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Arboriculturists – A Necessary Evil or a Root to Success?

Having trees on or near your site can prove to be a headache when it comes to development.  Getting an Arboriculturist on board at an early stage can both prevent delays and costly revisions.  

The Arboriculture Team at agb Environmental can be more than just a means to gain planning approval, we can also help to find pragmatic solutions that make your scheme a success.

In early March of this year an architect and previous client came to us with a problem.  A planning application had stalled due to a tree on the road outside the property.  The local council had raised concern over the impact of the development on the tree and had served a Tree Preservation Order.  It was now down to him to demonstrate the development could continue without threatening the tree.

The problem involved the creation of an enlarged parking area in the front garden.  The roots of the tree would undoubtedly extend into this area, all of which would have to be excavated.  Photos and the current layout made it look a little alarming for the tree.

The first thing to do was visit the site, to view the tree and the conditions around it.  The tree is almost entirely surrounded by tarmac, with only the narrow, badly compacted strip in which it stands and sections of the front gardens of two houses providing open ground.  Yet despite this, the tree is in good health and roots are obviously growing underneath the paving, evident from the large cracks in the pavement radiating in all directions away from the trunk.  It made it easy to see where the roots were spreading!

Having recorded the tree’s vital statistics we plotted its position against the layout, in accordance with the recommendations provided in BS5837:2012.  Straight away we could see where excavation would be most likely to damage roots, but thankfully we could also see that roots wouldn’t extend as far as we first feared into the front garden.  

We proposed alterations to the layout that reduced excavation closest to the tree – these alterations identified an area that would no longer be needed for parking, corresponding well with the tree’s root spread.  We suggested this could be left at its current level as a partially raised bed, meaning hardly any excavation was now required where it may damage roots.  

Some root loss was inevitable, in the location of the new crossover.  This would cross an area where tree roots have lifted and damaged the pavement, to the point where it poses a considerable trip hazard.  On this basis we argued that surface repairs would require root removal, therefore the development would not result in any significant additional root loss.

The tree is at a relatively young stage in its life with potential to increase in size, both above and below ground.  We provided specifications for the surface construction of the new parking area, to allow for root growth beneath it without leading to damage.  

New plans were drawn up, which were submitted alongside our report.  Approval was granted in April.  

The scheme started with the entire front garden requiring excavation for parking, potentially damaging an important tree and risking refusal.  It ended with a new layout that accommodated the same number of cars, as well as some soft landscaping; not only does it increase parking, but it now safeguards the tree and looks more attractive – a great success! 

If you have a development project where trees may be an issue, contact agb Environmental on 01638 663 226 or to see how our Arboricultural department can help, by working with you from the start.