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16 years of Tree Surveys for Planning Permission in London

Need a tree survey in London? Planning refused or on hold until you can get it sorted? Read on.

London is green, and it’s going greener.

As you can see from this map, the tree care cover in London is pretty incredible: especially for a major metropolis that is home to almost 10 million people in an area of 607sq miles. It covers 21% of the city’s total land area and is estimated to be somewhere in the region of 8.4 million trees. (Compare that to say, Wales: 3 million people in 8,000sq miles).

The Mayor of London has further committed to increasing the net canopy cover by 10% by 2050. That’s roughly 840,000 new trees planted in the city in 30 years, and that assumes there’s no loss of trees and other vegetation in the meantime.

Clearly, in nearly three decades, tens of thousands will need to be felled and replaced as a result of sound arboricultural management recommendations from a qualified tree surveyor. But, in the same timeframe, a report by National Geographic estimates London local council will add two million more residents and need to build at least 65,000 new homes a year… for thirty years. And all this needs to be achieved without spilling over into the Greenbelt (an area three times the size of London, designed in 1935 to stop the sprawl of the city).

Whoever the next few successive Mayors are definitely have their work cut out, balancing the competing interests of environmental responsibility and housing, as it relates to wealth inequality. It’ll be an interesting ride.

All of this will compound the existing challenges facing planning applicants where trees – and tree roots that may go undetected – are on or adjacent to their site.

I want a planning consent: Tell me what I have to do

We hear you.

What you need then, is a BS5837 tree survey (British standard). This is normally delivered to you or your design team at RIBA plan of work stage 0-1, in the form of a brief summary tree report, survey schedule, and tree constraints plan drawing. The latter is done in AutoCAD and is the most important component of the suite of support documents that we refer to collectively as “work stage 1”. 

The survey itself is a relatively simple exercise (assuming you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of tree species from which to identify and catalogue the trees and understand their nature and biology). Each tree on or adjacent to your site (and surrounding trees if applicable) will be categorised as A, B, C or U based on tree health, quality, condition and value.

Cat C and U trees are rarely constraints to development. Cat B and A on the other hand, can be showstoppers. Too often people forget this. Tree inspections and surveys are not just data collection… they’re a constraints exercise.

Tree constraints plan drawing (TCP)

The TCP is a plan if your site, usually based on a base layer such as an Ordnance Survey tile or topographical survey, in .dwg or .dxf format. Graphically, it illustrates the precise above and below ground constraints to development presented by trees at your site.

Canopies spreads are mapped out in the cardinal compass directions and root protection areas, so commonly and arbitrarily represented as circles by other consultancies (which will trip you up if you’re not careful—although it sometimes works in your favour) are plotted to take account of realistic constraints to root development, as well as things like level changes, compacting from hard surface treatments and severe inclination.

Here’s an example of a 2021 tree survey we did for a retained client in the the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Tree Survey Plan London 2021
Arbtech Tree Survey in London 2021

At this point, your architect or planning agent can use CAD to quickly overlay their scheme onto the TCP and see where the two conflict, if at all.

From here, if there’s no conflicts and or they can be easily managed, your LPA isn’t likely to ask you for anything further. Or if they do, it’ll be a condition of planning consent as opposed to something required to determine your application (or even validate it, say if you’re in Ealing, Brent, Hillingdon, Barnet, Westminster, Islington, Camden, Merton or Wandsworth).

If not, however, you’ll need to provide that information up front. We refer to this second stage of arboricultural planning support input as “work stage 2”.

What this consists of is a series of plans and a tree report that contain, in order:

Click on the links above to download 2021 examples of our work stage 2 suite of BS5837 compliance support.

The impact assessment – make or break

This drawing shows your Tree Officer and any potential third-party objectors exactly what and where the trees are, and precisely what the level of impact is upon them.

The categorisation process undertaken at the tree survey stage earlier allows judgements to be made about accepting impacts on lesser quality trees (those C and U), or losing them altogether, and mitigating for impacts on better quality trees (those B and A).

This stage quite literally makes or breaks your application. If your scheme has high quality trees that are detrimentally affected by the footprint, or by the planning process of demolition and construction, you will have to start over.

London’s Tree Officers are among the best funded and frankly, best trained and educated in the country. Fair minded though they are, they’re not about to let you dig out strip foundations in a root protection area or remove half of a canopy for a first-floor terrace, etc.

Arboricultural Impact Assessment in London 2021
Arboricultural Impact Assessment in London 2021

In the method statement, the systems and procedures for the retention and protection of trees are set out in quantifiable detail; sufficient for a QS or building contractor to use them and specify from. And finally, the protection plan drawing show all of this in scaled detail, such as ground boarding and fencing, pile locations for beam or cantilevered foundations, and cellular confinement systems for the installation of hard surface treatments (all aligned with BS5837:2012).

Tree Protection Plan 2021

And with that, you’re done.

London’s #1 Tree Survey Consultants

In the last 16 years, our dedicated team of tree surveyors have helped over 15,000 people just like you—architects, planners, developers, homeowners, tree owners and more—secure a planning consent with no hassle, no headaches, and fast. Our tree surveyors are extremely efficient, take great pride in providing excellent service and maintaining a duty of care to our commercial and residential clients, stress the importance of great attention to detail, and insist that nothing is ‘too much trouble’.

As well as benefitting tree health and a safe condition for development with our tree reports, our duty of care extends to other areas, and our amazing service allows us to cater to most cases for a tree owner, planner or anyone else in need of an arboricultural or ecological survey. For example, over many years of experience, we have offered an excellent service for protected species surveys and valuable plant assessments such as for invasive weeds.

With ease, they ensure a professional service, take complete ownership of your arboricultural issues, utilise their understanding of a conservation area and Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), and resolve any and all potential problems in partnership with you, so when you go for planning, your application is cast-iron. And that’s not hot air…

Planning, or your money back

For both residential and commercial clients, if you choose to work with Arbtech, we have a simple promise: follow the recommendations and informed decisions of our tree surveyors and you’ll get planning—or your money back. On the subject of money…

Meet our London team

If you want to learn more about the people that look after the London patch, read more about David, Aran, Jon, and Matt here.

Our London offices

Arbtech Consulting Ltd
New Broad Street House
New Broad Street

Tree Surveys in London: How much do they cost?

In terms of price, you can expect a cost effective tree survey in London up to cost from £300-600 plus VAT. Naturally, this depends upon many factors. If you want a more accurate price, get in touch. Simply shoot over an email with a site plan and we’ll take a look. For more information on the reasonable price we offer, specific requirements, planning applications, our tree reports and surveys, or working with your local authority, contact us and we’ll advise to help avoid delays to your project.

And how long do they take?

Normally, we can get to your site within a day or two and, after we’ve had all of your trees surveyed, we aim to have completed detailed reports back with you inside a few days more.

And what else do I need to know?

You’ll need a base plan; something we can use to plot the trees on and undertake the mapping exercise. OS tiles are less accurate but can be bought cheaply online (£25-50 plus VAT) and are regularly used on small sites with no level changes. For more complex sites, you’ll need to get a proper topographical survey done and supply us with the drawing.

You mentioned some boroughs above, where else do you cover?

All of London.. Every Borough. Enfield to Greenwich, Bexley to Hammersmith, Haringey to Havering, Hounslow to Kingston, Richmond to Redbridge, Lambeth to Lewisham, Newham to Southwark, Sutton to Tower Hamlets, Hackey to Waltham Forest..

Where you can find us

Arbtech Tree Surveys

New Broad Street House

New Broad Street



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