West Sussex contains several important landscapes, and any proposed development scheme will need to provide careful detail to demonstrate why it should succeed. If there are trees present on or near your development site, you will likely need to provide a tree survey for the relevant local authority.
Tree surveys and development
A tree survey is needed when a development is likely to impact trees on or near the proposed site. The local planning authority can advise you on whether a tree survey will be required before a planning application is submitted: if it is a requirement and you submit an application without one, you will lose valuable time and risk a refusal. If a tree survey is needed, it must include sound evidence about why your development plans should be permitted.
When considering a planning application, your case officer will take several factors into account, such as proposed mitigating measures for trees that consider their environmental value. Valuable trees may be subject to Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) protecting them from damage, while trees in a conservation area also have specific protections.
Important landscapes in West Sussex
This is the second most wooded English county after Surrey. This area of the south east comprises several high-profile landscapes, including the South Downs, an area of outstanding natural beauty that must not be affected by development, along with the south coast plain and the Low and High Weald. Chichester harbour on the south coast plain is renowned for its wildlife and only high-quality development is permitted which must integrate with the wider landscape; this is also the case in the High and Low Weald.
In its Strategy for the West Sussex Landscape, West Sussex County Council aims for good quality, well-designed development that’s in sympathy with the different characteristics of each locality. The diverse wildlife habitats and amount of tree cover are to be conserved and extended, and the council wants to support the agricultural landscape, conserve historic landscape features, and enhance biodiversity.
Alongside these priorities, the council wants to support and attract businesses by ensuring that infrastructure, housing, and roads are provided.
A TPO can be placed on an individual tree, while several trees can be protected in conservation areas. Permission will be needed before work that disturbs protected trees can take place and developers are responsible for finding out whether relevant trees are subject to restrictions. It is important to check with the district or borough council’s planning department or tree officer to establish whether a tree or trees are subject to a TPO or stand in a conservation area. A felling licence from the Forestry Commission may be needed if a tree is not subject to a TPO: it’s an offence not to obtain a licence if one is needed.
The BS5837 tree survey
The starting point in the tree survey process is the BS5837 tree survey. A qualified tree surveyor will inspect all the trees on a site, assess their condition, and address health issues and the value of each one via a grading system: the categories relate to size, quality, and value with specific outcomes for each. The most valuable trees will be rated as Category A and are highly protected, while at the other end of the scale, Category U trees are the least valuable; they may be in poor health or reaching the end of their lifespan. While the tree surveyor will aim to preserve as many existing trees as possible, the survey will detail the optimal approach for each tree, which could be to keep it in situ, relocate it, or destroy it.
The tree report
The completed BS5837 tree survey will provide an assessment of all tree species on the development site, along with an AutoCAD tree map and details of the mitigation measures necessary to help the proposed scheme’s path to a successful planning application. The tree report will also provide information about any other tree inspections that might be required, such as a tree constraints plan, tree safety surveys to investigate potential risks, a tree protection plan, an arboricultural impact assessment (AIA), an arboricultural method statement (AMS), or an inspection of wildlife habitats.
Identify expert tree consultants
It’s important to contact an arboricultural consultancy that employs qualified consultants who are experienced in completing tree surveys to accompany planning applications to the relevant local authority. A tree surveyor will also be able to give expert advice on any other surveys that your development site might require.