A report into how trees are protected has found that despite 369 tree protection breaches reported between 2019 and 2022, only one resulted in enforcement action being taken, and none led to prosecution.
The report also found there was a lack of clear information for the public on Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), and that information about which trees are protected should be made more accessible.
‘Strengthening our roots: tree protection in the planning system in Northern Ireland’ was prepared in response to concerns about the protection given to trees and the lack of enforcement action following reported breaches of TPOs. From the information gathered, including data provided by the Department for Infrastructure and local councils, the Ombudsman made a number of observations and recommendations.
The observations included that:
- the low level of reported enforcement activity (one case out of 369) should be a concern for councils as they seek to improve the environmental quality of their area.
- despite having significant enforcement powers, less than half of the councils clearly state on their websites that it is a criminal offence to carry out works to protected trees without consent. Others do not make any reference to the consequences of breaches.
- there is a lack of clarity around the circumstances in which councils require independent evidence to be provided in support of applications for work to protected trees.
- there is variation in council awareness and interpretation of the legislation which governs the approach that should be taken to carrying out works to protected trees on council owned land.
To read the recommendations, kindly click here.
To read the report kindly refer to the download section below.
Source: The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman, United Kingdom