Trees are an important part of our built environment and Harlow Council has a duty to seek to preserve them where possible and where they are considered to be important to the visual appearance of the locality. Preservation of trees can be in two different forms, via the service of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or if a tree is located within a designated Conservation Area.
- Trees on Council land - Frequently Asked Questions
- Trees on private land - Frequently Asked Questions
Unauthorised work to a tree protected by a TPO or within a Conservation Area is a criminal offence and liable to prosecution.
Tree Preservation Orders
A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is made to protect important trees and woodlands within the District. The main effect of the order is to prevent the cutting down or harmful pruning of important landscape trees without the permission of the Local Planning Authority. This is especially important where trees are in danger of removal.
Harlow Council has over 300 TPOs protecting a large number of trees and is currently reviewing those TPOs to ensure that the protected trees are of value and updating and amending the orders as necessary.
Anyone who intends to carry out works to a tree protected by a TPO in Harlow must first apply and receive consent from the Harlow Council before carrying out any works.
More information can be found in the Government document: A guide to tree preservation procedures (pdf)
Trees in Conservation Areas
All trees with a trunk diameter of 75mm or more are protected if they are in a Conservation Area.
Anyone who intends to carry out work to a tree in a Conservation Area must apply giving six weeks’ notice in writing of the works they propose to do, before carrying out work to the tree(s).
Harlow Council will review the application and consider whether the tree(s) is worthy of a Tree Preservation Order and if it is, are the works proposed acceptable. If the works are considered excessive and the tree(s) are of value to the amenity of the locality, a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) may be placed on the tree(s).
How do I find out of a tree has a Tree Preservation Order or is in a Conservation Area?
You can contact the Planning Team by emailing the address, postcode, location and type of tree(s) to email@example.com. In addition, when buying a property the presence of a Tree Preservation Order, or a Conservation Area should be highlighted by the search of the local land charges register.
Obtaining a copy of a Tree Preservation Order
Please contact the Harlow Council's Land Charges Team on 01279 446696 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like to obtain a copy of a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). You will need to have either the number of the TPO or an exact address of the location of the tree(s) to help us find the correct TPO. The charge for a copy of a TPO is £5.00.
How to make an application to carry out works to a protected tree(s)
- Tree Preservation Order: Anyone who intends to carry out work to a tree protected by a TPO in Harlow is required to submit an application for Tree Works, using the relevant form, checklist and guidance.
- Conservation Area: Anyone proposing to carry out works to trees within a Conservation Area in Harlow is required to give the Harlow Council six weeks prior notice in writing before carrying out works on any tree over 75mm in diameter (or 100mm if the works are being carried out to improve the growth of other trees) measured at 1.5 metres high. It is recommended that the Tree Works application form, checklist and guidance is also used, as this ensures that all the necessary information, required to consider your proposal are forthcoming
Applicants are encouraged to seek the advice of an Independent Arboriculturalist before making any such applications and proposals can be advised on via the Council’s pre-application advice process prior to an application being formally made.
There are no fees required in respect of applications for works on trees.
There are three ways to make a tree works application:
- Submit a Tree Works Application through the Planning Portal: www.planningportal.co.uk
- Submit your application by post. Download, complete and submit the Tree Works Application Form to Planning Team, Harlow Council, Civic Centre, The Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex, CM20 1WG.
- Submit your application by email, as an attachment, to email@example.com
Important: Your application will be part of the public register and will be available on Harlow Council’s Planning Register and can in certain circumstances also be copied to neighbours and other third parties. You should draw our attention to any sensitive private information which you would not wish made available in this way.
Whilst Harlow Council are unable to recommend any tree work contractors (arboricultural contractors) the following arboricultural contractors are recognised by the Council, at the time of publication, as being reputable firms that undertake work in accordance with current British Standard recommendations and industry best practice guidance:
- James Curry Arborist (email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01279 421047)
- Essex Arboriculture Ltd (email email@example.com or phone 01621 778699)
- Writtle Forrest (email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01277 355970)
You can also look at the Tree Care website for guidance on selecting a tree expert.
Trees are potentially a source of numerous problems, particularly but by no means only to those occupying neighbouring land. It is therefore not surprising that trees have on many occasions been the subject of protracted litigation in the courts. Because problems and disputes relating to trees have been around for centuries, the law has developed to the point where it is now somewhat complex.
If you are seriously concerned about the state of a tree on your neighbours land then our advice is to speak with the landowner to draw attention to the problem and ask them to deal with it. They may not be aware that there is a problem, and may take action to resolve your concerns straightaway.
In our experience keeping good and friendly relations with your neighbour's is more likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome or at least an acceptable compromise. Offering to pay for the work needed to solve your problem may help, but ultimately for many neighbour tree disputes the owner of the trees has the final say.
The Council will not become involved in mediation or advising you or your neighbour on these matters.
Which trees are Harlow Council responsible for?
Harlow Council is responsible for all trees on Council owned land including highways, housing and open spaces. Trees located on private land are the tenant or owners responsibility. Trees on Council land - Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t know who owns the private land on which the tree stands, what can the Council do to help?
The Council only keeps records of trees that it owns or maintains, we do not hold records of private land ownership. If you don’t know who owns the land (and the tree/s) then you can carry out a land search through HM Land Registry website
I have a tree growing in my garden. What are my responsibilities?
All trees in private ownership are the responsibility of the owner of the land on which they grow; whether or not they are subject to Tree Protection Order. If you have freehold ownership of land upon which a tree grows you are responsible for it, unless you have leased the land to a third party who, through the terms of the lease, has accepted this responsibility. The Council does not have responsibility for and does not undertake work to privately owned trees.
The owner of a tree owes a duty of care to all third parties and is at all times liable for any nuisance or damage the tree causes. If you are aware of a defect in your tree and damage subsequently results, you may be held liable for negligence. The duty of care extends even to persons who may trespass onto your land. If you are in doubt or are concerned about the condition of a tree in your garden you should seek advice from a qualified Tree Contractor or Arboricultural Consultant.
Trees shrubs or hedges from a private garden are overhanging and blocking a footpath, who can I contact?
Section 154 of the Highways Act 1980 gives as our local Highway Authority powers to require the removal or cutting back of trees, shrubs and hedges that obstruct or endanger highway users. This could be growth blocking a footpath, hanging low over a road, or interfering with street lights, traffic lights or road signs. You can call Essex County Council on 01245 430430.
Under Common law, you may prune any branches from trees and hedges overhanging your land, and also the roots growing under your land up to your boundary without the consent of the owner, but you must not trespass on to your neighbour's land to do this. In addition you must offer to return the wood and any fruit attached or which has fallen on to your land. However, you will need to exercise reasonable care in carrying out or asking others who do the work to the tree, as failure to do so may lead to liability in negligence if the work you carry out, such as cutting roots causes the tree to die or become dangerous.
If the tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order or is in a Conservation Area common law rights do not apply and you must first make an application and receive consent in writing from the Council before any work takes place, this includes to branches which extend over your property. You can apply for the necessary consent and do not have to rely on your neighbour, and tree owner to do this.
My neighbour's tree is blocking my light. What can I do?
There is no right to light in law. Any case in respect of loss of light must be proven in the Civil Court. If successful, an injunction may be served by the Court requiring the offending trees to be reduced in height or restricting their further growth. Court action is likely to be expensive, and we strongly advise against this action.
My neighbour's trees are blocking my view. What can I do?
Nothing except speak to your neighbour and ask him/her to remedy the situation. There is no right to a view.
A tree in a neighbouring garden is blocking my satellite TV signal. What can I do about the tree?
Nothing. There is no legal right to TV reception and interference is not, at present, a legal ‘nuisance’ as defined in law. You will need to move or re site your satellite dish.
My neighbour's tree is causing damage to my property. What can I do?
If you believe your property to be suffering direct or indirect damage by tree roots, you are best advised to consult an Arboricultural Consultant or a Structural Engineer. There will usually be evidence of damage such as deformation, bowing or cracking of walls, uneven surfacing or blocked drains. If this is the case you should notify your building insurer who may initiate further investigations and negotiate with the tree owner and their insurer. In cases where damage is proven, the tree owner or their insurers are likely to be liable.
The Council will not take sides in any dispute over trees which it does not own. If you need help in any matter you should consult a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Please note that information contained on this and other pages relating to trees is written for the benefit of tree owners and the general public. It is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligations.
My neighbours have planted a tree very close to our boundary. Can they do this?
There is no law to stop anyone planting or growing a tree anywhere on their property. There is no law restricting the height of trees. However, any person who plants a poisonous tree so close to a boundary that its branches grow over that boundary and are eaten by a neighbour's livestock, may be held liable for damages. If however a neighbour's livestock reach over to the tree owner's side of the boundary to eat the leaves, the tree owner will most likely not be liable unless they have a legal responsibility to maintain the boundary.