The Planning and Development Act 2000 provides the mechanism for the protection and preservation of trees. The relevant sections of the act that concerns trees are contained in Part III (which deals with the control of the development) and Part XIII (which deals with amenities). Under the provision of the Act, the confirmation of Special Amenity Area Orders is a function of An Bord Pleanala instead of the Minister. The Act also introduced the category of preservation know as the Landscape Conservation Area, and significantly alters procedures in relation to Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).
Under the Act the thinning, felling and replanting of trees, forests and woodland are exempt and do not require planning permission, except where it “would interfere with the character of a landscape, or a view or protect of special amenity value or special interest, the preservation of which is an objective of a development plan. Where 10ha or more of broadleaf high forest is being replaced by conifer species this is not exempt and requires planning permission.
The Planning and Development Act 2000 sets out the requirement for a planning authority to formulate a development plan every 6 years. The development plan sets out an overall strategy and includes various objectives. These should include the preservation of the character of the landscape and amenities (including trees and woodlands) and the preservation and protection of tree, shrubs and plants. In order to protect trees and woodlands that may have environmental value, due regard to relevant national or European designations should be given, i.e. Natural Heritage Areas (*NHAs both proposed and designated), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Statutory Nature Reserves and the Flora Protection Order. Any activity in a European designated site or likely to affect same may require an Appropriate Assessment (AA) (see DoEHLG, 2009, amended in 2010). Local authorities also need to account for the possibility that plans or projects affecting woodland or trees may result in the disturbance of species protected under the EU Birds and Habitat Directives, the Wildlife Act or the Flora Protection Order 1999 (Statutory Instrument 94/199), and damage to or destruction of the breeding and resting places of habitats and species. An EIA and/or an Appropriate Assessment will identify all relevant issues.
Permission granted to development can be subject to conditions including those requiring the planting, maintenance and replacement of trees, shrubs or other plants, and landscaping which can include the retention of trees.
Under Section 34 of the Planning and Development 2000 Act a condition relating to the following can be imposed on the granting or permission to develop land, without compensation payable to the applicant: the preservation and protection of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers: the conservation and preservation of a natural habitat listed in Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, of species listed in Annex II present on a protected site or of species listed in Annex IV; and the conservation and preservation of a protected site.