How can a tree that is valuable in life become unprotected when it starts to die?
We are extremely dismayed that DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government) proposes to retain the exception for dead trees and introduce a new exception for the removal of dead branches on living trees in new regulations proposed for Tree Preservation orders. This means that dead trees and dead branches could therefore be removed without the approval of the Local Authority. In our view, this is a very retrograde step.
In recent years there has been quite a leap forward in understanding the importance of deadwood for biodiversity. Trees and their deadwood provide food and shelter for birds and bats and a whole host of other wildlife; even familiar garden and woodland birds that require holes and crevices in which to roost and nest.
It is well recognised that biodiversity is in decline across the world; the UK government is so concerned that it brought in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, a law that requires public bodies to have regard for biodiversity. In addition, Planning Policy Statement 9, Biological and Geological Conservation, demonstrates that the government specifically recognises the special role of ‘aged’ and veteran trees for conserving biodiversity.
Ancient and veteran trees are very likely to have dead branches or are maybe nearer to becoming dead trees. As the saying goes ‘dead trees are full of life’. Wherever possible important trees should be allowed to go through their natural life cycles and allow all the nutrients locked up in the wood to be recycled into the ground where they stand. Even for less important trees the new tree work standard BS 3998 recognises the value of deadwood and no longer recommends its removal as good practice.
Local Authorities do not make TPOs lightly. The inclusion of these exceptions undermines the option a local authority has to protect something that is very vulnerable and important. Many of the trees that are protected play a very significant role in their communities and provide them with many benefits. We therefore do not agree with DCLG’s proposal that if one of these protected trees dies or has dead branches, the Local Authority may not be involved in the decisions about what works can be done to it.
Of course, if the tree or branches pose an unreasonable risk to people or property, then the owner should be able to take action – but that circumstance is already covered by another exception. We don’t see why these two deadwood exceptions are also necessary. The Trust will be responding in partnership with the Ancient Tree Forum to this consultation. Read our proposed joint response (pdf) here.
If some of our heritage trees – often associated with moments in history or famous people – died or began to die, should they immediately lose the protection that they received while they lived? You can help us to influence these streamlined regulations for the better – please support the UK’s vulnerable trees and tell DCLG what you think of these proposals.