If you are planning a development project and there are trees on or adjacent to your site, you may well be asked to provide a tree survey by one of the Surrey local authorities.
Tree surveys are needed when a development is likely to have an impact on trees on or near the proposed site. Surrey County Council plans to be carbon neutral by 2050 and the way that it looks after trees is central to its environmental plan. The council has drawn up a climate change strategy that underlines the importance it is attaching to the way that trees are treated, and it aims to plant 1.2 million trees in rural and urban areas across the county by 2030.
Surrey tree survey information
To find out whether you need a tree survey before submitting an application for planning permission, you need to consult the local planning authority. If a tree survey is required and you submit an application without one, you will lose valuable time and risk a refusal.
Your case officer will take many factors into account when considering your application. Mitigating measures for trees will need to consider the environmental value of the trees in question, for instance, ancient oaks have a higher ecological value than, say, trees lining a town centre street. Trees with high value may have a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) placed on them protecting them from damage or removal, and trees in a conservation area also have specific protections.
Surrey and development
With a population of 1.2m, Surrey is one of the most densely populated shire counties in England. While the government has calculated that over 6,300 new homes are needed in Surrey, the council aims to safeguard and create new habitats to support biodiversity alongside development.
A focus on `good growth’ is at the heart of Surrey’s 2050 Place Ambition document, which aims for `proportionate and sustainable growth’ to sustain a strong economy, and improve the environment and health and well-being in the cities.
Schemes are underway for major regeneration work, housing, and mixed-use development sites, proving that local authorities have a positive attitude to development and are granting planning consents. However, the Environmental Bill means that planning applications will be put under increasing scrutiny in terms of their impact on the natural world.
Focus on woodland areas
Surrey is the most wooded county in Great Britain – 22% of its area is woodland, compared to the national average of 12%. It has designated conservation areas giving trees greater protections, such as Langley Vale Wood near Epsom where there is semi-natural ancient woodland. Other landscape habitats include the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a section of the High Weald AONB, and rare habitats such as the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area.
If you need to submit a tree survey, you will need to provide well-reasoned evidence in the report as to why your planning application should proceed, including details of how trees on the site will be managed.
BS5837 tree surveys
If you are asked to provide a tree survey by one of the local authorities, the first step is to arrange to have a BS5837 tree survey carried out. This report assesses all trees on or adjacent to your site and grades them according to their ecological importance. The tree surveyor will create a CAD drawing and report that can be used by your design team. The report will identify high-quality trees that need to be retained and explain appropriate action to compensate for the loss of lower-quality trees.
While this initial survey may suffice, you may be asked to provide further tree reports. These include Impact Assessment, Method Statement and Tree Protection plans, along with Arborical Supervision, Site Monitoring and Tree Protection Plans. Bear in mind that damaging or removing trees without planning permission can lead to a criminal prosecution or heavy fines.
Other types of tree survey
A tree condition survey
This may be needed to address health and safety issues or assess tree condition.
A mortgage tree report
This report is often needed by homebuyers to satisfy their mortgage lender or insurer: it assesses relevant trees in terms of their safety and any potential risks. It might propose tree works to be carried out.
Find a reputable arboricultural consultancy
The first step if you need to get a tree survey carried out is to get in touch with an arboricultural consultancy with good reviews and experience in carrying out the type of tree report that you need, whether it’s to support an application for planning permission, or for other reasons mentioned above. Consultants should be fully qualified and hold relevant licences and accreditations.