Time is not on your side. As homeowners or gardeners in the UK, we have a small window where we are legally allowed to cut, trim or remove trees from our land. Why is this? The Bird nesting season.
Officially, the birds nesting season runs from March to August, with the busiest time being from 1st March until 31st July. However, dates may vary depending on the bird species.
At the beginning of the season, there is some leeway. If you have deciduous* trees and it is clear that there are no birds nesting, you could carry out the necessary tree work.
Ground Nesting Birds
Please be aware that the laws cover ground-nesting birds as well. So, as spring and warmer weather appears, you will need to be careful. If you need to remove ground vegetation, then you will need to check for nesting birds.
Doing work on trees is a bit like your tax return – it’s just easier to hire a professional. A good account will keep HMRC** happy, and a tree surgeon will stop you from getting into trouble with the local authorities.
As professional tree surgeons in Sheffield, we cover this with our clients every day.
What are the Laws Protecting the Trees?
Two laws in the UK which protect our birds and breaking them could be expensive.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is the primary Act that protects animals, plants and habitats in the UK. The Act does not cover game birds. When it comes to trees and birds, the bird, the nest and their eggs are protected.
Damaging birds, nest or eggs is an offence, and these could be the potential consequences.
- Unlimited fines.
- Six months in prison
- Or both.
The second law is The European Habitats Directive 1992/Nesting Birds Directive, carrying similar consequences.
But wait that’s not it.
You need to be aware of three other laws before you start work on your trees.
Tree Preservation Order (TPO)
Local Planning Authorities (LPA) administer and enforce the Orders. These also include National Park Authorities. Their purpose is to protect trees that have significant value within the area. Written consent from the authorities is required before you can work on the trees. It is a criminal offence if you do not. They are often created by the LPA when a tree is under threat from development or unnecessary removal or remedial work.
Any tree with a 7.5cm diameter stem at the height of 1.5m in a conservation area requires written permission from the LPA. You must have written permission before you start work. Includes trees that have been planted by yourself.
Restrictive covenants are written agreements between two people. Commonly the builder – homeowner or land purchaser – landowner.
It applies to the building/land but not the person. It still applies long after the original builder/homeowner has moved.
It places restrictions on removing/altering effects within the land/ property, including trees and hedges.
Therefore, you may need to seek permission before carrying out work on trees and hedges.
A final few words, if in doubt ask. Preferably a tree surgeon as they will be up to speed on the laws protecting trees and birds.
*Deciduous trees lose their leaves for part of the year. In the northern hemisphere, this happens in autumn leaving bare until spring.
** HMRC – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs