Reduce the height from 15 metres to 13 metres.
  • Reduce the spread of the crown to 5 metres (measured from the stem) on its southern side only.
  • Thin the crown by 15 %.
  • Raise the crown to a height of 3 metres above ground level.

In addition to the application form, it is also useful to include photographs of the trees with the proposed work clearly marked on them.  A plan showing the location of the tree/s is also likely to be necessary

Decision timescales and advice

The Council has 6 weeks to make a decision about Conservation Area notices. Once registered the Council has 8 weeks to make a decision about TPO applications.

The Forestry Officers may visit the property once an application has been made. However, they are not able to provide pre-application advice.

If you would like further advice you can speak to an Arboriculturalist. The Arboricultural Association produces a list of approved contractors and consultants that you can contact.

Within a conservation area, trees are subject to statutory protection if they have a stem diameter which is bigger than 75 mm. This is when measured at a height of 1.5 metres above ground level.

Before you carry out any work to a tree you need to give the council 6 weeks notice of your intention to do so.

The notice can be given by:

This allows the council to make a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). The Council can stop the works if they are harmful to a public space or the character of the conservation area.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) may apply to any tree, group of trees or woodlands that make an important contribution to a public amenity.  

Before any work can take place to a tree that is subject to a tree preservation order, you must apply for consent to carry out work to the tree. This can be achieved by visiting the Planning Portal website:

Alternatively, you can download a printable copy of the application form:

To find out if a tree, or group of trees, is protected please check on the online map found under Protected Trees.

The council is able to make new TPO’s at any time if it feels that important trees are under threat. 

The council has the freedom to decide when trees are important and when it would be necessary to protect them.

The appropriate test for making a TPO is if the loss of or damage to the tree (or trees) would cause significant harm to a public space.

Individuals and organisations can request that the Council consider making a TPO. They can do this by completing the ‘Request a Tree Preservation Order’ form.

Not all work to be carried out on protected trees is required to follow the normal procedures. This can be for either a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Areas.

The most common exceptions are:

  • the cutting down of dead or dangerous trees
  • the removal of dead or dangerous branches of otherwise healthy or safe trees

For more information about exceptions please read these documents:

You may need to prune or cut down a tree that presents an urgent and serious safety risk or cut down a dead tree. However, before you do, you must complete a dead and dangerous tree notice form. Alternatively, you can email planning@cornwall.gov.uk to let them know about the work that you are planning to do.  You must give at least 5 days written notice.

Sometimes, the work is so urgent that it is not possible to provide notice before hand. In such cases, please read the dead and dangerous tree advice note for information on how to continue.

You may wish to cut down a dying tree or remove dying branches from a tree. If so, you will now need to make a written application by email or letter for consent from the planning team. This is because carrying out this work now requires formal approval.

The following information may be helpful in identifying diseases and other problems which may affect trees.

Statutory undertakers are companies and agencies. They have legal rights to carry out certain development and highways works.  Certain exceptions to tree protection apply to statutory undertakers. An example is Western Power and contractors working on their behalf. Their exemptions are as follows:

Trees can be cut down, topped, lopped or uprooted by or at the request of a statutory undertaker. This is where the land on which the tree sits is operational land and the work is necessary -

  • so they can work safely
  • in connection with the inspection, repair or renewal of any sewers:
    • mains
    • pipes
    • cables
    • other apparatus of the statutory undertaker
  • to enable them to carry out development permitted by or under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995

In these circumstances the necessary work may continue without consent from, Cornwall Council.  It will be up to the statutory undertaker or their contractor to demonstrate that the work was an exception if challenged.

In some instances, trees have high amenity value and the proposed works will have a significant impact on them. In such cases, the statutory undertaker may discuss options with the Council’s Forestry Officer.

For new developments the Council has a duty to make arrangements for the protection and planting of trees.  Developments should be designed to ensure that existing and new trees compliment the development. This is without reducing the occupant's enjoyment.

Where trees may be affected by a development the planning application should be accompanied by a tree survey. This is written in accordance with the British Standard 5837, trees in relation to design, demolition and construction – Recommendations.

When designing a layout where trees are nearby the following factors must be addressed:

  • Important trees are kept wherever possible.
  • Future growth of the trees are predicted and planned for.
  • Trees which are kept can be protected within a Construction Exclusion Zone.
  • Buildings, services, roads and driveways occur outside the exclusion zones.
  • Enough space will need to be made available for the development to be carried out. This space should not impact on the exclusion zones. For example for:
    • access
    • scaffolding site huts
    • plant and machinery
    • storage
  • The new properties will need to be in harmony with the retained and newly planted trees. This is so that the new occupants are not caused unreasonable inconvenience. For example, by shade or overhanging branches.

TPO's and planning conditions may be used in connection with a successful planning application. This is to ensure that the trees are protected.

Developers are encouraged to speak to the Council before submitting a planning application.  If the development has implications for trees it is helpful for everyone involved that these issues are identified and where possible resolved as early as possible.