If you own trees covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), today is the day that a lot of the wording in the TPO document you were served becomes null and void. Essentially, all TPO’s ever made under any previous legislation dating back to the 1940’s are now the same in the eyes of the law, regardless of the wording they contain. The result is that new TPO documents are a lot more slimline. But this has prompted concerns that all TPOs could become invalid if there is a successful court challenge. Such a challenge might succeed on the basis of the confusion over the validity of existing orders made before today that contain wording that is no longer relevant.
I feel that what some may fear as a ‘chainsaw massacre’ waiting to happen is unlikely. Courts have previously demonstrated a lack of willing to make decisions that could set a precedent for widespread loss of trees. I think it will be the same for TPO challenges. My gut tells me the spirit of the law will be upheld despite the technical issues. That said, I believe that the fairest thing would be to order local councils to send updated orders to existing owners of land to which a TPO applies and interested parties. Why has this not happened? It could be purely cost related, but it may also be impossible to avoid sending new orders out without people having the right to object. This could only lead to some trees that were protected before losing their protection, and some costs due to officer time preparing committee reports and administering the objections. While it might be understandable to simply take no action in the face of this problem, it does seem to be unfair to the individuals concerned.