Agenda item

Objection to serving of TPO (Agenda Item 7)


The Committee heard the application in accordance with the Council’s agreed procedures.


The Hearing took place in the presence of Mr and Mrs Thorn, objectors to the Tree Protection Order (TPO); Hugh Coggles (Tree & Countryside Officer); and Mike Horn (Legal Advisor to the Committee).


The Tree & Countryside Officer presented the report.  Three trees; T1, T2 and T3 were proposed to be protected by the Order.  Mr and Mrs Thorn were objecting to the Order on trees T1 and T2 which were in their garden.  Those trees were not considered to be at risk, but as one other tree had already been removed from the estate it had been thought prudent to protect the three trees as they enhanced the visual amenities of Watton.


The Tree & Countryside Officer confirmed that he had no objection to works on the trees and would be happy to advise on pruning.  The TPO would give control over the level of pruning.


The Chairman asked about the tree that had been lost.  The owners had rung the Council and been advised that the tree was not protected.  That had been the correct information at the time.  The call had not been transferred to the Tree & Countryside Officer.


It was noted that the scores for trees T2 and T3 had been inadvertently reversed.  T2 had scored 17 and T3 had scored 14.  Any score over 11 was defendable.


Mr and Mrs Thorn did not object to the TPO itself, they objected to the way the matter had been dealt with.  They were annoyed that the trees had not been protected when planning permission had been granted for the houses.  Their solicitor had carried out the correct searches when they had purchased their property and they would not have bought their house if a TPO had been in place.


They considered the requirement to get three quotes for any works on the trees onerous.  They had contacted the Council out of common decency before doing the work.  If they had not contacted the Council they could have removed the trees if they had wanted to.  As it was, they did not want to remove the trees.  They wanted to look after them.

The Tree & Countryside Officer explained that it was only good advice that three quotes were obtained.  It was not actually a requirement.


The level of minor trimming to the tree that could be carried out without prior permission, if the trees were protected, was discussed.  If was also explained that if there was an immediate threat to safety, verbal permission could be given for damaged and dangerous branches to be removed without requiring an application.  Photographic proof would be required.


Mr and Mrs Thorn were concerned that their neighbours had been informed of the TPO and would think that they had intended to remove the trees.


In view of the Tree & Countryside Officer’s confirmation that he would not object to them pruning their trees Mr and Mrs Thorn were asked if they still objected to the making of the Order.  They confirmed that they did, as a TPO might affect a future sale of their property.  They reiterated that they had no intention to remove the trees.


The Committee Members, Legal Advisor and Democratic Services Officers remained in the room.  Everyone else was asked to leave while the Committee made its decision. 


Members considered all the information and discussed the details.  There was a clear case for protecting the trees, but it was also clear that Mr and Mrs Thorn were suffering because of their honesty.  Advice was requested from the Solicitor and he explained that there were two viewpoints; legal and moral.  Legally the Council could apply the TPO but morally it might not be the right thing to do.  It was up to Members to decide.


Further discussion ensued.  The Chairman pointed out that Mr and Mrs Thorn could move on and the next residents might not want the trees.  It would be difficult to apply protection at a later date.


The Solicitor advised that Members could confirm the TPO on tree T3 only if they so wished.  No objection had been made to that proposal. 


Everyone was invited back into the room and the Solicitor explained the decision that the Committee had reached.


He confirmed that the Tree & Countryside Consultant had done everything procedurally correctly and it was clear that the trees passed the threshold for protection and the recommendation in the report was correct.  However, the point of the Appeals Committee was to consider everything including justice and in this case there would be an injustice to Mr and Mrs Thorn if the TPO on trees T1 and T2 were confirmed.  Members had thererfore decided to trust Mr and Mrs Thorn’s good intentions in respect of those trees.




a)     the TPO on trees T1 and T2 was not confirmed; and

b)     the TPO on tree T3 was confirmed.


The Solicitor pointed out that the decision did not set a precedent it just provided justice in this particular case.


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