Cheltenham’s Selection of Woodland Areas
According to Cheltenham Borough Council, an estimated 60,000 trees are situated in and around the town. Parkland, street trees and exotic ornamental trees feature in healthy numbers thanks to Cheltenham’s history as a spa town. It is understandable that local authorities are eager to preserve existing trees and plant new ones, not only because of their aesthetic value but also because of their contribution to the town’s ecosystem and the wider environmental and human benefits of green infrastructure.
As far as your planning application is concerned, however, this means that you are going to have to take any trees on or near your development site into account when designing and delivering your scheme. More specifically, if you are developing a site based in Cheltenham, you may need a tree survey before the local authority will validate your planning application. Rather than a simple tick-box exercise, it will consist of gauging whether trees will be impacted by your development plans.
Any negative effects on trees will be carefully considered throughout all stages of the development process, and the local tree officer and planning case officer will expect to see details of how you are going to protect trees and offset the unavoidable loss of any higher-quality trees. The required evidence will come in the form of a tree report, and the report itself will only be able to be created following tree surveys. Without tree surveys and reports, Cheltenham Borough Council will refuse your application for planning permission.
Protective Measures and Tree Management
Without a tree survey, the chances of getting planning consent are slim to none, and it will only open you up to the risk of serious criminal repercussions. For example, a local resident found this out when they received a fine from Cheltenham Magistrates Court for simply pruning trees without permission. Not only that, but the potential penalties are even harsher for harming, felling or causing the felling of one of the roughly 532 trees in Cheltenham that are under tree preservation orders (TPOs) or located in one of the seven conservation areas.
If you damage one of the trees under a tree preservation order (TPO) or in a listed conservation area, you could face a fine of up to £20,000, and offences that are perceived as serious can be tried in Crown Court and lead to a potentially unlimited fine. Although the environmental protections are intimidating, it isn’t an indication that the local planning authority in Cheltenham is negative towards development. In fact, one of Cheltenham Borough Council’s key priorities is to deliver affordable housing in the town after it became apparent that average house prices were high and there were constraints surrounding the land available for development.
Between 2015 and 2020, 340 affordable homes were built, and the local housing needs assessment (HNA) indicates a need for more than ten times that number of affordable homes delivered between 2021 and 2041. It translates to an average of 194 affordable homes per year despite only 68 delivered in the previous five years. Considering that development has to happen, it is likely that sensible schemes will receive backing from the local authority. The proposed Golden Valley Development, for example, looks to develop a 154-acre mixed-use site to deliver circa 3,000 new homes and cybersecurity business facilities.
Alongside providing a much-needed boost to the housing stock, this development will also create jobs, enhance the infrastructure of West Cheltenham, and cement Cheltenham’s reputation as an international centre of excellence for cybersecurity. Depending on the nature of the project, developers may also face scrutiny from the local community. For instance, a development designed to create 350 new homes in the Leckhampton area of Cheltenham has proved controversial after backlash came in floods from local residents who were opposed to it.
Not everyone who needs tree risk surveys is heading up a multi-million-pound development though, with smaller developments given far less scrutiny in planning applications. It is also important to emphasise that planning objections are not an insurmountable hurdle. Where trees are impacted by your scheme, a tree report gives the planning officer the evidence they need to defend a decision to grant planning applications, making a tree survey more of an investment than a cost.
Tree Surveys for Planning Permission
Of several different types of tree surveys, the most common that applies to the majority of development projects with trees located on the site is a BS5837 tree survey. A form of tree risk assessment, a BS5837 assessment consists of a tree surveyor visiting the site to categorise all trees from the brackets between A to U that reflect value and condition, with A meaning ecologically and/or historically significant and U meaning dangerous, dying or dead.
Retained trees would automatically be classed under category A, and many other trees will be retained providing they are worth keeping, don’t clash with the plans of the development, and don’t pose a threat to health and safety. After the retention of trees, the second most preferred outcome would be to see trees relocated, and after that, the last resort will be to destroy trees, particularly if they are deemed to not be in a safe condition.
The arboricultural surveyor will then produce a high-level AutoCAD map that the developer can lay over the design and assist with the planning process. A report will also be provided to outline the results of the tree survey, mitigation for individual trees on the site, general expert advice regarding tree care, and a recommendation to support planning applications to the corresponding local planning authorities once the conditions have been met.
Refer to Our Expert Team
While we pride ourselves on utilising the expert advice and insight of local experts, Arbtech is a national operator with powerful processes that ensure you get your completed tree survey and arboricultural report in a matter of days. Our many years of experience in the planning and tree survey process make us perfectly suited to satisfying the needs of private individuals, commercial businesses and tree owners.
Any time you are developing a site with individual trees, in woodland areas or in potential conservation areas, it would be advisable to reach out to us so we can create a free quote for the necessary arboricultural impact assessments based on your details. You can do this online or over the phone, or you can visit our contact page for more information, and from there, we can arrange for a tree surveyor to attend your site at a date of your choosing.
In any tree survey, Cheltenham surveyors within our ranks are qualified, educated and licenced to check for potential health and safety issues, approach with tree care to avoid unnecessary damage, and ensure that retained trees are the top priority. Once the tree report is created immediately after the assessment, the local planning authority should see no need to pursue any further changes or additional information and grant the application for planning consent.