At the end of 2010 you helped us to campaign for changes to the proposed Tree Preservation Order (TPO) regulations for England, put out for consultation by DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government). An amazing 2,800 of you specifically asked them to remove the exception for dead trees and a new exception that had been included for the removal of dead branches on living trees.
In Scotland the TPO regulations are different and do not include these exemptions. Despite your calls and clear evidence that there is no real need, in England CLG have gone ahead and retained both the exceptions.
Local Authorities do not make TPOs lightly. Many of the trees that are TPO protected play a very significant role in their communities and provide them with myriad benefits.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 TPO protected play a very significant role in their communities and provide them with many benefits. These exceptions stop Local Planning Authorities from making TPOs on those exceptional trees that have important wildlife and heritage value but have died, even if they may survive for many decades to come. Nor does the TPO continue to protect a tree that dies or any dead limbs that it acquires as it naturally ages.
On the live Ancient Tree Hunt database there are 320 ancient trees recorded as dead and nearly 30,000 veteran trees that have deadwood in the crown. Trees that are hollowing, full of dead and decaying wood and holes provide food and shelter for birds and bats and a whole host of other wildlife; including many of our familiar garden and woodland birds, such as tits and woodpeckers, which require cavities and crevices in which to roost and nest. Now, those trees in England are very vulnerable and much valuable habitat could be removed without the say of the Local Authority.
Across the world all the measures around biodiversity show a steady decline. The government last year seemed so concerned that it published a number of environmental documents such as Biodiversity 2020 and the Natural Environment White Paper which called for greater value and importance to be placed on the environment. The National Ecosystem Assessment, the Natural Capital Committee and the Ecosystem Markets Task Force recognise that our prosperity in the long term depends on a healthy natural environment. Environmental protection has never been so important. Time and again the Government’s actions go against the grain of its own words.
Of course, if the tree or branches pose an imminent serious risk to people or property, then the owner should be able to take action – but that circumstance is already covered by another exception. We still don’t see why these two deadwood exceptions were necessary. In our view this is a very sad day for biodiversity and for trees and their habitats.
Jill Butler, Conservation Adviser (Ancient Trees)