What is a Tree Survey?


Most people have not heard of a tree survey but they are absolutely essential in a range of situations, particularly where building projects are involved. If a protected tree is dug up without a tree survey it could lead to a legal battle, which is why they are so commonly required by the local government councils, requiring specialist knowledge to see what attention is required.

Equally, if a damaged tree falls and damages an individual, the local authority might be held accountable for failing to assess and mitigate the damage before it occurred. A tree survey, therefore, provides an expert view into the status, condition and health of a tree and makes recommendations into its treatment, which can involve either removal or protection, depending on its state.

Why might a tree survey be necessary?

There are a range of occasions when a tree survey might be necessary. Typically they are used when new building developments are being progressed, or if landowners want to assess an existing tree and determine whether or not it is still safe.

Local government will also often commission tree surveys from organisations that specialise in tree surveys and problem management to ensure safety, or determine whether a tree can or should constrain an area that is being earmarked for development.

Often, tree surveys are also needed for large trees which are located near to roads or properties and which may potentially cause a hazard if they were to fall in bad weather, for example. These services are carried out by specialist contractors, such as Arbtech, who work with a variety of tree species and diverse situations across the UK.

Tree surveys are also carried out for the purposes of planning and development, for example, when new trees are to be added as part of a landscaping project. The tree surveyor will be able to advise on the best types of tree for the local environment and sensible placing for long-term tree health.

What does a tree survey involve?

The surveyor will carry out a range of detailed technical investigations, such as assessing positioning, potential disease, decay or danger of the tree. Diseases are a common reason for branches falling or the tree becoming unstable and toppling.

tree surveyThe tree survey will also assess the legal status of older trees, as some are protected. Other types of survey may be included too, particularly in areas of new building developments. These include bat surveys and ecological surveys and these will give an early warning indication of any types of plant or animal which must be considered when sites are being developed.

The full tree survey will look at the tree’s dimensions, assessing its height, diameter, stem count and the spread of the crown. It will also assess the condition of the tree, looking at its structure and physiology and assess how old it is.

The survey will then make initial recommendations and categorise its retention requirements, its root protection and category grading as necessary. Experts such as Arbtech need to have a broad range of technical and legal skills to carry out these surveys, which require a lot of experience and knowledge into the special situations of trees.

Some aspects of the British tree survey, the BS5837 has gone through some changes in the last year or so. Since April 2012, there has been a heavier emphasis on new trees and their roles in the development of new areas, both urban and in natural habitats. Before these changes, tree surveys focused on older trees and whether or not they were protected or ill and in need of removing.

Photo credit: jamesconnell

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