Getting Council Approval to Remove a Tree

Removing Dead Branches

As frustrating as it can be –¬†your local council has the authority to tell you what you can and can’t do with your property.¬†Councils can be quite strict and quick to hand out fines, so it is worth the time and effort to get the permission required to prune or remove a tree before you book an arborist to perform your tree services.

The good news. Not all trees require a permit to remove. If they are dead, on the your council’s preservation order exemption list (most palm trees are exempt species so can be removed without permission), or if the tree is an immediate safety hazard. Trees damaged in storms, or presenting a threat to people and/or property should be photographed prior to the removal for evidence if required. You should contact your council in writing as soon after the emergency removal.

The bad news. Council applications take time – you need to fill them in completely, honestly, and wait sufficient time for the application to be approved or rejected. Councils generally approve applications with legitimate reasons such as;

  • being a safety hazard,
  • evidence of insect infestation,
  • rotting,
  • the tree is causing severe damage to buildings, pipes, pavements, roads,
  • or the tree is very unhealthy.

Some reasons for requesting permission to remove the tree on your application you should avoid include;

  • the tree is shedding leaves, fruit, bark, cones, or twigs
  • improving the applicants views
  • fear about a healthy tree falling
  • the tree is causing overshadowing
  • minor lifting of driveways and paths by tree roots.

You also need a permit to prune a significant amount of a tree. For example, tree lopping (where you remove major stems of a tree) requires a permit because you are making a structural change to the tree. You don’t need a permit to remove dead branches, or thin the tree 10% per year (or as specified in your council’s tree preservation order).

There are hefty fines for non-compliance with the council’s orders – so make sure you take the time to follow the right procedures. Tree preservation orders can be found on your local council’s web site.

Note: Many councils track trees and their removal using Google Maps or a similar product. They don’t have to catch you in the act, they can fine you well after a tree has been removed if they have evidence to show you removed one without their permission.