Tree Pruning Information

Legislation Update

From 1 Jan 2023 Illegal tree felling in England will be punishable by unlimited fines and prison sentences.  This change is because of property developers clearing trees illegally knowing they will only face trivial fines.  More info


There are many reasons why a tree might need pruning, including:

It is best to carry out tree work at an appropriate time of year for the particular species of tree (see below) in order to minimise the risk of disease establishing.

Before undertaking any tree work, it is also necessary to check whether there are any legal constraints such as tree preservation orders.

Of course, tree work is potentially dangerous and risk of harm to people and property must always be assessed carefully.

Time of Year to Prune (by Species)

The table below lists most common groups of trees and when it's best to prune them in order to minimise risk of infection or other detriment to the tree.  

For all trees and shrubs, it's generally best to avoid the autumn as this is when  there are the most fungal spores present in the air and so an increased risk of an infection entering a wound.

Tree Pruning
Based on various sources including The Arboricultural Association and RHS. 

Tree Protection Legislation

Trees can be protected by law within the UK via a few different legal mechanisms. These include Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), Conservation Area laws, Felling Licence rules, Restrictive Covenants, and planning conditions. It is important to find out whether any legal restrictions apply before you undertake work on your trees as you may be liable to prosecution if permission is not obtained.  

Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)

TPOs are administered by Breckland Council in its role as our Local Planning Authority (LPA) and are made to protect trees that provide a significant amenity benefit to the area.  All species of tree can be protected (but not hedges which are protected under the Hedgerows Regulations`), and a TPO can protect anything from a single tree to all trees within an area or woodland.

For any tree with a TPO, it is a criminal offence to cut down, top, lop, uproot, wilfully damage or wilfully destroy it, or to cause or permit such actions without the authority’s permission. Anyone found guilty of such an offence is liable to prosecution, and an unlimited fine can be imposed for destroying or removing a protected tree without consent.

The easiest way to apply for consent is online via the Planning Portal.

Conservation Areas

If a tree is in a Conservation Area, you have to give six weeks prior written notice to the LPA (by letter, email,  LPA’s form, or Planning Portal) of any proposed work, describing what you want to do. This gives the LPA an opportunity to consider protecting the tree with a TPO. Normal TPO procedures apply if the tree is already protected by a TPO.

You do not need to give notice if the tree's trunk is less than 7.5 centimetres in diameter, measured 1.5 metres above the ground.

Felling Licences 

You do not need a licence to fell trees in gardens. For trees outside gardens, however, you may need to apply to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence, whether or not they are covered by a TPO. You can find out more about felling licences from the Forestry Commission website.  The Forestry Commission publish a map showing current consultations, and another map with recent decisions.

Restrictive Covenants

A restrictive covenant is a promise between the seller and buyer of land not to do certain things with the land or property. A restrictive covenant continues over the land or property even when the current owner sells it. Covenants may occasionally require the consent of a third party prior to carrying out tree work.

Loads the Breckland Council map that indexes protected trees.  To see TPOs etc on the map, click "Environment and Listed Buildings" in the layers menu.  Then select "Tree Preservation Orders" and "Conservation Areas". 

When applying for permission to prune or fell a protected tree.

On the National Planning Portal

Silver leaf fruiting body.

Photo: Ian Lindsay