Protected Trees - FAQs

Q. What is a Tree Preservation Order
 
A. A TPO is made by the Local Planning Authority, under Section 160 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, and within the procedures set out in the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation Order and Trees in Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Regulations 1975-1984. They are made to protect individual trees, groups of trees or woodlands which have particular amenity value, make a significant contribution to the landscape or townscape or because there may be a potential threat to the trees.
 
Q. What type of trees can be protected?
 
A. In deciding which trees qualify to become protected the Council must ensure that the trees contribute to the amenity and attractiveness of an area and be under threat in some way. Either individual specimens or groups can be protected in a single Order. There are no guidelines on which species of tree can be included in an Order.
 
Q. What is the law regarding illegal tree work?
 
A. It is an offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destruct (including the roots) protected trees without prior permission from Fife Council. Carrying out unauthorised work to a protected tree is an offence and can result in a fine of up to £20,000 or for a more serious offence, an unlimited fine.
 
Q. What is the process for making a Tree Preservation Order?
 
A. The process starts with a Provisional Order, this is served on the owner of the land and comes into effect immediately. The Order will be served in writing on the owners and anyone with a legal interest in the land. It is advertised in the local press and a period of 28 days is allowed for objections. If no objections are received the Council will then confirm the Order. Once confirmed, the TPO will remain indefinitely.  Where objections or representations have been made to the Council these will be taken into consideration when the decision is made whether or not to confirm the Tree Preservation Order. Once confirmed, TPOs are recorded by the Keeper of Register of Sasines (Scotland) or in the Land Register of Scotland. They then become legal burdens on the land occupied by present and future owners so that when the land is sold on, the title passes on with the TPO.
 
Q. What can I do if my neighbour’s hedge has grown too high?
 
A. We would encourage anyone who is experiencing difficulties to approach their neighbours first. However, if communication has broken down, you could contact Fife Community Mediation Services on 01592 641618 or email info@fifecm.sacro.org.uk. 
 
As a last resort a solicitor might be able to assist as under the Scottish legal system, there is a history of litigation about the demarcation of boundaries between properties and there is also a common law of nuisance, which generally entails some form of damage to, or intolerable interference with, a person's use or enjoyment of property. This route is lengthy and can be expensive.
 
Q. Can I prune branches overhanging my property?
 
A. If branches are overhanging into your property, then you may prune these, but you must return the cut branches to your neighbours as they belong to them. Before doing so, it is always courtous to ask first.
 
If the tree is in a conservation area or is the subject of a Tree Preservation Order, it is legally protected and you should not prune it, even if it overhangs your property.
 
Q. When should I carry out tree work?
 
A. The cutting back of deciduous trees is best carried out during November and March. Once the leaves have fallen examination of the tree is easier to undertake. During this time it also avoids disturbing wildlife. It is against the Countryside and Wildlife Act to disturb nesting birds.
 
Q. Who should I employ to do tree work?
 
A. All tree work should be carried out by qualified, trained, and insured Tree Surgeons.
 
They should operate to BS 3998:2010 Recommendations for Tree Work, and be in possession of a relevant certificate for tree work. Suitable firms can be located in the Yellow Pages or the Internet.
 
It is advisable to get at least two quotes for any work you require. If you are in any doubt ask to see, references, proof of insurance, and that they follow Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group guidelines.
 
It is best to avoid unsolicited offers of tree lopping from ‘tree surgeons’ calling at your door. Most reputable firms do not operate in this way.
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