Everything You Need to Know About Tree Surveys
Why Do I Need a Tree Survey?
If you have been asked for a tree survey, there are a number of reasons why you may need a tree expert to provide one. Your local authority may demand that you arrange for an arboricultural consultancy to undertake a tree inspection of your site to produce high quality tree reports as a method of supporting your planning application if they are concerned that your development may impact trees or vegetation near or on your development site.
In some cases, your lender or bank may even ask for a tree survey as part of their criteria for mortgage approval, or your insurer may need a tree survey to assess the condition and safety of your trees. You may also need a tree survey to apply for works to trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) or located in conservation areas.
Whatever you need a tree survey for, our team of friendly, expert tree consultants hold many years experience working with both private and commercial clients and have supported numerous landscape designers, planning consultants, project managers, tree owners and other professionals with different types of land development project. Including design, demolition and construction, our team has extensive experience working on numerous projects and carrying out tree inspections on sites to support applications for planning consent and the quality of the local environment.
Using state of the art equipment such as tree motion sensors and harnessing a comprehensive understanding of vital information such as measuring root protection areas on single trees present on the site and eliminating breaches of personal safety that could have otherwise caused damage or harm, our team has the full range of skills needed to conduct tree surveys on any new building project.
Operating throughout the year, in bad weather and on hazardous sites with evidence of tree failure, we are able to provide you with a free quote based on your project, issue a tree surveyor to your site and ensure that all trees inspected are assessed correctly to guarantee assurance over health and safety, offer a wide range of accurate information to appease the planning authority, and move your development through planning.
What is a BS5837 Tree Survey?
Your local council has policies that protect trees in your area. Any time you are developing existing buildings or on land proximate to trees, a British standard BS5837 tree survey is generally required by your local council’s planning office before they will consider your development proposal as a form of validation requirement. Along with other components such as tree constraints plan drawings, the requirement of a BS5837 tree survey is because, whether you wish to construct a small house extension or a 500-unit commercial development, your council could deem that it is capable of negatively affecting the surrounding trees.
Usually, all trees over a 7.5cm diameter need to be included in the BS5837 tree survey, though they don’t all have the potential to constrain your development. This includes off-site trees and other vegetation within ten metres of your site boundary. The BS5837 tree survey must include the species of tree and its orientation, as well as dimensional and root protection area data. Tree surveys include notes about the structural and physiological condition of the trees and other relevant features on the site such as shrub areas, hedges and regenerating woodland.
In your BS5837 tree survey, the trees’ positions are of particular importance and should be marked up on a topographical survey (otherwise known as a contour survey, detail survey, land survey or terrain survey) or OS tile. This will ordinarily show all relevant site features, including existing buildings, roads, street lighting, drains, walls, fences and any other components involved in what is being proposed that could act as possible constraints to root development.
What is a Tree Report?
For developments to pass planning applications, the corresponding local authorities require information provided on how each tree will be dealt with and how the development can go ahead without harming the existing state of biodiversity despite the presence of trees. In order to ensure a record of all of the useful information with effective tree management recommendations included, the professional arboriculturist will develop a tree report.
Tree reports act as an extremely important method statement for making informed decisions along the planning process. Within a tree report, an extensive range of considerations are included, such as drawings of the site with every tree outlined, gradings of every tree on the site and potential safety aspects of existing trees. Once a visual tree assessment has been carried out, arboricultural consultants will create high quality tree reports immediately after. Completed tree reports will then be sent to the local council and passed on to the local authority as part of the application for planning permission.
What is a Tree Preservation Order?
Tree Preservation Order (TPO) protection is a form of tree protection plan afforded to trees under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It is especially important to have a tree survey undertaken prior to disrupting a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order as it would require the special consent of your local council’s planning office.
Individual trees are specifically placed under a TPO, and once a request to carry out a development that could impact a tree under a TPO, it can take up to eight weeks for the council to provide a response. Impact on a tree could involve any form of direct interference such as cutting down, lopping, uprooting, or wilful damage and destruction. However, there are exceptions, such as if the tree survey suggests that the tree is dead, dying or dangerous to individual safety, or if other criteria means that you no longer need a granted planning application from the planning department of the local council.
What is a Conservation Area?
Alongside Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), conservation areas are another consideration that can be troublesome obstacles during a land development on a site that houses protected trees. Introduced in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the concept of a conservation area enables local authorities to preserve certain sections of land based on special architectural or historical interest.
As with Tree Preservation Orders, consent from the corresponding local planning authority is needed before any work on a conservation area that could disturb trees is carried out. Likewise, only a qualified and insured tree survey consultant can make suitable judgements when it comes to individual trees under a TPO and trees situated in a conservation area. Even if you are unsure if a tree is affected by TPOs or conservation areas, it would be advisable to seek professional advice from an arboriculturist with an acceptable level of knowledge and experience.
What is the Tree Survey Process?
During any BS5837 tree survey, an arboricultural consultant will follow the same process. After asking a few questions about the project and gathering information about how and where it will be carried out, the surveyor will arrange a visit to the site at a suitable time that suits the developer in charge of the project. It would always be advisable to book a tree survey as early as possible to guarantee a desirable slot, and once a tree condition survey is conducted, the completed tree report should be distributed within a few short days.
In the preliminary stage, the arboricultural consultant may conduct a desk study to collect vital information. For instance, they may find that existing tree protection plans are in place, the site may have previously had an arboricultural method statement, or someone outside of the site could be a tree owner or have jurisdiction or a duty of care over single trees on the site.
Arboricultural surveyors will assess every tree on the site, using a grading system to determine the physiological and structural condition and value of each tree before establishing whether retaining, relocating or destroying is the most suitable course of action for each individual tree. Naturally, the top priority would have as many retained trees on the site as possible following a tree inspection, but if they are low in quality, not protected by a TPO, expected to have a short life expectancy or likely to obstruct the development, moving them elsewhere or destroying them may be the only option.
The arboricultural surveyor who conducted the assessment will then complete the tree surveying process by creating the tree report. Not only does a tree report act as a detailed overview of tree inspections, an explanation of how tree surveys are carried out and an opportunity for the arboriculturist to detail how they approach the process with an eye on an acceptable level of tree care and the environment, but it also offers effective next steps for enabling the development to progress despite the presence of trees.
Through cross-referencing trees on the site alongside the developments plans, creating a CAD drawing that outlines every tree on the site, and providing information on all other relevant factors in the form of different types of written or pictured evidence, the arboricultural consultancy can provide a detailed tree report. With every component required to gain planning consent, the report will be passed on to the relevant local authority to support the planning application.
Tree Surveys for Land Developments
While a tree survey may not exactly be one of the primary components you would expect to incorporate into your planning project, in the majority of circumstances, tree surveys are undertaken as part of land developments where trees are present.
At this point, an arboriculturist will examine all tree stock on the plot of land, gauge the impact of trees in relation to design, demolition or construction work, and indicate to the planning department of the local council that all trees have been correctly analysed and a suitable course of action for each tree has been determined. With all of the evidence and next steps in the tree report, the process of passing a planning condition should be quick, simple and seamless.
Other Reasons for Scheduling Tree Inspections
Alternatively, however, a tree survey can occupy other needs outside of land development projects. For example, mortgage lenders often ask for a tree survey, though even when they do not ask for them as a condition of the mortgage, it is often an excellent way to get a sense of what trees are on or adjacent to the property.
Primarily for health and safety purposes, a tree survey on a mortgage application will establish if present trees could be a danger to people. In most circumstances, even great trees that are tall or wide will cause no danger whatsoever. However, it would be advisable to have a survey undertaken by an insured and qualified professional tree surveyor to avoid ending up buying a house next to a huge, mature tree that is rotten and needs to be felled at your expense.
Likewise, tree surveys for condition and safety are also undertaken to provide peace of mind for homeowners around the country, as well as discharging their obligations under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957. That said, it is a common misconception that the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 affects tree problems. In fact, it solely focuses on protected species and animal habitats across the country.
Booking a Tree Survey with an Expert Arboriculturist
If you require a tree survey or have been told you need one, booking an assessment with one of our friendly team couldn’t be much simpler. We have arboricultural experts situated throughout the UK and in close proximity to every area, carrying experience to undertake tree surveys on different types of land regardless of location, and making it possible for them to hold a firm understanding of the local planning authorities.
For example, whether you are based in London, Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, South West or the East of England, or sections of Scotland and Wales, we can arrange for an assessment to be carried out on your site.
All of our arboricultural consultants are qualified, experienced and aware of the latest standards, enabling them to reduce risks in your development project by conducting a tree assessment to an acceptable level using extensive expertise with working towards effective tree management.
With a reputation for providing expert tree inspections to reduce risk, supply detailed information, form sound decisions and act as an expert witness on a new development for well over a decade, we are a tried and tested option to trust.
For reassurances on the trees on your development site or simply to gain answers to common questions about the BS5837 tree survey, get in touch with one of our tree consultants to chat about your site and project, and how to progress your planning application where trees are a material constraint. Fill out the quick quote form at the top of this page or see our other communication options on our dedicated contact page.