William Upton KC: Protecting Trees

May 24, 2024

William Upton QC

The High Court has considered the relationship between the protection afforded by a tree preservation order and the grant of planning permission, in R (Wellingborough Walks Action Group) v North Northamptonshire Council & Stanton Cross Developments LLP [2024] EWHC 1225 (Admin). William Upton KC has been acting for the claimants, who are seeking to save the ‘Walks’, an historic boulevard of lime trees. The felling works last year had led to protests and arrests, during the attempts to prevent further tree losses.

It is a criminal offence to fell protected trees, although the TPO Regulations sets out exceptions to this – including that the works are ‘necessary’ to implement a planning permission. Stanton Cross is a large urban development, and the developers were seeking to rely on a road layout without submitting any of the further details required by the planning conditions. It was held that the exception could not be relied upon until the necessary approval for the plan identifying which trees will be retained has been approved, which has still yet to happen. As the judge held, “[t]o the extent that the planning permission can be carried out in a way which does not necessitate the loss of trees, then the exception will not be available”. The judgment of the High Court is available at https://caselaw.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ewhc/admin/2024/1225.