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Tree survey Cheltenham

Cheltenham’s history as an elegant spa town means that there are many tree-lined streets, parkland trees, and ornamental trees in and around the town. Any application for planning permission here is likely to need a tree survey to clarify how trees will be considered in the development process.

Regency-painted stucco facades on the Promenade in Cheltenham.

Cheltenham in Gloucestershire

This town on the edge of the Cotswolds has an important architectural heritage: its fine Regency buildings and wide avenues create graceful surroundings giving it great tourist appeal. It is famous for prestigious jump racing at the Cheltenham Festival, along with the Cheltenham Literary Festival, music and jazz festivals, and is where the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is based.

Cheltenham and development

The Cheltenham (Central) Conservation Area covers some 600 hectares, and any change must be carefully managed to protect buildings and trees. The town’s setting must be enhanced through sensitively designed and located development and Cheltenham Borough Council works to protect trees and plant new ones. There are an estimated 60,000 trees in and around Cheltenham and they are valued for their contribution to the town’s ecosystem, their aesthetic appeal and wider environmental benefits.

The Cheltenham Plan runs to 2031 and supports the joint strategy of three councils – Gloucester City, Cheltenham Borough and Tewkesbury Borough. It uses the new Local Green Space designation to protect areas of particular importance, while Green Belt on Cheltenham’s fringes prevents further urban sprawl towards Gloucester.

Vision for growth

The Plan aims to facilitate growth across the borough and promote well-connected communities with good facilities. It aims to recognise the distinctiveness of various neighbourhoods and deliver regeneration where needed, alongside sufficient housing to meet future needs.


Affordable housing is a priority given the high average house prices and limited development land. The proposed Golden Valley development aims to see a pioneering garden community built on a 154-acre mixed-use site, including over 1,000 new homes built to high sustainability standards. It will include commercial space for high-tech businesses including cyber security, close to the GCHQ building.

The environment

Priorities are to conserve and enhance the landscape heritage, the natural environment and biodiversity, parks and gardens, and protect trees and green spaces and the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are several sites on the register of Historic Parks and Gardens, along with Sites of Special Scientific Interest, nature reserves and regionally important geological and geomorphological sites.

How the planning system works to protect trees

A tree management plan must form part of all planning applications. A tree survey will be needed if your development plans will impact trees located on or close to the site; it will recommend the best course of action that could include mitigation for trees. The local planning authority must be convinced that the negative impacts on trees are being fully considered in your scheme before it will grant planning consent.

Tree protection

Individual trees can be protected by a tree preservation order while conservation areas can protect groups of trees. There are around 532 trees subject to a tree preservation order in Cheltenham and seven conservation areas. Damaging or felling any trees without permission risks fines, but there are higher penalties attached to trees subject to tree preservation orders or in conservation areas.

Individual trees will be measured during a tree survey.

Tree surveys

A tree report will provide local planning authorities with the evidence needed to defend a decision to grant planning permission. Applications for planning consent submitted without tree surveys when they are required could result in delays or even refusals.

The BS5837 tree survey

The tree survey process starts with the British Standard BS5837 tree survey. This involves an arboricultural surveyor making a site visit and assessing all trees located on the proposed development site and surrounding trees. All trees will be graded according to their value, size, stem diameter and condition, and the tree consultant will examine the trees’ root protection area to calculate how this would be affected by the development site proposals.

The preferred outcome is always tree retention, while the second best option is relocation, then destruction, especially where dangerous trees are concerned.

Trees will be graded into Category A, B, C or U: Category A is designed to protect specific trees; they have top priority and need to be retained. If retained trees prove a barrier to development and plans cannot be altered to accommodate them, relocating them may be an option. Category U applies to dangerous, dying, or dead trees. Trees in the lower categories may be destroyed, especially if they present health and safety concerns, and new tree planting may be recommended in compensation.

The arboricultural report will provide practical solutions for all relevant trees and a recommendation to support the application for planning permission to the local planning authority once conditions are met. The tree survey will include an AutoCAD drawing showing all trees present, and if further tree surveys are needed, an explanation will be provided.

Further tree surveys

All sites have different characteristics and further tree surveys may be required, for example, a tree condition survey to investigate subsidence risk, or to address health and safety issues. Other tree surveys include a tree constraints plan, tree protection plans, a risk assessment, arborical supervision, an arboricultural method statement, an arboricultural impact assessment, and tree safety surveys.

Tree owners may require tree care advice about specific trees or want to ensure that trees are in a safe condition. Mortgage lenders might require a mortgage tree report before approving a mortgage application. If important habitats or species protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are identified on the site, an ecological survey may be needed.

Do you need tree surveys in Cheltenham?

The first step is to identify an arboricultural consultancy with experience in completing tree surveys to support planning applications to the relevant local planning authority. Make sure that the firm employs fully qualified tree consultants who hold the correct licences to ensure that you get expert advice: their tree management recommendations will help with the success of your planning application.

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