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
All trees which have a stem diameter greater than 8 cm (equivalent circumference, 25cm), measured at a point 1.5m above ground level, are protected against felling (cutting down) and uprooting. To remove a protected tree you must apply for a licence from DEFA. Intentional or reckless damage which destroys a tree or is likely to destroy a tree is also prohibited.
Unless a tree is included in the Department’s 'Tree Register' (see below) a licence 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 it appears to the Department your tree(s) ought to be preserved in the interests of amenity then the Department may enter the tree(s) on to the ‘Tree Register’. 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).
Applying for a licence
In order for a tree with a stem diameter over 8cm measured at 1.5m above ground level to be lawfully felled, uprooted or otherwise destroyed, or for work to be undertaken on a registered tree, a licence must be obtained.
Applications can be made online or by using the downloadable application form which can be found above. We strongly recommend that you read the associated guidance notes before submitting your application.
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. See Accredited Contractors webpage for further details.
Trees on development sites
The defence listed under Section 4(4) of the TPA allows for work to be undertaken on trees without a licence where it is required to facilitate approved development operations. The Department interprets the existence of this defence to mean that a planning approval which permits the removal of a tree (or trees) has the same effect as a licence granted by the Department to that effect. If the Department is satisfied that approval of the Planning Committee in a given instance constitutes 'written consent' to the tree work, taking account of the wording of the approval and of the planning application and its accompanying documents, then it will not require the person concerned to submit a separate application under Section 5 of the TPA.
Trees provide important habitats for wildlife, such as nesting birds and roosting bats. You should be aware that both are protected under the Wildlife Act (1990) 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