Small Woodland Owners' Group

Public Footpaths & TPOs

Paperwork, grants, legal issues

Postby adam » Sat Dec 19, 2009 7:59 pm


I viewed a woodland today that I really like and and am very tempted to buy. It would be the 1st woodland I have ever owned or tried to manage. It is exactly what I've been looking for except for two things :

1) It has a TPO covering the whole woodland (7 acres)

2) There is a public footpath running through it

So for all you experienced woodland owners, how much of a problem do you think these 2 "issues" will be? Would I be making a big mistake?

I guess the public footpath will bump up my insurance costs a little, reduce the privacy a little amd introduce some "dog mess" but is there anything else I should worry about?

The tree preservation order scares me more. I would like fell the odd tree for firewood (far less than the 5 cubic metres per quarter normally permitted) and so had initially discounted this woodland. Having read some more, it would seem that I could ether try and agree a suitable management plan with the Forestry Commission under their grant scheme or try and agree say a 5 year management plan with the local planning authority that could cover some felling. Does anyone here experience (either good or bad) of "living with a TPO covering their whole woodland"?

Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom that you can share !


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Postby Twybill » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:48 pm

Hi Adam

I would contact the local authority planning officer and find out exactly what type of TPO it is and whether it covers the whole woodland. There is such a thing as an Area Order where only the trees that existed at the time the order was made are protected. Area orders are being phased out but they still exist. I may be wrong but I think if you agreed a management plan for the woodland with the forestry commision, this would over-ride any TPO on the trees in the plan. Get in touch with the local Forestry Commision officer, he will give good advice.

If the footpath worries you, don't forget it is only legal for the public to use it for passing through and does not allow freedom to roam. A simple fence, hedge or deadwood (deadhedge) alongside the path will signal to most people that access is denied but put this fence well back from the path so as not to antagonise needlessly.

Best of luck.

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Postby tracy » Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:16 am

Hi Adam,

I think Twybill has summed it up nicely. A TPO can be a bit of a nuisance, but is over ridden by a FC management plan. (and they promote the care of woodland and tree felling in the right places!) so that can be easily sorted.

How well used is the public path? We have one running down the edge of our woodland and is is not massively used - and having one or not doesn't seem to effect the number of people who walk all over the woods. They still do it anyway....So, personally, I think the public path is not such a big question. The question is how many people walk in the woods in general and how does that effect you, or not?!

As long as you like the woods and they are in a good location then don't let these 2 things stop you!

Let us know how you get on!


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Postby jillybean » Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:31 am

Hi Adam

I have a TPO on my 27 Acre woodland I arranged a 5 year management plan with the commission and yes, thad does override the TPO. I have downloaded the full TPO legislation and believe it can be revoked if i can prove sensible management of the wood.

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Postby wood troll » Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:31 pm

Hi Adam,

Having been a local councillor I would recommend going to see the council's tree officer and ask him to come out to the wood for a visit and explain that you are going to talk to the FC about management plans. Tree Officers absolutely love being paid attention to and ever so helpful if people stroke them.... they even purr if you show them a nice tree you want to keep. ;-)

wood troll

wood troll
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Postby adam » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:44 pm


Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom!

I went back to the woodland today and spent a few hours there. I think I'm growing comfortable with the public footpath ... it is fairly well used by local dog walkers but I don't think many will stray from the path and in some ways it may be nice to see the odd person passing through.

I'll make some phone calls tomorrow to see if I can get some optimism regarding the tree preservation order.


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Postby tracy » Sun Dec 20, 2009 4:31 pm

Sensible, lovely dog walkers can be a real safety asset to your woodland and we have made some lovely friends this way too!

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Postby adam » Mon Dec 21, 2009 3:23 pm

Well, I have found out some more but still digging. Unfortunately the TPO is not an "area order" but rather a "woodland order" so includes all the trees that have grown since the order was made way back in 1950.

One more question if I may ... the local council suggested that I may need to arrange a professional annual tree inspection of those trees close to the public footpath ... do those of you with public rights of way do this? If you do, what are the rough costs?



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Postby Exeldama » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:57 pm

I believe i am correct in that you are not obliged to seek out a qualified person....... rather that you take reasonable steps to ensure that the risk has been assessed and managed appropriatley.

Reasonable is the word.

I will be assessing the trees along my bridleway myself and keeping an annual account, this will include photographs, which can of course be updated yearly. You are not likely to be considerd negligent if there is an effective act of god (ie storm flattens a healthy tree), however diseased trees and dangerous limbs etc need addressing and steps taken to ensure their soundness.

I hate this litigatory culture we seem to have adopted from the US. Shame on those solicitors who abuse it by encouraging claims and those ridiculous individuals who either dont realise that the world is not a sanitised box or whom are just plain greedy.

i have to say that im in disagreement with many in that in hindsight i would choose a wood with the public as far away as i could keep them. Litter, theft and criminal damage..... take your time in choosing and best of luck.

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Postby MartinD » Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:36 am

I have spoken to my insurance company (not the broker), and he agreed that the risk from trees was very low (approx 6 deaths per year in the UK, and these often on the highway or in popular 'tourist' locations) - less than the chance of being struck by lightning. He agreed that a visual inspection of trees in the vicinity of a footpath was likely to be sufficient - ideally this should be documented - with an 'expert' only required if there was suspicion that a tree may be diseased or at risk in some other way. Even then the definition of an expert is not defined - is it someone who is experienced, or someone who is professionally qualified? (A professional company,with graduate-level inspectors, and professional indemnity insurance, quoted me £650 plus costs and VAT for an inspection and report on a footpath which crosses only 250m of my woodland.) The difference between the two can be hundreds of pounds per day. This is only likely to be tested if there is a TPO in force, where the council may object to your expert opinion if the advice is that the tree should be felled.

Sensible advice can be found on

and especially


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