The presence of trees on a development site poses potential challenges from a planning perspective, but they can often be overcome if the correct procedures are followed. A local planning authority is likely to require a tree survey as part of an application for planning consent, providing precise details about how trees on the site will be managed. To be viable, tree surveys must be carried out by professional tree consultants.
The Local Development Plan in Bromley
The largest of all the London boroughs, Bromley has significant amounts of Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land along with rural, suburban and urban areas. Its heritage and conservation assets include Downe, Crystal Palace and Biggin Hill, along with nearly 50 Conservation Areas. There are also large amounts of brownfield land especially in and around the borough’s many town centres.
The Bromley Local Plan aims to identify areas with the most potential for new development and those where biodiversity can be enhanced. Bromley Council wants to encourage house building and support more businesses, to `represent the best of town and country’. It wants to oversee a sustainable pattern of development to meet the area’s needs, improve the environment and mitigate climate change, especially by effectively using land in urban areas.
Protection for the natural environment
The Local Plan is underpinned by Bromley’s 2030 vision for the area to be a high-quality place for living and working, where beautiful and sustainable houses are built and historic and natural environments are protected.
Bromley town centre is mentioned in the London Plan, adopted in March 2021, as one of several Opportunity Areas which are encouraged to support growth and development and recognise the role of heritage in place-making.
Tree surveys and planning permission
Planning applications for schemes that will impact trees on, or in close proximity to a proposed development site, will need to be accompanied by a tree survey. The local planning authority will be able to advise you about whether a tree survey will be required; if it is, and your application is submitted without one, you risk a refusal as well as the loss of valuable time. Any breach of the rules surrounding trees and development sites can result in substantial fines.
As well as detailing all the trees on the site, qualified tree consultants will be able to give expert advice regarding mitigation for trees that would be affected by your plans, which will be considered by your case officer.
Tree care provisions
Trees are given two main protections: a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) which can be placed on a single tree, while several trees can be protected in designated conservation areas. Local authorities control these measures and permission is needed before trees subject to these protections may be disturbed. It’s the responsibility of developers to find out whether trees on their proposed site have restrictions on them; the local council’s tree officer will be able to advise. If trees are not subject to one of these restrictions, you might still need to apply for a felling licence from the Forestry Commission: it is an offence not to obtain a licence if one is needed and tree consultants will be able to advise on this as part of a tree survey.
BS5837 tree surveys
The BS5837 tree survey is the initial survey to arrange. It involves qualified tree consultants making a site visit and carrying out a tree inspection to assess all relevant trees for their condition, size and quality. Tree consultants will grade trees into categories ranging from A to U via a grading system which dictates different outcomes for each. The highest quality trees will be graded as Category A, while Category U caters for poor quality trees which may be at or near the end of their lifespan.
When carrying out a tree survey, tree consultants will aim to preserve the maximum number of trees. The tree report will explain the best approach for each tree, from the high-quality trees that must be retained to measures to compensate for the loss of poor-quality trees. If trees present problems to development proposals that cannot be overcome, options include moving them or destruction: in these cases, new trees may be planted in compensation.
The tree report
As well as providing an assessment of all trees on a development site, the BS5837 tree report will include an arboricultural method statement and details of the mitigation measures necessary to help the proposed scheme achieve planning permission. In the arboricultural report, tree consultants will also advise tree owners about further tree inspections or tree management that might be relevant.
Further tree surveys
Several specific tree surveys may be required before planning consent can be granted. These include tree care protection plans, an arboricultural impact assessment, tree condition surveys, a tree constraints plan, tree safety surveys, arborical supervision and site monitoring.
Other types of tree reports include pre-purchase tree surveys and mortgage tree reports which may be required by mortgage providers or insurers: this will assess trees for health and safety risks to see whether they pose a potential risk. In some cases, tree consultants may be required to carry out regular tree inspections.
Do you need to arrange a Bromley tree survey?
It’s important to identify an arboricultural consultancy with many years of experience in carrying out tree reports for the relevant local authority. The firm should also employ qualified tree consultants who hold the relevant licences as they will be able to offer expert advice to help you achieve planning permission. It’s useful to note how many clients the firm has worked with in this London borough, and whether it receives good reviews for its tree services.