Tree Warden

The Tree Warden Scheme

The Tree Warden Scheme is a nation-wide initiative of the Tree Council. There are over 100 local schemes, including one in Somerset West and Taunton , co-ordinated by the Council’s Heritage and Landscape Team.

Who are Tree Wardens, and what do they do?

Appointed by the Parish Council, in association with  Somerset West and Taunton Council, they are volunteers from all walks of life with an interest in trees and a desire to help care for the local tree stock.

There is no ‘job description’ or defined programme of work that each Tree Warden needs to carry out. Their general role is to gather information about local trees; to be a point of contact for locals with tree problems or queries, and to encourage practical projects associated with trees and woods. Their role is basically what they make it and will depend upon personal skills and preferences. The post of Tree Warden for North Curry is currently held by Phil Stone (01823 491689).

Trees and the Law

Tree Preservation Orders

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO’s) are used to protect selected trees and woodlands whose removal would have significant impact on the environment and it’s enjoyment by the public. The practical effect of a TPO is to prohibit the felling, pruning, damage or uprooting of trees without the consent of the Local Planning Authority (LPA).

A TPO extends to the whole tree including the roots.

A landowner must be provided with a copy of a TPO made by the LPA, and the trees must be identified on a map. Anyone can check whether TPO’s are in force on any tree by contacting the LPA.

Should anyone wish to fell, prune or uproot a tree covered by a TPO, they must:

  • Apply in writing to the LPA setting out the tree works they wish to carry out and why
  • Not carry out any work on a tree until written permission has been granted by the LPA
  • Strictly adhere to any work approved and associated conditions imposed by the LPA in terms of extent of pruning and type of operation.

Should consent be refused or no decision received within two months of applying to the LPA, an appeal may be made to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and Regions.

Working on a protected tree without consent is an offence and it is open to the LPA to prosecute.

Conservation Areas

Most trees in Conservation Areas have temporary protection. Anyone proposing to work on a tree in a Conservation Area which is not protected by a TPO, but has a trunk diameter over 75mm (3″) when measured at 1.5 m from ground level, is required to give notice to the LPA concerned. The LPA may, if it sees fit, place a TPO on the tree and the above procedures would then apply. If it does not do so after six weeks the work may proceed but if it is not completed within two years, a further notice is needed. Such work must be consistent with that specified in the notice of the intention.

Should anyone wish to fell, prune or uproot a tree within a Conservation Area, they must give six weeks notice in writing to the LPA detailing the nature and extent of the proposed work and identify the trees.

If the applicant has not received notification of the making of a TPO they may proceed with the work which was specified to the LPA.

Working on trees in Conservation Areas without giving six weeks written notification is an offence and it is open to the LPA to prosecute.

Unsafe Trees

The owner of a tree will not normally be held responsible in law for damage caused by it falling or losing branches if the failure of the tree could not reasonably have been foreseen or prevented. However, if the tree had obvious signs of disease or structural weakness, the owner might be sued for any damage caused. It is therefore very important that trees that are in public places or close to areas to which the public has access are regularly inspected to check on their condition and any necessary works are carried out. If a tree is suspected of being dead, dying or dangerous, professional advice should be sought. Consent is not required for the felling, pruning or uprooting of a dead of dying tree or a tree which has become dangerous, even though it may be covered by a TPO or in a Conservation Area.

However, unless the danger is imminent, the LPA should be given five days notice before any felling commences. In order to justify the actions, proof may be required by the LPA detailing the condition of the tree before the remedial work was undertaken. To avoid complications, prior consultation with the LPA is therefore encouraged.

All trees on land belonging to the Parish Council are inspected at regular intervals and a Tree Safety Inspection Report prepared (this is available for viewing at the Parish Office). The report notes the state of trees, the need for any further expert input or required work to trees, and the re-inspection period.

To contact the Tree Officers at Somerset West and Taunton Council telephone 01823 356493.