Navigating Tree Surveys for UK Planning Applications: A Comprehensive Guide

by Paul Thomas - / 28.09.2023


In the realm of urban planning and development in the UK, the importance of preserving and managing trees cannot be understated. As green spaces become increasingly scarce, trees contribute not only to the aesthetic value of an area but also to its ecological health. When submitting a planning application, a comprehensive tree survey is always a prerequisite, helping to ensure that any proposed changes harmonise with the existing natural landscape. In this blog, we’ll delve into the intricacies of tree surveys for UK planning applications, shedding light on the process, benefits, and legal implications.

The Role of Tree Surveys in Planning Applications

A tree survey is a detailed assessment of the trees within and around a proposed development site. Its primary purpose is to evaluate the health, species, age, and potential impact of these trees on the development plans. Local planning authorities (LPAs) require this information to make informed decisions about planning permissions, aiming to balance development aspirations and ecological conservation.

Types of Tree Surveys

  • Initial Tree Assessment: This preliminary survey provides a broad overview of the site’s existing trees. It helps identify protected or significant trees that might influence the development proposal.
  • BS 5837 Tree Survey: This detailed survey is in accordance with the British Standard 5837:2012. It assesses tree health, longevity, and root protection areas to guide the design process and minimise potential harm to trees during construction.
  • Arboricultural Impact Assessment (AIA): This report outlines the potential impact of development on trees and vice versa. It provides recommendations for mitigation measures to preserve trees during and after construction.
  • Arboricultural Method Statement (AMS): This is an important aspect that identifies specific methods to best protect the retained trees on and adjacent to the site, throughout the construction phase, and into the ongoing use of the site afterward.
  • Post-Construction Tree Health Monitoring: After construction, ongoing monitoring ensures that trees remain healthy and unaffected by environmental changes.
  • Benefits of Tree Surveys
  • Informed Decision Making: LPAs can make more informed decisions about planning applications when armed with accurate information about the site’s trees. This helps strike a balance between development and conservation.
  • Design Integration: Tree surveys influence the site’s layout and design. Integrating existing trees into the plan can enhance the aesthetics of the development and improve its ecological sustainability.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Fulfilling tree survey requirements ensures compliance with UK planning laws and increases the likelihood of obtaining planning permission.
  • Ecological Value: Tree surveys contribute to preserving biodiversity by safeguarding the habitat and nesting sites of various species.

Legal Implications

In the UK, trees may be protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) or located within Conservation Areas. TPOs prohibit the cutting down, uprooting, topping, or lopping of trees without the local authority’s consent. Similarly, within Conservation Areas, a six-week notice must be submitted before carrying out work on trees with a trunk diameter of over 75mm. A thorough tree survey helps identify these protected trees and ensures that they are handled in compliance with the law.


Tree surveys play a pivotal role in the planning and development process in the UK. By providing essential information about the existing trees on a site, these surveys enable planners, developers, and local authorities to make informed decisions that balance the needs of urban growth with ecological conservation. As stewards of our environment, integrating trees into our development plans not only ensures legal compliance but also contributes to the sustainability and aesthetic appeal of our communities.

We can take care of all your tree survey needs for planning applications. Call us now to book.

Written by

Paul Thomas