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Successful Tree Retention in Development

Trees can be a real asset to a development. Keeping existing trees, or planting new ones can help both to gain planning approval and to sell the properties. But it’s not just a simple case of keeping trees where they aren’t directly in the way, or planting new trees. Get it wrong, and you risk losing trees. This could be because they suffer damage, or they cause problems for occupants, affecting the building structure or use.

So what do you need to consider?

Firstly; you need a tree survey. This will tell you which trees are worth keeping, and which can be removed. This gives you a baseline for development.

The best layout proposals will consider the following:

  • Roots – remember that trees are both what you see above the ground, and what you don’t below the ground. Tree roots are shallow and spread out like the base of a wine glass, rather than growing down.
  • Foundations – what design to use and how this will affect roots. The closer you go to the tree, the more roots you will damage or remove. Don’t assume that when you dig down half a metre, the roots will be fine as you’ll cut through most of them.
  • Paving – not only will excavation cut through roots close to the surface, but the paving acts as a barrier, preventing remaining roots below from getting water, nutrients and air. You can end up killing roots you meant to keep.
  • The size of the tree – is it fully grown, or will it get much larger? There may be plenty of space for new buildings now, but what will happen in the future if the trees are to grow?
  • Use of the land nearby – how will trees affect the use of the development in the future? Shading of sunlight, debris, seeds, roosting birds and concerns over safety can all lead to pressure to prune, which may end up with trees being removed. Place windows away from the shade. Don’t locate patios, play areas and parking bays under trees.
  • Creating a layout to help important trees thrive by decreasing hardstanding within the rooting zone of the tree.
  • Trees need space. Don’t build too close to them – even if the tree survives, chances are future occupants may not like it so close and remove it.

For new trees you don’t have the risks of root loss and damage as you’ll plant once you’ve finished the development. You still need to consider how the trees will affect future occupants. The most important consideration is the species to plant:

  • Choose trees that won’t grow too big for their location, both in height and spread – this will help avoid the need to prune or remove them in the future.
  • How will species affect occupants and use of the surrounding land – will it drop messy fruit? Is it poisonous, thorny, or produce lots of suckers? Will it create dense shade?
  • How will it affect the local soil? Some trees need more water than others. Taking moisture from the soil can cause changes in soil volume, leading to subsidence of buildings.
  • What are the local conditions for growing? Choose a tree that is unsuited to the local climate or soil and it may fail to develop properly, or even die.

Get things wrong, and you may end up with additional expense to remove and replace failed trees, or trees may put off potential purchasers. Get it right, and it may help you get planning permission and sell your property faster.

Get in touch

agb Environmental can help with trees at all stages of development, from the initial tree survey to designing and planting your new landscaping. If you would like to find out more, call Richard Parmee on 01638 663226, or email

Arboriculture, News, Surveys