It may seem obvious to the rest of us, but the Court of Appeal has recently considered the question in the case of Distinctive Properties (Ascot) Limited -v- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead  EWCA Civ 1250.
The Court held that, in the context of the tree protection provisions in Part VIII of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“the Act”), a “tree” includes seedlings and saplings, but not seeds. Sir David Keene, with whom the rest of the Court agreed, found that “a tree is to be so regarded at all stages of its life, subject to the exclusion of a mere seed. A seedling would therefore fall within the statutory term, certainly once it was capable of being identified as of a species which normally takes the form of a tree” (see paragraph 42 of the judgment).
The decision may have implications for owners of land subject to a Tree Preservation Order (“TPO”). A TPO may prohibit the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilful damage or wilful destruction of trees without the consent of the local planning authority. The prohibitions in a TPO that covers an area or woodland apply even to trees that grew after the TPO was made. The Distinctive Properties expands the scope of the protection provided by a TPO by confirming that it includes seedlings and saplings as well as mature trees. It is a criminal offence to contravene a TPO.
If you plan on carrying out works that will affect trees on your property and believe that they may be subject to a Tree Preservation Order, Zyda Law can provide expert advice on the steps you need to take to carry out your development lawfully. Call us on 01789 413 949 for a free initial consultation