Need a tree survey in Essex?

If your development project will have an impact on trees, a tree survey is needed to decide on the next steps to take.

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Do you need to arrange a tree survey in Essex?

Any development scheme that involves trees on or adjacent to a site may well need tree surveys to support a planning application. A professional tree survey will assess all the relevant trees and provide the local authority with details about how trees will be managed.

Essex tree cover: Southweald Park near Brentwood, Essex.

Tree surveys in Essex

The local planning authority can tell you whether you need to have a tree survey carried out before submitting a planning application for your development scheme. If you submit a planning application without a tree survey and find that one is needed, you risk the application being refused as well as losing valuable time.

A tree survey will provide details of all the trees on a development site; a professional tree surveyor will be able to carry out a full analysis and give expert advice about mitigating trees affected by your plans. In the tree report, the tree surveyor will aim to retain large trees in good condition which have long lifespans.

Essex and development

Essex includes 150 miles of coastline, beautiful countryside containing villages and market towns, along with bustling cities such as Colchester, Chelmsford and Braintree. Various types of trees are found in the county; different species include oak trees, ash trees, cherry trees, cedar trees, conifer trees, eucalyptus trees, Scots pine trees and silver birch trees and they are given a high priority in planning terms. Their importance to the county is underlined by the Essex Forest Initiative from Essex County Council which aims to plant around 350,000 trees by the end of 2024, while thousands of trees are expected to be planted in Colchester Council’s Woodland and Biodiversity Project.

Demand for housing

Despite this focus on the natural environment, Essex is granting many planning applications as the county grows and faces high demand for new homes and employment development. Amongst its plans and strategies, Essex County Council wants to see more housing, jobs, businesses and employment opportunities, supported by the necessary infrastructure. While the level of Essex tree cover is a priority concern, the council aims to balance this with the need for development.

Tree care provisions

There are two main types of protection given to trees: the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and conservation area status. Individual trees can be subject to a TPO, while a conservation area can protect several trees. Both protections are governed by local authorities and permission is needed before trees subject to these protections may be disturbed.

Developers are responsible for finding out whether trees on their proposed site are protected in any way: tree surveys will be able to clarify this. Bear in mind that even if trees on a site are not protected, it might still be necessary to apply to the Forestry Commission for a felling licence and it’s an offence not to obtain a licence if one is needed. Damaging or felling trees without planning permission can lead to a criminal prosecution or stringent fines.

Willow trees on the River Stour in Essex.

Tree surveys

BS5837 tree survey

The first step is the BS5837 tree survey which involves a tree surveyor inspecting all existing trees on or adjacent to your site and grading them according to their health, size and ecological value. Any tree constraints on the site will be factored into the tree report. The tree survey will give details of all trees on the development site, from the high-quality trees which will be graded Category A and need to be retained, to the poor-quality trees which may be destroyed in the development plans.

The tree report will give details of appropriate action to compensate for the loss of lower-quality trees; it is fairly common to recommend new planting. While a consultant will aim to retain the maximum number of trees, sometimes it’s necessary to remove trees that hinder development, and new trees may be planted in compensation.

The completed tree report

The BS5837 tree report will contain information about retained trees and details about how you intend to meet your obligations surrounding trees. Tree reports include arboricultural method statements and arboricultural impact assessments which clarify information about the tree canopy and tree root protection areas below ground.

The tree report will give details about any future work, such as tree surgery, or tree surveys that will be required to support an application for planning permission, enabling you to make an informed decision.

Tree report: A tree survey carried out at ground level to assess trees’ life expectancy.

Further tree surveys

These include health and safety tree reports to investigate potential tree hazards such as dead branches that tree owners should be aware of. Other tree surveys include an arboricultural impact assessment, method statement and tree protection plans, arborical supervision, site monitoring and tree condition surveys. Mortgage lenders or insurers might require mortgage reports, which assess trees for any potential risks: this report may recommend that tree works be carried out by tree surgeons. In some cases, specialist tree reports such as oak tree reports or a willow tree report may also be required.

Do you need to arrange an Essex tree survey?

It’s important to find an arboricultural consultancy with in depth experience in carrying out the type of tree report that you need for the relevant local planning authority. Check that it employs professional tree consultants who are fully qualified and hold the relevant licences for providing Essex tree services. The firm should also get good reviews from clients for its tree surveys. A professional tree report that provides appropriate mitigation advice will enable the local planning authority to make an informed decision about trees on your site.

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