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Trees, woodlands and high hedges

Tree Preservation Orders

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO) is made to protect trees that have a high amenity value and have a positive impact on their immediate surroundings, providing protection for trees which are under threat or would be threatened in the future.

The council makes a provisional TPO with immediate effect and it remains in force for six months, after which the council must confirm the order. The council sends copies of the TPO documents to the owner of the tree and all other relevant interested parties. The landowner is still responsible for the protected tree and must request permission from the council to do any work that may affect the tree.

Unauthorised work can lead to prosecution in the magistrates' court and a fine of up to £20,000 (per tree), as well as having to replace any trees that have been lost. 

Trees in conservation areas

All trees in conservation areas are protected by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 under section 211. Landowners are required to give the council six weeks' prior notice for any work being carried out on trees in a conservation area. This is to allow the Trees and Woodlands Officer to visit the site to assess whether the work is appropriate and to consider whether a TPO should be placed on the tree.

Notice is not required when the work is being carried out to a dead tree or a tree that is considered dangerous, although it is advisable to still contact the council five days before the work is carried out to enable the Trees and Woodlands Officer to assess the work.

Notice is not needed for any work, including felling within a conservation area, on trees that measure less than 75mm in diameter at a point 1.5 metres above the ground, or 100mm in diameter if the removal of the tree would enable others to flourish.

Prosecution and fines may result if any tree work is carried out and notice is not given to the council.

Finding out if a tree is protected by a TPO or is within a conservation area

If you wish to know whether trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order or are affected by being within a conservation area, then contact the St.Helens Council Trees and Woodlands Officer on 01744 676221 or email mikeroberts-urb@sthelens.gov.uk.

Apply to do work to a protected tree

You can apply electronically via the Planning Portal.

Tree management

Trees and woodlands improve the appearance of the borough, they reduce air pollution and provide a habitat for wildlife and resource for recreation. They have also been shown to improve recovery rates from illness and contribute to mental well-being. The council has policies in place to retain the existing trees and woodlands as well as to increase the tree and woodland cover throughout the borough.

Management of trees within areas of council-managed public open space and highways

The council carries out work in accordance with the guidance and standards indicated within the St.Helens Council Tree Policy 2016

If you have a query about trees that lie within adopted highways or within areas of public open space, please get in touch with our Contact Centre:

Tel: 01744 676789
Email: contactcentre@sthelens.gov.uk
St Helens Council, Contact Centre, Wesley House, Corporation Street, St Helens, WA10 1HF

Development affecting trees

Where proposed development impacts on existing trees or woodland, a tree survey and arboricultural impact assessment (to BS5837 (2012)) is required to assess the impact on the existing resource.

Proposals affecting existing trees and woodlands will not normally be permitted if they would result in significant loss of trees, do not incorporate measures for the successful retention of existing trees or do not make adequate provision for replacement planting to compensate for any losses. The planting of new trees and woodlands is encouraged and will normally be a requirement of planning permission.

The felling of trees will normally need permission from the Forestry Commission. A licence is required under the Forestry Act 1967 (as amended) for the felling of growing trees except in certain circumstances.

Failure to protect trees during development can result in trees being permanently damaged within minutes of site works commencing. Root damage caused by soil compression, for instance, may go unnoticed yet could have serious repercussions for the tree. It is important therefore to understand the vulnerability of trees. Damage to stems and branches are not usually sufficient to kill a tree, but may make it unsafe by affecting the balance of the crown or by encouraging decay; such damage may also be disfiguring.

The most susceptible part of the tree to damage is the root system. Most of a tree's root system is within the top 600mm of the soil surface, where the balance of moisture, oxygen and nutrients necessary for survival are found. Tree roots are highly branched and form a network of small diameter woody roots, which typically radiate outwards for a distance greater than the height of the tree. All parts of this system bear a mass of fine none-woody absorptive roots (less than 0.5mm in diameter), which is where water and minerals are uptaken.

All parts of the root system, but especially the fine roots, are vulnerable to damage, which will restrict water and nutrient uptake until new ones have grown. Mature and post-mature trees recover slowly, if at all, from damage to their woody roots.

The root system and soil bound within it acts as a structural counter-balance to the above-ground parts of a tree. Excavation within the rooting zone can impair this, even when major roots have not been severed.

Potentially damaging operations include:

  • Excavation within the rooting zone
  • Raising or lowering of ground levels
  • Compaction of the soil by construction works, site machinery or vehicles and the storage of materials and debris (even a single passage by heavy equipment on clay soils can compact the ground and reduce diffusion and root effectiveness)
  • The dumping or spillage of toxic materials
  • The installation of impermeable surfacing
  • Direct damage to trunks and branches by construction vehicles
  • Fires built closer than 20 metres from the base of any tree.

More information is available in the St.Helens Council Trees and Development Supplementary Planning Document June 2008. Please contact the Trees and Woodland Officer for further advice about development and tree protection on 01744 676221 or email mikeroberts-urb@sthelens.gov.uk.

The Mersey Forest

St.Helens is a partner in The Mersey Forest, a joint initiative of seven local authorities, Natural England and the Forestry Commission with a wide range of public, private and voluntary organisations and individuals involved as partners. The aim is to establish multipurpose woodlands throughout Merseyside and North Cheshire with better environments for people to use and enjoy.

The Mersey Forest is an innovative and visionary programme that is restoring the landscape in project areas, creating opportunities for economic regeneration, recreation and nature conservation, building local community support and involvement in local environmental improvements. Find out more about the Mersey Forest.

A critical element in the positive transformation of St.Helens has been the work to improve the appearance and perception of the borough and to make St.Helens a more attractive place for residents, investors and visitors. The impetus for change was fuelled by initiatives such as the City Growth Strategy, which took a visionary approach to the regeneration of the borough.

The strategy identifies St.Helens Town in the Forest, the borough's woodland planting strategy, as being the overarching concept of St.Helens town centre in 10 to 15 years' time, being at the heart of a maturing series of linear woodlands, connecting with the newly developed community woodland areas.

The council, along with its partners including the Mersey Forest and Bold Parish Council, is committed to developing a Forest Park, mainly in the Bold area of St.Helens. The Bold Forest Park Area Action Plan aims to encourage inward investment via rural entrepreneurship in the visitor economy, while providing leisure opportunities for the community. 

High hedges

Since 1 June 2005, local authorities have had power to deal with complaints about high hedges under Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. The council does not act as a mediator or negotiator in these cases but instead adjudicates as to whether the hedge is preventing a property owner from reasonable enjoyment of their property.

Before a council becomes involved, it is up to the complainant to prove they have taken a number of steps to sort out the problem with the hedge owner. The council will only become involved if the hedge:

  • Is more than two metres high
  • Is comprised of evergreens and semi-evergreens
  • Includes at least two trees or shrubs roughly in line, and
  • The applicant can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to resolve the dispute amicably.

The act gives local authorities the power to issue remedial notices to rectify high hedge problems. Remedial notices can require the hedge be reduced to a minimum height of two metres - they cannot enforce the removal of the hedge or guarantee access to uninterrupted light. Failure to carry out the work listed in the remedial notice is an offence and the hedge owner could be prosecuted and could possibly be fined up to £1,000.

For more information on high hedges, please visit the Communities and Local Government website or please get in touch with our contact centre:

Tel: 01744 676789
Email: contactcentre@sthelens.gov.uk
St Helens Council, Contact Centre, Wesley House, Corporation Street, St Helens, WA10 1HF