Tree Preservation Orders - Is an owner required to keep a tree, subject to a TPO
Tree Preservation Orders - Is an owner required to keep a tree, subject to a TPO, in a healthy condition? What legal and other obligations are there on the owner?
There is no requirement to maintain trees in good order if protected by a TPO or if in a Conservation area. However, carrying out actions that induce decline would be an offence under the TPO regulations. The law requires that people should take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which cause a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury to persons or property. The generally agreed standard to be achieved is that of a reasonable and prudent landowner. 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.
What 'being aware of a defect' is not defined in law, but is considered to be what would be expected of a reasonable and prudent landowner. I suggest that a person with an interest or knowledge of trees would be expected to have a greater awareness than a complete layman. I would also suggest that if an issue is brought to the attention of an owner then it is 'reasonable and prudent' to investigate it further.
Reasonable tree management has both reactive and proactive elements. While an owner may need to react to events involving dangerous trees as they arise, it is also prudent to have forward-looking procedures to keep tree-related risks at an acceptable level. Trees are complex structures that are easily damaged by poor or ill-advised work, tree work is also a dangerous and skilled operation, I strongly advised owners to engage a professional tree surgeon or arborist to advise and to undertake any work needed, particularly when dealing with protected trees.
In terms of legal enforcement trees are the same as scheduled ancient monument and listed buildings, there is no commitment to maintain in good order but carrying out operations that have a negative effect is an offence. Do I think enforcement to maintain trees in good order is necessary? Probably not, as long as tree protection is properly applied.