The law as it currently stands in relation to protection of trees is manifestly inadequate.
Currently, Tree Preservation orders (TPO’s) can be made where the preservation of trees or woodlands is desirable “in the interests of amenity”. Our fact sheet sets out what is meant by this. It can quickly be seen that the concept of amenity is inherently problematic. In the first place it ignores many other factors that make trees useful and important to human beings, other species and eco systems.
In addition the current test of amenity also ignore something fundamental. There is a growing movement to recognise the nature and the natural world has inherent value enough itself and should be the subject of natural rights more than merely the object.
Another part of the test used for making tree preservation orders is expediency. It is generally not considered to be expedient to have a general policy in favour of the protecting protection of all trees in a local authority’s area and TPO’s will often only be granted where a tree is thought to be under threat somehow. The issue with this is that it may not be obvious that a tree is at risk until it is too late and the tree has been destroyed. In order to argue for a change to the law in this regard, it would be useful to have examples of where trees that were not protected have been destroyed. If you know of a trees or trees that have been destroyed, please send brief details in an email to email@example.com so that we can begin to compile a record of this happening.
At the moment, we are researching what the issues with the current law on tree protection are and working out what an alternative legal framework would look like. If you have experiences with the current tree protection regime (whether as a tree protector, arboricultural worker, or tree officer), please do share your thoughts on the law as it stands. We are also keen to hear from people who have alternative ideas about what the law in this area could be and/or examples of tree protection laws in other countries. If you have thoughts or examples to share, please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another key issue with tree preservation is in relation to street trees. Across the country Local Authorities are chopping down street trees for a myriad of often inadequate reasons. As the job of protecting trees lies with local authorities, it is often a case of the fox guarding the hen house!
The government are currently consulting on the preservation of street trees. Do make sure your voice is heard (before the deadline of 28th February 2018) through the following link:
Ancient Yew Trees
Many yew trees in the UK are estimated at being 2,000 to 5,000 years old and are amongst the oldest living beings in Europe. It is therefore a scandal that most of these trees have zero legal protection and a tragedy that many of these irreplaceable trees have been lost in the last 100 years.
The current legal avenues for protection (eg Tree Preservation Orders) are not sufficient protection for these trees for a number of reasons. Therefore, working with a number of other tree campaigners and yew tree specialists, we have launched a campaign to bring about long-term and historic change and seek a change in the law to get proper protection for ancient yew trees.
The petition launched as part of this campaign has far exceeded our expectations and now has over 180,000 signatures. Please add you voice to those calling for legal protection for our most ancient trees:
Many yew trees in the UK are estimated at being 2,000 to 5,000 years old and are amongst the oldest living things in Europe. It is therefore a scandal that most of these trees have zero legal protection and a tragedy that many of these irreplaceable trees have been lost in the last 100 years.
Please do also get in touch if you wish to join the campaign or have proposals for how yew trees could be properly legally protected (email@example.com).
There has been a marked increase in the use of civil injunctions against activists and nature protectors over the past few years. Whilst the law usually allows an injunction to be granted wherever the civil law ‘rights’ of a party are infringed. In practise, this has led to the threat of prison sentences for people standing under trees in Sheffield, or protesting and seeking to prevent fracking in sites across England. Whilst there have been some successes in seeking to reduce the scope and worst excesses of injunctions, it is rare for courts to refuse to grant them. What is not really happening is people stepping back and asking why these injunctions are granted in the first place and where the power came from.
It is not our representatives in Parliament who have mandated that environmental protectors should be threatened with prison for protesting and using non-violent direct action against environmental destructors. The power that is used to make injunctions is set out in one sentence in section 37 of the Senior Courts Act , which states that a court can grant an injunction “in all cases in which it appears to the court to be just and convenient to do so.” From this, judges have gone to town in creating a whole area of law that protects the interests of those who seek to destroy the natural world in pursuit of profit, at the expense of ordinary people who would like to stop this destruction.
(A video of Lawyers for Nature founder Paul Powlesland speaking about injunctions)
It is time to join up the dots on the various injunctions being granted against environmental activists and begin campaigning politically to reform this area of law and bring it under proper democratic oversight.
We need your help in doing this. Please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are able to assist with any of the following:
- Examples of injunctions granted against environmental defenders, activists or trespassers.
- Stories of how the use of injunctions has curtailed environmental defenders, non-violent direct action, or other activism.
- Ideas for how this area of law could be changed or reformed.
- If you are a writer or journalist interested in writing about or investigating the growing use of injunctions.