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Tree Management, Consents and Controls

The care and conservation of trees within a wide range of historic environments from ancient monuments, castles or stately homes to designed and cultural landscapes is an important responsibility.

Trees are like people. They can be both predictable and unpredictable in their behaviour and their health can fluctuate.

Many trees have survived for hundreds of years, some possibly over a thousand years, and can be considered living monuments, important in their own right. Other individuals are of importance as rare specimens or are magnificent champions for their height or girth.

This page covers:

Duty of care

All tree owners have a duty of care to all visitors and staff working on their property. The best way to fulfil this duty is by regular visual inspections of all trees on the site undertaken by a qualified and experienced tree professional. This expert can give an opinion on the health and safety of the trees and make recommendations for any necessary work.

The professional body, Arboricultural Association maintains a directory of Registered Consultants.

The National Tree Safety Group's: Common sense risk management of trees provides more advice. 

Syon Park, Middlesex, tree replanting
Learning about protecting tree roots at Syon Park, Middlesex © Alan Cathersides

Tree inspection systems

Inspection systems should be set up to ensure all aspects of tree management, including dates of inspections, recommendations, related factors and works undertaken are fully recorded.

Inspections should be managed separately from the procurement of services for the recommended works. This separation ensures that there can be no question of work being recommended for any reason other than genuine need. It also allows for the addition of planned management work which does not result from health and safety reports but is necessary for the smooth running of the site. This could include work such as crown lifting and/or reduction to clear pathways, roads, buildings or similar, tree or scrub removal for landscape reasons such as opening up views, stump removal, coppicing on a regular cycle or thinning earlier plantings.

Battle Abbey, East Sussex
Battle Abbey, East Sussex © Alan Cathersides

Frequency of tree inspections

There is no agreed industry standard advice on how frequently you should carry out inspections. Owners and managers may opt for a range of frequencies for different trees or different parts of the site depending on use. For example where very old trees are being retained in areas of high public usage because of their historic importance or amenity, you may need to inspect them more than once a year. Healthy young trees in areas of low usage may only warrant inspection every five years. 

Ideally the inspecting tree professional should be retained on a long term basis (either as a member of staff or consultant) as there are advantages to having inspections carried out at 15 monthly intervals. This ensures that trees are inspected at different times of the year. The tree professional can then identify potential problems which may only be apparent in certain seasons such as the appearance of fungal fruiting bodies, or broken or fallen branches.

Gilwell Park, Veteran trees in areas of high public access may need more frequent inspections
Veteran trees in areas of high public use may need more frequent inspections © Alan Cathersides

Tree works

Recommendations from the inspecting tree professional must be acted on but the owner/manager should also consider the wider implications of landscape, cultural and ecological factors.

There should be a general presumption to retain trees, especially veteran trees, wherever possible. There are a number of techniques which might be considered to reduce or mitigate the risk and avoid felling. These include making the tree inaccessible, crown reduction or thinning, pollarding, cable bracing or even propping. All or none of these options might be appropriate. It's sometimes impossible to avoid having to remove trees.

The Arboricultural Association has a directory of Approved Contractors.  It lists experienced and competent contractors for individuals or organisations who do not have their own in-house staff.

However, no expert can guarantee that a tree is 100% safe. Trees can be quite seriously decayed with no visible signs. Otherwise healthy trees can collapse in severe weather conditions. It is even possible that perfectly healthy trees can suddenly shed branches in windless conditions in a well documented (but poorly understood) phenomenon known as ‘Summer Branch Drop’.

Tree works at Hatfield Forest, Essex
Tree works at Hatfield Forest, Essex

Replanting

Many sites have large numbers of mature trees and some newer planting has been carried out over the last few decades. There are often large gaps in the generations of trees 'age class' which will, in the medium term, have major implications for the treescape of a property.

Management plans are strongly recommended for sites and these should always consider the importance of trees, shelterbelts and woodlands to the character of the site. Wherever possible arrangements for succession planting should be established to ensure continuity of tree cover for the future.

New trees need to be looked after. Advice is available from Forestry Commission's Tree Care Guide. Well designed tree guards can add to the aesthetics of parkland as well as protect the trees from animals.

Opportunities to open up lost views of the landscape or re-instate features should be considered. Equally screening eyesores, intrusions that lead in some cases to a loss of character. 

Tree planting on Scheduled Monuments requires Scheduled Monument Consent.

Carefully planned replanting at Syon Park, Middlesex aims to maintain the ‘Capability’ Brown Landscape
Carefully planned replanting at Syon Park, Middlesex aims to maintain the ‘Capability’ Brown Landscape © Alan Cathersides

Consultation

Felling of trees, and in some cases even maintenance, can be distressing for local people and visitors. If works are potentially controversial, we advise owners/managers to brief community groups, and display information on site prior to works starting.

Significant works, such as the removal of mature specimens or clearance of large sections of earthworks may call for more extensive explanation or publicity. The local authority should be briefed too, and in a Conservation Area or where trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) owners/managers must consult them about planned works. Good planning and programming, execution of the felling work and re-planting can help ease concerns.

If the expert tree professional has advised that a tree is an immediate source of danger which cannot be mitigated, felling should be carried out without delay and the appropriate people notified afterwards.

Chiswick House in West London
Chiswick House in West London © Alan Cathersides

Protecting trees on development sites and event sites

Tree surveys should be part of the design process for any development on a site or in planning for an event. This should ensure that trees to be retained will be adequately protected and will not have to be subsequently removed due to concerns over safety.

Provision should be made for trees to have adequate root-zone protection from plant or machinery, material storage during development, building works, laying of services and other works, vehicles, heavy footfall and other compaction. See also our guidance Temporary structures in historic places, the Ancient Tree Forum's Trees and development guide and Ancient Tree Forum's Trees and events.

Hanwowrth park, Hounslow. During building works or development, trees become a ‘magnet’ for rubbish and need to be properly protected
During building works or development, trees become a ‘magnet’ for rubbish and need to be properly protected © Alan Cathersides

Woodlands

Woodlands, shelterbelts and coppices are important features in historic parks and gardens. They should be included in the site management. Woodland management plans need to be long term. Twenty years is a minimum. The Forestry Commission provides guidance on Creating a woodland management plan.

Richmond Park, South-west London
Richmond Park, South-west London © Alan Cathersides

Tree controls and consents

Below is some useful information and links on tree controls and consents.

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)

Find out more about Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)

Conservation areas

You need to give the Council notice of any tree work in conservation areas, even where there isn't a TPO.

Felling licences

Find information on felling licences.

Trees in Registered Parks and Gardens

Historic England’s Register of Parks and Gardens is intended to raise awareness of the historic significance of individual parks and gardens. The designation is treated as a material consideration in determining planning applications affecting sites but the designation does not confer any statutory controls. Trees and woodlands within registered sites may be protected through Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) or Conservation Area status.

Trees on Scheduled Monuments

Work to trees on a Scheduled Monument may require Scheduled Monument Consent.

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