South West Trees and Arboriculture
Contained within the South West region are the counties of Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Notable towns and cities based on the areas with the largest populations include Bath, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cheltenham, Exeter, Gloucester, Plymouth, Poole and Swindon.
Out of all regions in England, the South West has the largest number of people living in rural settlements, recorded at 1.7 million back in 2008. Tree canopy cover for each county weighs in at 8.7% in Bristol, 17% in Cornwall, 19% in Devon, 15% in Dorset, 18% in Gloucestershire, 16% in Somerset and 12% in Wiltshire, equating to an average of 15.1% across the region.
Despite falling slightly short of the national average tree canopy cover of 16%, South West England possesses an array of popular countryside areas including Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Brownsea Island, Glastonbury Tor, Jurassic Coast, Longleat, Stonehenge, Tarka Trail, St. Nectan’s Glen, Stourhead House and Garden, and Vivary Park.
From rural Devon to developed Bristol, trees are present in varying numbers throughout the South West, and they can always pose problems to planning projects. Particularly in the case of multiple trees located in conservation areas or individual trees under ongoing tree preservation orders (TPOs), developers would be advised to arrange a tree survey to gauge the circumstances of all trees present, appease the local planning authority, and eliminate potential issues with gaining planning permission.
Trees Located in the South West
As with any other area of England, the amount of wooded areas and individual trees in the South West region is different between counties.
In the section below, we give an indication of the presence of trees across Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Statistics from the Bristol Tree Forum claim that, as of 2018, there were an estimated minimum of 600,000 trees in Bristol. Even with so many trees, Bristol City Council want to build on this figure, with an aim to double tree canopy cover across the county by the year 2046.
Trees in Bristol are protected by:
- Bristol City Council
Although recognised as a rural county, Cornwall is primarily formed of moors and fields, and the high elevation of the land makes it more difficult for trees to grow. Instead, the county has bushes, hedges and shrubs in place of trees. However, to counteract a lack of trees in the county, Cornwall Council has developed ‘Forest for Cornwall‘ – a scheme that pledges to plant 8,000 hectares of new trees.
Trees in Cornwall are protected by:
- Bodmin Town Council
- Bude-Stratton Town Council
- Callington Town Council
- Camborne Town Council
- Camelford Town Council
- Cornwall Council
- Falmouth Town Council
- Fowey Town Council
- Hayle Town Council
- Helston Town Council
- Launceston Town Council
- Liskeard Town Council
- Looe Town Council
- Lostwithiel Town Council
- Marazion Town Council
- Padstow Town Council
- Penryn Town Council
- Penzance Town Council
- Porthleven Town Council
- Redruth Town Council
- Saltash Town Council
- St. Austell Town Council
- St. Blaise Town Council
- St. Columb Major Town Council
- St. Ives Town Council
- St. Just In Penwith Town Council
- Torpoint Town Council
- Truro City Council
- Wadebridge Town Council
Sharing similarities with neighbouring Cornwall, Devon has fewer woodland areas than many of the other English regions due to high ground elevation. A common method of encouraging the planting of more trees, Devon Ash Dieback started an initiative in 2022 to give residents of Devon an opportunity to claim and plant their own free trees.
Trees in Devon are protected by:
- East Devon District Council
- Exeter City Council
- Mid Devon District Council
- North Devon Council
- South Hams District Council
- Teignbridge District Council
- Torridge District Council
- West Devon Borough Council
Back in 2010, 31.3 kilohectares of Dorset was classed as natural forest, but it had lost 63 hectares of natural forest by 2021. As a method of reversing the loss of woodland areas in the county, a £10 million scheme from the Forestry Commission will aim to plant over 5,000 trees.
Trees in Dorset are protected by:
- Dorset Council (comprised of Dorset County Council, East Dorset District Council, North Dorset District Council, Purbeck District Council and West Dorset District Council)
Including the picturesque Cotswolds, the county of Gloucestershire contains 11% of woodland areas. Out of all of South West England, Gloucestershire has the second-highest reading for tree canopy cover. Currently, however, Gloucestershire County Council are pushing for a further one million trees to be added to the county by the year 2030.
Trees in Gloucestershire are protected by:
- Cheltenham Borough Council
- Cotswolds District Council
- Forest of Dean District Council
- Gloucester City Council
- Gloucestershire County Council
- Stroud District Council
While Somerset has 16% of tree canopy cover, only 7% of the county is considered woodland. The primary reason for this is that – like the majority of South West England – Somerset is mostly formed of rural moors and elevated areas. Somerset County Council aim to increase the number of trees and woodland areas in the county by planting 500,000 trees by the year 2026.
Trees in Somerset are protected by:
- Mendip District Council
- Sedgemoor District Council
- South Somerset District Council
- Somerset County Council
- Somerset West and Taunton Council
According to statistics from the National Forest Inventory, woodland areas only account for around 10% of Wiltshire’s 325,534 hectares of land. However, environmental organisation Friends of the Earth claims that collaboration between local councils and the government could lead to woodland cover in Wiltshire increasing by as much as 68%.
Trees in Wiltshire are protected by:
- Amesbury Town Council
- Bradford on Avon Town Council
- Calne Town Council
- Chippenham Town Council
- Corsham Town Council
- Cricklade Town Council
- Devizes Town Council
- Durrington Town Council
- Ludgershall Town Council
- Malmesbury Town Council
- Malborough Town Council
- Melksham Town Council
- Mere Town Council
- Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council
- Salisbury City Council
- Tidworth Town Council
- Trowbridge Town Council
- Warminster Town Council
- Westbury Town Council
- Wilton Town Council
- Wiltshire County Council
Assessments on Trees
Out of all available arboricultural assessments such as a tree risk assessment and tree condition surveys, the British Standard BS5837 tree survey is the most frequently executed. Over the course of BS5837 tree surveys, a trained arboriculturist from a tree consultancy will visit the development site to identify trees under a tree preservation order (TPO) or within a conservation area, measure root protection areas, gather information about the quality and value of all trees present, determine tree health and safety factors, and provide mitigation measures that will protect trees and assist in limiting the amount of harm imposed on trees.
More specifically, a professional tree surveyor will analyse all trees in relation to the site, labelling them with a grading. Each grading will point towards certain outcomes, with a particular focus on retention, removal or destruction. While it will always be preferable to complete BS5837 tree surveys with as many retained trees as possible, trees impeding the development process will need to be moved elsewhere or – if they are in poor condition and aren’t worth relocation – the professional tree consultant will recommend destroying the trees.
Results from tree surveys will then be detailed in a tree report, along with broader information about the tree survey process and evidence from the assessment such as images, graphs and maps. A local council regard tree survey reports from a tree inspection as containing reliable, trustworthy and valuable information, and as a result, passing the document across to the local planning authorities following the tree consultancy services will help in the process of passing a planning application.
Between potential damage to trees on your development site and trees acting as an obstacle to your planning project, the only way to avoid problems with the local council is by booking a tree survey with an experienced and qualified tree consultant that can provide tree surveys and a professional service. Each of our arboriculturists holds the necessary accreditations, licensing and knowledge to undertake tree surveys in the South West of England. We also cover other areas of the United Kingdom upon request, enabling us to offer tree inspections and support planning applications to all private and commercial clients.
An accurate representation of the tree work and tree care we can do for you is only possible through speaking to our team. All you need to do is get in touch, give us information about your site and project, and we can provide you with a free quote to help you make a decision. Support and guidance from an arboriculturist will then assist in a number of areas such as providing general advice for developing on a site where trees are present, mitigation measures for finding the best course of action for each tree, and all of the information the local planning authority will need to approve a planning application.
We offer multiple communication options, allowing developers, tree owners and anyone else in the planning process that needs our tree surveys the ability to utilise our detailed reports as part of planning conditions or other key requirements. You can speak to us via our ‘contact‘ page, by filling out our quote form, or by calling the number at the top of this page. Our team will then give you options of opportunities for us to visit your development site to carry out a survey, and if you are happy to move forward with us, one of our expert arboriculturists will conduct a BS5837 tree survey, and help you with progressing your project and sealing planning consent.