Cambridge benefits from extensive tree cover and while adding to the aesthetic value of this iconic city, it can present problems for developers.
There are an estimated 335,000 trees in Cambridge, and if you have a proposed development that would impact trees, you will likely need to have a tree survey carried out.
Cambridge and development
Cambridge is a hub for the hi-tech industry, the pharmaceutical industry and advanced manufacturing technology. Such companies bring huge investment and opportunities and Cambridge City Council and the county’s district councils have supported numerous planning projects across the county to accommodate this expansion over recent years.
However, trees are a major environmental consideration when it comes to planning applications, and a Forestry Commission survey stated that the city has 19% tree canopy cover. It’s not just significant trees that are relevant, all trees need to be considered with every development scheme. A tree survey giving details of all the trees on a proposed development site and the necessary mitigation measures needed to allow the scheme to progress is likely to be required by the local council before planning consent is given.
The Greater Cambridge Local Plan, currently being worked on by Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, looks at planning matters up to 2041. Its vision is to reduce climate impacts; new development must minimise carbon emissions and wildlife and green spaces must be increased. The new Local Plan is expected to be adopted in 2024 or 2025 and it contains several new sites that might be suitable for development to meet needs up to 2041.
Protection for trees
There are two main types of protection for trees; Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and conservation area status, both of which are controlled by local authorities, and prior consent is needed before such trees are disturbed. A TPO is issued on individual trees while conservation areas can relate to tree stock within a stated zone. Developers must check that any tree in question is not subject to a TPO, in a listed conservation area, or subject to existing legal conditions. It may also be necessary to consider whether a felling licence from the Forestry Commission will be needed. In Cambridgeshire, local authorities are issuing more TPOs: 265 of the 800 TPOs created since 1955 were initiated between 2009 and 2018.
The BS5837 tree survey
If you are required to provide a tree survey by a local authority, this is the initial tree survey report that must be carried out. It will assess all the trees on or close to the proposed development site and grade them according to size, health, historical and local significance, expected lifespan and value to the ecosystem. High-quality trees that need to be retained will be identified and the report will propose appropriate action to compensate for the loss of lower-quality trees.
Arboricultural consultants will aim to retain as many trees as possible, but if individual trees are causing an obstacle to a development that cannot be mitigated, they may need to be moved elsewhere. In some cases, a tree will need to be destroyed and new trees planted by way of compensation. A tree surveyor will also inspect trees for any potential hazards.
The data from the BS5837 tree survey will be compiled in a tree report which contains information about retained trees, tree canopy cover and the root protection area below ground level. It will include a CAD drawing and report that can be used by your design team. Tree reports will also clarify whether further tree surveys are needed before planning consent can be granted.
Other types of expert tree surveys
Further arboricultural reports include arboricultural impact assessments, arboricultural method statements, tree constraints plans, arborical supervision and site monitoring. It’s important to note that damaging or removing trees without planning permission can lead to criminal prosecution or heavy fines.
Looking for expert tree surveys?
If you need to arrange tree reports to obtain planning permission, the first step is to contact an arboricultural consultancy with good reviews and experience in carrying out the type of tree work you need. The consultants that you use should be fully qualified, have in depth knowledge and hold relevant licences and accreditations.