In partnership with the Ancient Tree Forum, we recently commented on the Scottish Government’s proposed changes to Tree Preservation Orders (TPO). The changes are aimed at improving tree protection and if it helps ancient, veteran, champion and notable trees, then we are keen to support them. A better system could reduce the number of important trees that continue to be lost across Scotland such as those recorded through the Ancient Tree Hunt.
We are, however, very concerned at the suggestion that each Local Authority can amend the package of measures in the Model Order. The current measures have been tried and tested as an effective mechanism for protection of important trees. We do not agree with the Scottish Government that it is an appropriate area for Local Authority ‘innovation’.
If every Local Authority has the opportunity to change the Model Order, it will become increasingly difficult over time to know what is happening from authority to authority, tree to tree and TPO to TPO. Trees, perhaps only metres apart, may be subject to significantly different protection controls because they are in different authorities or made at different times. Owners, consultants, tree work contractors, utility companies and even the Local Authority will find this very difficult. It will place a huge burden on the Local Authority and voluntary groups will find it harder and harder to monitor and respond to trees that are threatened in their area.
We also believe that it is time the Scottish Government provided guidance and advice, written in plain language, so that all stakeholders understand the TPO legislation. And, in this internet age we would like to see much more TPO information online so that the system of protecting trees is much more transparent.
We strongly encourage the Scottish Government not to let this be a missed opportunity.