- Written by Adam Gatt Penrith City Council (02) 4732 7777 (02) 4732 7958 firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.penrithcity.nsw.gov.au 601 High St Penrith NSW 2750 Australia
Tree Removal & Pruning
Tree Removal / Pruning - Is a Permit Needed?
It is important to protect and where possible enhance trees and other vegetation in our City for several reasons including biodiversity conservation, habitat protection, preserving amenity, cleaning our air, cooling our City and contributing to the positive health and well-being of our community.
There is also a need to achieve an appropriate balance between protecting and enhancing trees and other vegetation while also minimising risks to people and property, ensuring public safety and facilitating sustainable development.
In general, trees in Penrith City are not permitted to be removed or pruned without an appropriate approval or permit, or without meeting a permit exemption. This guide has been prepared to assist property/tree owners to understand what tree management works can be carried without an approval or permit and when a vegetation permit application is required.
Vegetation means “a tree or other vegetation, whether or not it is native vegetation.” Native Vegetation has the same meaning as defined in Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013.
Tree means: a living perennial plant that has height of 3.5 metres or more or a trunk diameter exceeding 100mm at 1400mm above ground level, or individual trees, gardens or native vegetation listed as Significant Trees and Gardens.
There are two types of Vegetation Permit application:
i) Application to Remove or Prune Trees, or
ii) Application to Clear Native Vegetation
This information focuses on the first application type as it is the most common.
Important - Before submitting an application, anyone proposing to clear native vegetation (e.g. native trees, native bushland, or native grassland) should first contact Council to obtain advice specific their proposal.
STEP 1 – Check if Other Approvals Apply First
Trees and other vegetation proposed to be removed for development will need to be assessed and approved as part of Development Application to Council.
Depending on scale and location, proposed removal of native trees and other native vegetation may require approval from the State Government Native Vegetation Panel.
Refer to Penrith Development Control Plan - Part C2 Vegetation Management for further approval details.
STEP 2 – Check if any Vegetation Permit Exemptions Apply
The following tree management works on private land do not require a Vegetation Permit (i.e. tree removal or tree pruning approval) from Council:
- If a tree or part of a tree is assessed as imminently dangerous by a suitably qualified arborist (preferably AQF Level 5 consulting arborist) then a vegetation permit is not required to carry out any recommended pruning or removal works to mitigate that danger. If a tree/property owner proceeds to prune or remove a tree under this permit exemption they will need to keep a copy of the arborist report to demonstrate meeting the exemption.
- A tree located within three (3) metres of an external enclosing wall of a dwelling (measured from the centre of the trunk at 1400mm above ground level) can be pruned or removed without the need for a vegetation permit.
- A dead tree can be removed without the need for a vegetation permit providing it is not habitat for native fauna.
- Deadwood can be removed from trees without the need for a vegetation permit and can be carried out as part of regular tree maintenance providing the branches are not habitat for native fauna.
- Overhanging branches within three (3) metres of a dwelling roofline can be removed without the need for a vegetation permit providing the largest cut is no greater than 150mm in diameter.
- Providing a tree is greater than six (6) metres in height, branches within two (2) metres of ground level (measured vertically) can be pruned without the need for a vegetation permit providing the largest cut is no greater than 150mm in diameter.
- Branches up to 50mm diameter can be pruned without the need for a vegetation permit providing the shape and structure of the tree will not be significantly modified. This will allow for general ongoing maintenance of garden trees and hedges.
- Trees listed on Council’s exempt tree species list can be pruned or removed without a vegetation permit.
- A tree that will cause imminent damage to the structural integrity or function of an existing perimeter boundary fence on rural land can be pruned or removed without the need for a vegetation permit.
- A tree or other vegetation growing within an approved constructed dam or dam wall where maintenance is required to prevent impacts on the structural integrity or function of the dam, can be pruned or removed without the need for a vegetation permit.
- Any other Vegetation Permit exemption found in Part C2 - Vegetation Management of the Penrith Development Control Plan.
It is highly recommended any pruning and tree maintenance work be carried out by a suitably qualified Arborist (AQF Level 3 or above) in accordance with Australian Standard 4373-2007, Pruning of Amenity Trees.
STEP 3 – Before Submitting a Vegetation Permit Application
If proposed tree management work does not meet a vegetation permit exemption there is an option to submit an application to Council to seek a permit for pruning or removal of a tree. Permit applications will be subject to a merit-based assessment. Before submitting an application, you should consider the following:
Vegetation Permit applications can only be submitted by the property/tree owner, or with written consent of the property/tree owner.
Correct Supporting Information
Make sure you include the correct evidence to support an application. It is important to remember impacts from trees cannot always be detected from a visual inspection, especially when suspected damage relates to underground roots.
The following are examples of evidence that can be provided with an application:
- Photographs of trees
- Photographs of suspected damage from trees.
- A report from a suitably qualified arborist e.g. with details on the health and condition of a tree/s, or to assist identify tree/s responsible for ongoing property damage.
- A report from a licenced plumber e.g. where roots are causing ongoing blockages and damage to pipes.
- A report from a suitably qualified/licenced builder or engineer e.g. where a tree, or tree roots are causing structural damage.
Providing the correct information with an application will assist Council to assess the application quickly.
The removal of a tree due to leaf drop or other debris it not generally considered a reason to warrant tree removal on its own.
A vegetation permit will generally not be issued to facilitate Complying Development. A Development Application will be required if a complying development proposal does not meet the complying development controls in relation to trees and other vegetation.
STEP 4 – Submitting a Vegetation Permit Application
Note: You will need to include a sketch/site plan of your property showing the locations of the tree(s) you wish to prune or remove and will require the property owner's consent. Also please include any supporting information. It is recommended to all have this information prepared before starting an online application.
- Complete an Online Application or
- Download our Tree Pruning or Removal Application Form (pdf 129.4KB) and submit it in person at Councils’ Customer Service Centre.
Fees For Tree Removal please refer to Council's Fees & Charges document.
Native Vegetation Clearing
NOTE: It is illegal to clear native vegetation without approval. ‘Native Vegetation’ includes native trees, shrubs, grasses, ground covers and wetland plants.
Clearing of bush and native vegetation is regulated in a number of ways, including:
- State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) – Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas (2017) – The Vegetation SEPP works together with the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, the Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 and Council Development Control Plans (DPCs) to create a framework for the regulation of clearing of native vegetation in NSW.
- Council Development Control Plans (DCPs) refer - Part C2 - Vegetation Management of the Penrith Development Control Plan - Under the Penrith DCP, it is illegal to ringbark, cut down, top, lop, remove, injure or wilfully destroy any tree or other vegetation without Council permission. Where the vegetation is native, clearing includes shrubs, ground covers or wetland plants. Failure to obtain permission can lead to fines (maximum penalties can be over $1 million) and legal action under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
- Other legislation:
- Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016
- Biosecurity Act 2015
- Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
- Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (and amendments)
- Fisheries Management Act 1994
- Heritage Act 1977
- Local Land Services Act 2013
- National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
- Rural Fires Act 1997
- State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017
- Water Management Act 2000
How to Apply for Approval to Clear Native Vegetation (Bushland)
Depending on your circumstances there are three key pathways to apply to remove native vegetation on your property. Please read this information thoroughly before making your application.
- If the vegetation removal is to facilitate a development activity (such as building a house or putting in a pool), then it must be included as part of your Development Application.
- If the clearing is not associated with a development that requires a DA, and the area exceeds the biodiversity offsets scheme threshold (see table below) or is vegetation identified on the Biodiversity Values Map then you must apply for approval through the Native Vegetation Panel, not Council.
Table - Area Clearing Thresholds
|Minimum lot size associated with the property||Threshold for clearing, above which the BAM* and Biodiversity Offsets Scheme apply (requires Native Vegetation Panel approval)|
|Less than 1 ha||0.25 ha or more|
|1 ha to less than 40 ha||0.5 ha or more|
|40 ha to less than 1000 ha||1 ha or more|
|1000 ha or more||2 ha or more|
* BAM means Biodiversity Assessment Method
3. If a proposal to clear native vegetation does not require Development Approval, or Native Vegetation Panel approval you will need to apply to Council for a Vegetation Permit to clear native vegetation. Applications are subject to a merit-based assessment.
Further details on native vegetation clearing, including application submission requirements can be found in Part C2 - Vegetation Management of the Penrith Development Control Plan.
An application to clear native vegetation can be submitted through Council’s Online Application service.
Fees For Tree Removal please refer to Council's Fees & Charges document.
Clearing for Bushfire Protection – the “10/50 rule”
The NSW Rural Fires Amendment (Vegetation Clearing) Bill 2014 was introduced on 1 August 2014, introducing the 10/50 rule. Visit the Rural Fire Service website for details and to check if your property is in a 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Area. These laws allow property owners in a designated 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Area to:
- clear trees on their property within 10m of a dwelling wall, without seeking approval*; and
- clear underlying vegetation such as shrubs (but not trees) on their property within 50m of a dwelling wall, without seeking approval*.
If your property is not shown to be within the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Area, then the normal tree/vegetation removal application process applies as outlined above.
*You may only clear vegetation in accordance with the 10/50 Code, otherwise the clearing is illegal:
- You may not remove trees (or prune more than 25% of the original canopy) on slopes greater than 18 degrees;
- Landowners have a duty of care in the appropriate management of soil erosion and landslip risks when clearing trees and vegetation under the 10/50 Code.
- Herbicides may only be used in accordance with certain conditions.
- Landowners have a duty of care to avoid cruelty and harm to native, introduced or domestic animals when clearing trees and vegetation in accordance with the 10/50 Code. It is important that landowners are aware that clearing of trees and vegetation under the 10/50 Code can result in harm to native animals and loss of their natural habitat. Landowners who clear trees and vegetation under the 10/50 Code are not exempt from prosecution for harm to protected fauna, or for deliberate cruelty to animals. Operating in accordance with the 10/50 Code does not absolve the landowner from their responsibility for avoiding harm to protected fauna or deliberate cruelty to animals.
- You may not clear vegetation on Wetlands identified in the Sydney Regional Environmental Plan 20 – Hawkesbury Nepean River (No 2 –1997) as mapped and provided by the Department of Planning and Environment;
- The clearing of vegetation including trees is not allowed within 10 metres of a river that is 2 metres or more in width between the highest opposite banks, or within 10 metres of a lake.
- Records of Critically Endangered Plants as mapped and provided by the Office of Environment and Heritage;
- The following Critically Endangered Ecological Communities found in the Penrith LGA, as mapped and provided by the Office of Environment and Heritage:
- Agnes Bank Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
- Cumberland Plain Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
- Or any other Critically Endangered Ecological Community, if mapped and provided by the Office of Environment and Heritage
Trees on public land
The list of appropriate trees is currently under development and will inform tree planting within the Penrith Local Government Area.
The following documents are part of the Street and Park Tree Management Plan: