Trees are protected if they are in a conservation area, or if they are the subject of a tree preservation order (TPO).

This prevents cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, willful damage or destruction of trees and roots without our permission.

Any work to a protected tree without consent would result in prosecution. If convicted, you may be fined up to £20,000 in the Magistrates court for each tree. You would also need to replace any tree that has been removed without permission.

A tree preservation order (TPO) is a legal document, made by the Council, which protects trees that are making a positive contribution to the visual appearance of the area.

Once in place, a TPO enables the Council to control works to these trees.

Within an Order, trees may be identified individually, by groups, as an area or as a woodland. Trees within a hedgerow may be protected but hedges, shrubs and bushes cannot be protected by a TPO. Trees grown as crops, such as fruit trees, are also exempt.

You can check what trees are protected using the Tree Preservation Order street index (PDF, 330KB)

The Council receives requests to make TPOs from Councillors and residents of Bexley, who think that particular trees, which are under threat, make an important contribution to their locality.

TPOs may also be made as a result of development proposals being submitted to the Council where the retention of existing trees is considered important. All suggestions for a TPO should be addressed to the Head of Development Management, email developmentcontrol@bexley.gov.uk.

To find out more about Tree Protection Orders, use the Government Guidance.

The designation of a conservation area, of which there are currently 23 in Bexley borough, provides protection to virtually all trees within its boundary, as well as protecting the buildings.

Section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 makes it an offence for anyone to carry out works to trees in a conservation area without giving the Council six weeks written notice of their intentions.

Exemptions from this requirement apply to works to trees having a stem diameter less than 75mm, measured over the bark, at a distance of 1.5m above ground level, and to trees which are dead, dying or dangerous.

People proposing to undertake works to trees located in a conservation area, that are not already protected by a Tree Preservation Order, must give the Council six weeks written notice. The notice must clearly identify the trees concerned and provide a precise description of the intended operations. Consultation with a tree surgeon before submitting the notification is recommended.

Within the six week period the tree will be inspected and the Council will decide if the works are acceptable or whether the tree should be protected under a TPO.

To find out more about tree preservation in conservation areas, use the Government Guidance.

In addition to being protected by a TPO or in a conservation area, trees may also be protected by a condition placed on a planning consent.

The Planning Act places a duty on the Local Planning Authority to consider the retention and protection of existing trees on development sites and the planting of new trees within a scheme of landscaping.  

In these cases conditions may require the maintenance of trees within a new development for a period of years after building operations have been completed and permission would be required for works to these trees. You can look up your property planning history by Viewing Planning Applications Online.