What happens when the Local Planning Authority doesn’t agree with the householder that a tree should be felled? Planning partner Duncan Tilney shares a recent case.

Our client was delighted to receive the decision on their appeal confirming that they can now fell the Monterey Pine that has been plaguing their lives for months.  They had already had a building damaged by a falling branch and their use of their garden had been curtailed by the threat from falling cones, each weighing over a kilo.

Tree Preservation Orders are imposed in the public interest, where a tree or a group of trees offers public amenity and there is a risk that they would otherwise be felled or damaged.  Householders are comforted, no doubt, that they will be allowed to carry out necessary works to trees along the way and that when the tree becomes dangerous the Local Planning Authority (LPA) will give consent for it to be felled.   

Difficulties arise, however, when professional opinions divide.  In this case, the LPA’s view was that the tree showed ‘good vitality for its age’.  Fortunately the Inspector appointed to decide the appeal disagreed.  He preferred the position pursued in the appeal that the tree was ‘post-mature’ and in declining health and that limited trimming of its branches (the preferred approach of the LPA) would only hasten its demise.

Almost secondary to the debate was the fact that recent development had left the tree surrounded on all four sides by houses, which had reduced, almost to zero, the tree’s importance in the wider landscape.  Following its felling, a replacement tree will need to be provided, although not necessarily in the same location.  It is arguable that a healthier tree in a better location would actually improve the public amenity position; it will certainly provide peace of mind for the property owners on a windy night.

LPA’s need to take care when refusing consent for works to protected trees, as there may be a liability for them (for a period) if damage is caused following such a refusal.  From an applicant’s point of view, action to appeal must be swift as the deadline for submitting an appeal (date on the decision letter to completed form being received by the Planning Inspectorate) is 28 days and such appeals can’t yet be submitted through the online appeals portal.

Duncan Tilney is a specialist in planning law and a partner in the rural services team at Stephens Scown LLP. He can be contacted on 01392 210700, email solicitors@stephens-scown.co.uk.