Trees in the Scottish Borders

Protected trees and tree preservation orders

If you are thinking about works to a protected tree or trees or to find out whether a tree is protected, please contact the Tree Officer for professional advice, approval and details of local contractors. A formal application process is in place for works to trees.

Responsibility for the management of trees, including protected trees, always rests with the owner of the land upon which they stand. We have powers to protect trees which make an important contribution to the visual amenity of an area. Protection of trees through negotiation and agreement is the preferred first option.

However, where concerns are raised that a tree or trees may be wilfully damaged or destroyed, a Provisional Tree Preservation Order may be made under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act.

How we can protect trees

The statutory powers available to us for the protection of trees are:

  • Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)
  • Trees within designated Conservation Areas
  • Trees protected by a condition as part of a Planning Consent

The maximum penalty for illegal works to a protected tree is a £20k fine. Replacement planting may also be required.

Potentially dangerous roadside trees

Roadside trees are the property of the owner. Even if the trees are within the adopted roadside verge, ownership normally goes with the adjacent land. Maintenance of such trees is the responsibility of the owner.

Under the Roads Act (Scotland) we have powers to serve notice on either the owner or occupier of the land, to remove a cause of potential danger, within 28 days. If, in our opinion, the danger is imminent, we may take appropriate steps to safeguard the public and then recover the expenses incurred.

Trees on land we own

To enquire about the management of a tree which we are responsible for please contact our Neighbourhood Services team online.

We will:

  • investigate your issue
  • let you know what we intend to do to resolve the matter, which may include doing nothing to the tree
  • advise you of our decision and the reasons for the decision

We are happy to be contacted about trees throughout the year.

Due to sensitivities during nesting periods and for reasons of good tree health we may undertake work to trees during the autumn/winter months, even if your enquiry is made during the springtime.

Other tree felling

Elsewhere (with the exception of small gardens and a few other situations) tree felling and thinning is governed by the Forestry Acts and permission for a Felling Licence should be sought from the Forestry Commission. Phone them 01896 750222.

Although very small volumes of timber do not require a Felling Licence, one large tree could require a Felling Licence. For further information on felling permissions see Forestry Commission website.

Download the tree works application form