Tree preservation orders can be inconvenient for builders – but failure to obey them can have grave consequences. In one case, a residential developer which felled two acres of protected woodland was required to replant the area with almost 1,300 saplings and was left with a heavy legal costs bill to boot.

The local authority responded to the woodland's unauthorised clearance by serving a tree replacement notice on the developer under Section 207 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The notice required replanting of one new sapling for each tree that had been removed. It was upheld by a planning inspector and the developer's High Court challenge to that decision failed.

The developer pointed to expert arboricultural evidence which indicated that fewer than 30 trees had in fact been felled. It was argued that the notice went too far in requiring the developer to plant 1,280 saplings and that the removal of seedlings and shrubs should not have been taken into account.

In dismissing the developer's appeal, however, the Court of Appeal noted that the woodland had been comprehensively destroyed. The local authority had relied on standard planting densities in arriving at a reasonable estimate of the number of trees lost. There was also no error of law in including seedlings and 'potential trees' within that estimate.

To ensure your proposed development does not fall foul of planning or environmental law, contact Sundeep Bilkhu on 0121 698 2200, email s.bilkhu@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

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