Legal protection of trees in the Isle of Man
Trees in the Isle of Man are protected under The Tree Preservation Act 1993. The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) administers the Act and the Department’s Tree Protection Policy describes how DEFA will fulfil its statutory duty. It stipulates how various aspects of the legislation have been interpreted by DEFA, how the tree register will be administered, and how applications to carry out work will be handled.
This legislation provides 2 levels of protection to the Island’s trees:
Level 1 – The basic level of protection
Trees which have a stem diameter greater than 8 cm (equivalent circumference, 25cm) measured at a point 1.5m above ground level must be licensed by the Department of Environment, Food & Agriculture (DEFA) if they are to be felled.
Unless a tree is included in the Department’s “Tree Register” a permit is not required to remove or prune branches; or to reduce the overall height of a tree, provided it does not result in the demise or death of the tree.
Fruit trees within gardens (e.g. orchard trees) and dead trees do not require a felling licence to be removed or pruned.
Level 2 - Registered trees
A more comprehensive level of protection is afforded to trees which have significant amenity value. If the trees in question are Registered, regardless of size or species, no work of any kind can be undertaken without specific written approval from DEFA.
You can find out if your trees are registered by using the Government’s online mapping service or by enquiring at the Departments offices in St. Johns (Tel: + 44 1624 695701).
Trees that have a trunk diameter greater than 8cm (approximately 3¼ inches) measured at a point 152cm (approximately 5 feet) above ground level cannot be felled without a licence issued by DEFA.
However, fruit trees (for example, orchard trees), trees which are clearly dead, and trees planted as commercial woodland do not require a felling licence to be removed or pruned unless they are registered.
In addition, permission is not needed to remove or prune limbs, or to reduce the overall height of a tree unless it is a registered tree. However, great care must be taken to ensure that pruning is done in such a way as not to kill the tree or destroy its character.
Other legislation can also be relevant to trees, for example, The Plant Health Act in relation to Dutch elm disease and to the importation of conifers.
Applying for a licence
In order for a tree to be felled, uprooted or otherwise destroyed, or for work to be undertaken on a registered tree, a tree owner must obtain a tree felling licence.
To be accepted as a valid application your submission must:
- be made on latest version of the application form
- be completed in full and within sufficient detail
- be signed and dated by the applicant
- include a plan showing the location of the trees
- include photos of the trees
- include information about the size (circumference) of the trees in question
Please note that the Departments officer’s do not carry out tree safety or risk assessments. If you are a tree owner you have a duty of care towards those who could be affected by your trees. If you are concerned about tree safety you should seek the advice of an arboricultural specialist who is qualified and insured to undertake tree risk assessments.
Tree work (arboriculture) requires a high degree of technical competence, supported by training and experience. For these reasons DEFA recommends that tree work is undertaken by well trained, competent arborists, experienced at the type of work being undertaken, e.g. tree pruning/tree removal. To see a list of accredited contractors available, please view the Accredited Contractors webpage.
Trees on development sites
Permission to remove trees or undertake work to Registered trees may also be authorised through a Planning Approval Notice issued by the Department. Any trees affected by a development must be detailed within a Planning Application. Your application may require accurate tree survey drawings showing the position of the trees and hedges and their canopy spread in relation to the proposed works. For trees to be retained you will need to demonstrate that the constraints imposed by these trees have been properly considered and that the trees can be adequately protected.
Contravention of the Act includes the following:
- The cutting down, uprooting or intentional destruction of a tree for which a felling licence has not been obtained.
- The pruning, crown lifting, reduction or thinning or intentional damage of a tree in such a manner as to be likely to destroy it.
- The pruning etc of a registered tree.
On conviction, a fine of up to £20,000 per tree can be imposed.
Trees are not only critical to the environment and beauty of our landscape, but also provide important habitats for wildlife, such as nesting birds and roosting bats. You should be aware that both are protected under the Wildlife Act and it is an offence to damage or disturb bats or their roosts, or to damage active bird nests.
When considering the felling or limbing of a tree, you are reminded that checks should be made to see if the tree contains active bird nests (especially from March to July) or holes/cracks used by bats to roost or hibernate in. Reckless activities which result in the disturbance of nesting birds or bats may result in prosecution.
Contact for more information
Department of Environment
Food and Agriculture
Thie Slieau Whallian
Isle of Man
+44 1624 695701