Richmond Council demands more powers to protect local trees

14 February 2022

The Chair of Richmond Council’s Environment, Sustainability, Culture and Sport Committee has written to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities to request a review of guidance given to local planning authorities around protecting local trees from felling on the grounds of their benefits to the climate and biodiversity. 

At January’s full Council meeting, a motion was passed unanimously to request the government review the legislation and guidance on Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and trees in conservation areas. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 gives “amenity” as the grounds for protection and online government guidance specifically states that while nature conservation and climate change are factors that can be taken into account, they are not sufficient grounds in themselves for making a Tree Preservation Order.

The motion was tabled following serious concerns raised by the community and local environmental groups over the potential loss of trees near to Twickenham Green. In November 2021 notice was served on the Council, outlining the intention to fell trees on land to the rear of properties in Hampton Road, which is in a conservation area. A Eucalyptus tree was already protected by a TPO and works to it were refused permission by the Council. However, under national planning laws, there was not sufficient reason for the Council to be able to make preservation orders for the other trees. The developer has now felled all but one of the trees not protected by a TPO.

Councillor Julia Neden-Watts said:  

“The loss of tree canopy is something we should seek to avoid wherever possible. With our nation’s minds so keenly focused on the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss, the Government should be doing everything they can to help us achieve this. At the moment, guidance does not place enough importance on the climate impact.

“Richmond Council, like many others around the country, has declared a climate emergency and has in place an ambitious and wide-ranging Climate Emergency Strategy. It is critical that local planning authorities are able to give weighting to climate and environmental considerations in their decision making, notwithstanding the separate legislative requirements in relation to protected species.

“I have written to Mr Gove to ask he reviews the Government’s guidance and, if necessary, the Regulations and Act to ensure local authorities have a clear mandate that allows them to protect their local tree canopy.”

Read the letter from Councillor Julia Neden-Watts to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities.

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Up to: February 2022

Updated: 1 March 2022

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