It is not uncommon when purchasing properties to discover, either by the seller disclosing it or it being revealed in the Local Search, that they are subject to Tree Preservation Orders. A Tree Preservation Order is an order made by a local planning authority in England to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands. These Orders prohibit the:
- cutting down
- wilful damage
- wilful destruction
of protected trees without the local planning authority’s written consent. If consent is given, it can be subject to conditions which have to be followed, much the same as planning permissions.
Anyone who breaches an Order by damaging or carrying out work on a tree protected by an Order without getting permission from the local planning authority or not carrying out work in accordance with the conditions of a consent granted by the local planning authority is guilty of an offence and may be fined.
Further guidance can be found on the government website here.
It was reported on the BBC News website on 26th September 2019 that a homeowner in the exclusive Sandbanks area of Poole, Dorset has been ordered to pay almost £60,000 for cutting back protected trees outside his £1.2m seaside property to increase its value in breach of two tree preservation orders. Sandbanks is one of the most desirable coastal locations in the UK, where the average property costs over £1m.
Bournemouth Crown Court was told that Trevor Beale had destroyed the canopies of a Scots pine tree in a neighbouring garden and one in his own in order to increase the natural light on his property’s rear patio. It was estimated by three experts that the work had increased the property’s value by between £20,000 and £100,000
The prosecutor said the work on the trees was “not trivial” and the “impact is a permanent one“, with “no suggestion these canopies are going to recover“. He added that increased natural light was “what people with this type of property want” as it makes “a big difference to the value, saleability and potential rental income“.
Mr Beale’s defence barrister did not make any mitigating remarks other than to point out that Mr Beale had pleaded guilty soon after seeking legal advice.
Judge Stephen Climie told Beale he had “enhanced the value of what was a property of already very substantial value indeed” and that failing to enter “even into the barest consultation” with his neighbour about the work was an aggravating factor. The judge fined Beale £2,700, ordered him to pay costs of £15,500 and for £40,579 to be confiscated to reflect the property’s increase in value.
Speaking after the hearing, Bournemouth, the council’s planning enforcement officer said Mr Beale “believed he was above the law” and that “this was pure arrogance and the motivation was financial benefit for his holiday home.“
This case highlights the importance of observing Tree Preservation Orders and serves as an example of the potential consequences of breaching them. It also re-enforces the importance of obtaining a Local Search when purchasing a property so as to ascertain whether or not a property is subject to such an Order.
Farleys’ conveyancing team have extensive experience of local searches and have advised many clients on the occurrence of Tree Preservation Orders and Restrictive Covenants prior to the purchase of their properties. To speak to a member of the team call 0845 287 0939 or email us today.