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Private tree works application

Private tree works application (up to 5 trees) that are not part of a vegetation community

This section provides advice on the application process for removal or pruning of up to a maximum of 5 trees, where:

  1. the tree/s are not part of a vegetation community (complex) which typically incorporates trees with a form of understorey vegetation, or
  2. do not meet the SEPP exemption criteria as detailed in Exempt tree works - State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation) or Exempt tree works - Council's DCP, or
  3. are not associated with any form of development or building works.

The following definition of ‘understorey’ is provided to assist in determining if your trees are part of a vegetation community: understorey, also known as underbrush or undergrowth, includes plant life growing beneath the forest canopy  without penetrating it to any great extent, but above the forest floor. Only a small percentage of light penetrates the canopy, so understorey vegetation is generally shade tolerant. 

The Private Tree Works Application is required where Council is the authorising agency, and the proposed works do not meet any of the exemptions listed above.

The cost of tree permits is set annually in Councils Fees and Charges and is included on the application form. The current fee structure is for up to two trees, with an additional cost for each additional tree, up to a maximum of five trees. Council will not accept multiple applications of up to five trees for the same property, or applications within 12 months of the last Private Tree Works Application for a property.

If you disagree with a private tree works application determination, State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation (clause 2.12) provides for an appeal to the Land and Environment Court. Any application for appeal must be lodged with the Land and Environment Court within three (3) months from the date of the issued determination or within 3 months after the council is taken to have refused the application (whichever is the later).

Matters for Consideration

Inappropriate reasons to remove or prune a tree

Provided that no significant hazard or other safety issues also apply, the following shall not generally be considered as valid reasons to remove a tree:

  • leaf drop (into gutters and downpipes – pools, lawns and the like),
  • to increase natural light,
  • to improve street lighting of private property,
  • to enhance views, 
  • to reduce shade, 
  • to reduce fruit, resin or bird droppings on cars, 
  • minor lifting of driveways, brick fences and paths by tree roots,
  • to erect a fence,
  • bushfire hazard control which has not been verified by Council,
  • potential damage to sewer mains unless supported by written expert advice and only where reasonable alternatives are not feasible (e.g.: relocate, sleeving), and
  • termite damage to trees unless supported by written expert advice from a qualified pest controller and only where reasonable alternatives are not feasible (eg: treatment of pest).

Nuisance matters

Council will generally not approve removal of trees for nuisance reasons as there are a number of pruning exemptions and options that can alleviate the nuisance. Nuisance includes matters such as normal leaf or fruit fall, some limitation of solar access, minor roots creating trips, interaction with fences, paving or non-structural walls. Applications for minor nuisance matters should include:

  • The reason why the nuisance cannot be managed using other means that do not compromise the health or stability of the tree.
  • The options considered and why they are not feasible.
  • For medical reasons: Copies of medical specialist advice (not a GP), where the specialist in the area of the health concern confirms that there is significant impact on the wellbeing of the individual in retaining the tree/s. The impact should be specified in the medical specialist written advice.
  • A comprehensive replacement planting proposal to offset the removal of the trees if approved.

Claims of damage

Where applications claim structural damage to approved structures or structural walls, the applicant should provide evidence of the tree root interaction with the application. This is generally in the form of photographs showing excavation at the point where interaction is suspected. These photos are to clearly show any tree roots (spray paint on the roots in the excavation is helpful) and the point at which they interact with the structure.

Completing the form and planting

The form requires the property details and information regarding the trees proposed to be removed or pruned. It is important that:

  • trees proposed for pruning or removal are marked on the site diagram using numbers 1 to 5, and
  • proposed plantings are identified by letters A to E, and these are detailed in the associated tables on the application form, and
  • diagrams include all structures and indicate the street in relation to the property, and
  • trees are located as accurately as possible in relation to structures and boundary fences, and
  • the tree owner signs the form.

Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that any proposed planting locations, or the species selected, will not negatively impact services or adjacent properties. Council does not assess the appropriateness of the proposed planting location or nominated species.

As trees and vegetation works approvals are assessed by different authorities, it is important that residents work through the Pre Tree Works Application Check List to ensure that you are applying to the correct authority. This avoids delays in managing your trees and vegetation and the costs associated should Council undertakes these checks. Refunds are not generally provided where tree removal applications are received, and the checks have not been made.
Each section of the check list relates to other relevant organisations and/or legislation which may provide alternate pathways for tree removal within your privately owned land.

Proceed through the check list in numerical order and follow directions to the appropriate process or organisation.

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