'Easiest way to tell' if you can chop down a tree in your garden as fines can reach £20k

chopping down tree

Britons can incur a criminal record for chopping down protected trees

Solen Le Net

By Solen Le Net

Published: 12/03/2024

- 13:03

Updated: 12/03/2024

- 13:25

Fines for chopping down protected trees can reach staggering sums, an expert has warned

Tree removal is something many homeowners consider on their property, particularly when the greenery blocks out a pretty view or sunlight.

Under existing laws, however, felling protected trees can incur unlimited fines and prison sentences in some cases.

Speaking exclusively to GB News, Thomas Goodman explained: “As a homeowner, you do not need permission to cut down a tree that is solely on your property.”

There are exceptions, however, where rules can land homeowners in hot water for cutting down the wrong greenery.

“Homeowners may incur penalties and fines for chopping down the wrong trees,” explained Thomas. He pointed out that the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) generally relates to homes situated in a conservation area.

trees in garden

​Homeowners can be tempted to cut down a tree for various reasons


“Damage to a tree under a TPO or in a Conservation Area can result in a fine of £20,000 and prosecution for felling without a licence," Thomas explained.

“The easiest way to tell whether or not a tree can be chopped down is to contact your local council. Alternatively, you should get in touch with the relevant government department in your area.

"This may be the Forestry Commission in England, Natural Resources Wales, Northern Ireland Forestry Services or Scottish Forestry."

Naturally, the penalties for felling trees differ across the UK, with fines reaching £5,000 in Scotland.

“In Scotland, you will be fined £5,000 tree for each tree cut down and anyone involved in the damage will receive a criminal record,” explained Thomas.

In other parts of the UK, like England and Northern Ireland, the maximum fine for illegal tree removal is unspecified.

What's more, the person responsible for felling a protected tree is sometimes given the responsibility of replacing the tree altogether.

“The person responsible will be required to replace any protected trees which have been chopped down," explained Goodman.

"More serious offences can incur an unlimited fine if escalated to the Crown Court.”


chopping down trees

Homeowners are encouraged to contact their local councils before chopping down a tree


In 2023, 29-year-old Ismail Elmagdoub shared a cautionary take after they were caught chopping down a tree that had caused their dog to become sick.

The racehorse owner removed a tree at the end of his 120-foot garden after it started attracting wasps and producing apples that had made his dog diabetic.

Without realising that his garden fence was the boundary to a nearby conservation area, Ismail chopped down the tree and incurred a £9,000 fine.

It should be noted that gardeners can also be fined for pruning tree branches that overhang onto their property. These branches can be protected if they are growing from a tree in a conservation area.

You may like