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Arboriculture; Trees, Woodlands and Forests

Although trees can be a real asset with multiple benefits, their management can be a headache for both landowners and developers. With a significant track record in the public and private sectors, agb Environmental offers a wealth of arboriculture knowledge to meet all your needs.

Possessing a strong skill set in the wide field of arboriculture and able to work closely with other in-house departments, our in house team of experienced specialists can provide you with detailed surveys, reports and assessments covering all aspects of trees and their management.

Planning and Development

Our arboricultural team are experienced in all aspects of tree surveying and reporting in accordance with British Standard BS 5837:2012. We can help you at all stages of the development process, from developing the initial concept right through to construction completion.

We provide robust yet pragmatic information to meet the requirements of Local Authorities for planning applications, ensuring your project can go ahead whilst maximising the benefits trees provide.

Where trees are on or close to development sites, the Local Planning Authority will require a report in accordance with BS 5837: 2012 assessing these trees and their relationship with the development. The report content will depend upon the stage you are at in scheme development and the planning application process.

For an initial Feasibility Study, pre-application enquiries or outline planning permission you will require as a minimum a:

  • Tree Survey – this records information on all trees relevant to the development site, including those close to the site perimeter that may affect, or be affected by, the development. The information collected is then used to produce the;
  • Tree Schedule – this sets out in a table all relevant data, including: species, age, physiological and structural condition, height, crown spread, crown clearance, stem diameter, quality categorisation, life expectancy and Root Protection Area, together with observations and recommended work. This information is then used to produce the;
  • Tree Constraints Plan – on which is shown the locations of all trees surveyed, in relation to the development site. This is a scaled plan that displays numbered trees, groups, hedges or woods, including their crown spread and Root Protection Area, colour-coded according to their quality categorisation. It may also include other factors as relevant, such as shading of direct sunlight. This plan informs the development layout, identifying which trees can readily be removed, if required, and which may influence the layout.

This information is then used to develop the development layout for submission for full planning permission. If not previously provided you will now require, in addition to the above:

  • An Arboricultural Impact Assessment – this identifies the likely impact of development on trees covered within the Feasibility Study, including: a Schedule of Work, detailing all tree removal, crown management and other works required to facilitate the development, use specialist construction techniques to minimise the impact on retained trees and tolerate future growth, installation of services, the relationship between trees and future occupation, replacement planting and the scope for layout modification;
  • A Tree Protection Plan – showing the location of all retained trees in relation to the development layout. The location of all protective measures is shown, together with area in which specialist construction techniques are required. This may also include details on construction access and site compounds;
  • An Arboricultural Method Statement – providing details on how the development should proceed with due regard to the protection of retained trees. This covers in detail the implementation of the Tree Protection Plan and, if appropriate may include a Schedule of Supervision, setting out which key stages should be monitored and how this should be achieved.

Once you have permission, the local authority may impose planning conditions.

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Tree Surveying – Condition and Hazard Assessments

No matter whether you own a single property or have an extensive land holding, all landowners have a legal duty of care to ensure their trees are maintained safely.

Our team carry out visual tree assessments, risk assessments, provide reports and management recommendations, and contract management to ensure the work is carried out correctly. We can help to both meet your legal obligations and ensure your trees are maintained as a valuable asset.

  • Visual Tree Assessments – the condition of trees is assessed from the ground, looking at their overall health and identifying any problems or defects that require remediation or further, more detailed investigation;
  • Risk Assessments – in conjunction with Visual Tree Assessments these look at the potential for trees to cause damage or injury, assessing the likelihood of an occurrence and what impact that would have. This allows for remedial work to be identified and prioritised;
  • Reports and Management Recommendations – you know what needs to be done and how soon. Our reports will clearly set this out, providing both the evidence required for submitting applications for Protected Trees and work specifications for contractors. This helps you to get all work completed in good time to ensure you meet your legal obligations;
  • Contract Management – contractor selection and supervision is an important consideration. You need to ensure your contractor is able to carry out the work safely, meeting any legal requirements, particularly when working in public areas. They need to have appropriate insurance to provide you with peace of mind. They also need to have appropriate skills and knowledge to carry out the work correctly, both to meet any conditions under any relevant planning approval and maintain the health of your trees.
  • Common law duty of care – all landowners owe this to their neighbours – if what you do, or fail to do, on your property, causes problems for those next to you, you could be held liable;
  • Occupiers’ Liability Act – under statutory law all landowners have a duty of care to those that are, or can reasonably be expected to be, present on their property. A failure to take reasonable action to protect others on your property that leads to harm, can result in you being held liable.

In both cases, with respect to trees, the duty of care obliges landowners to take reasonable action to prevent their trees causing damage or injury to others.

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Protected Trees – Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas

With extensive experience of the Town & Country Planning Act, we can also cover all aspects of statutory tree protection from application through to determination.

Providing justification for proposed work is an essential part of any Tree Preservation Order (TPO) application and the more robust the evidence presented, the more successful the application. We can provide assessments that not only fully support your application, but ensure that actions proposed ensure your trees are maintained in the best condition.

With considerable public sector experience we can also provide Local Authorities with support in serving, reviewing and administering TPOs.

  • Town & Country Planning Act – this provides Local Authorities with powers to regulate work to trees where these have amenity value – they provide a positive contribution to the character and appearance of our landscape. This regulation is in two forms:
  • Tree Preservation Orders – applications for work need to be submitted on a specific form and include all relevant details. Providing justification for proposed work is an essential part of any application and the more robust the evidence presented, the more successful the application. You would normally receive a decision within eight weeks of application. You have a right to appeal the decision if it is not favourable;
  • Conservation Areas – you do not apply for permission for work. Instead, at least six weeks before you intend to go ahead, you notify the local authority of what you intend to do, which then either raises no objection or may serve a TPO to prevent the work. No justification is required but presenting robust evidence may help.
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Subsidence and Mortgage Reports

Where trees may impact upon property, working in conjunction with the Geotechnical Department we can provide subsidence and mortgage reports

Where trees may impact upon property, working in conjunction with the Geotechnical Department we can provide subsidence and mortgage reports. Our team can provide assessments on both the trees and surrounding soil to help determine the potential for or cause of damage.

Subsidence Reports

Trees have the ability to influence the soil around them, which may lead to subsidence in buildings close by. This ability is influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • Tree species;
  • Tree maturity;
  • Proximity to property and the conditions between;
  • Soil type, and;
  • Building construction.

If your property is showing signs of damage and trees nearby are suspected as being the cause, whether in your ownership or on neighbouring land, you may need to provide evidence to demonstrate to, particularly if trees are protected. Normally you would first contact your insurer and evidence would be gathered by a structural engineer. Particularly where protected trees are implicated this would need to be supported by:

  • An Arboricultural Report – providing specialist detail on the trees involved, including their ability to influence soil, both now and in the future;
  • A Structural Report – providing structural details, the damage observed, the nature of any building movement and investigation into potential causes of damage, and;
  • A Geotechnical Report – providing information on the ability for soil to be influenced by vegetation.

Mortgage (Home Buyer) Tree Reports

Before granting a mortgage to a home buyer the mortgage company may require a report to assess the potential for nearby trees to damage property.  Whereas a subsidence report looks at the cause of existing damage, the mortgage report looks at the potential for future damage, and hence the security of the mortgage lender’s investment.

In addition to the ability for trees to influence soil and cause subsidence, trees can also cause direct damage to buildings and structures via:

  • Branches touching buildings, and;
  • Branches or trees falling onto buildings.

The Mortgage report identifies any factors present that could result in property damage from trees. It also provides recommendations for work to both reduce the potential for property damage and manage general tree safety.  It does not provide any probability of risk of property damage on its own, but may be used in conjunction with Structural and Geotechnical reports to do so.

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Woodland and Veteran Tree Management

Working in conjunction with the Ecology Department provides additional expertise towards the development of management plans, whether forwoodland or individual veteran trees.

Management plans provide the information required to manage trees over long periods. For woodland and veteran trees work considerations will often need to look ahead far more than for individual trees in urban settings, particularly due to their high ecological value and the impact work may have on other associated species.

  • Woodland Management Plans – these are usually produced in accordance with the requirements of the Forestry Commission, providing the information required to obtain felling licences and grant funding. They will need to balance effectively a range of woodland management objectives, both to meet the FC’s requirements and maximise the value of your woodland;
  • Veteran Trees – these are usually ancient and more sensitive to work than younger trees. They often contain many defects that make them more prone to failure, raising safety concerns when publicly accessible. Yet they are held in high regard by the public, who are frequently attracted to them. The UK is host to one of the largest populations of veteran trees in Europe and are host to a range of rare or endangered species, so we have considerable responsibility in maintaining such trees. We can help develop management plans to retain such trees and maintain public safety.

Offering a wealth of experience, our teams are able to work and negotiate with key stakeholders such as the Local Authority and regulators including Natural England. This helps to secure the momentum within the project, and provides a valuable resource for the project team.

Taking into consideration the entire development, our Project Management services are the perfect way to ensure your development is fit for purpose from the start. Enabling development, we are able to provide arboriculture services whilst taking into account future plans for the site and offering our team of in-house specialists to examine the development for other areas of concern to avoid timely and costly delays. To find out more about our Project Management services click here.

For further information on the service provided and to arrange a consultation please contact Alex Brearley on 01638 663226.

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