Controlled development (planning permission) near existing trees
Trees can increase property and a neighbourhood’s environmental, aesthetic and economic value.
South Cambridgeshire District Council is committed to the environment we live, work and play in. We have an adopted SPD ‘Trees and Development Sites’.
At what stage should I consider the existing trees or hedgerows on site?
Trees and hedgerows should be considered from the initial stages of your development. If you have a complex site the earlier an arboriculturist (tree specialist) gets involved the greater the successes on site. You will be asked on your planning application form about the trees and hedgerows on site and it is best to be prepared. Incorrect, incomplete or missing tree information can delay your planning permission or result in additional pre-commencement conditions.
The need for professional assistance and their level of involvement will depend upon the site; type of existing trees on or adjacent to site, if they have statutory protection, what development is proposed and its position in relation to the trees. If you have a complex site it is best to seek the advice of a professional.
Do I have to consider trees or hedgerows that are not within my site?
Yes, even if they are not within the red line boundary of the site, on private or public land. This is especially important where trees or hedgerows have statutory protection.
Applications should also consider trees which:
- stand on any vehicular access points or driveways to the site, temporary or permanent,
- overhang the development site with a stem diameter of 75mm at 1.5m, or
- stand on adjacent land within a distance of up to 12 times their estimated stem diameter.
What issues need to considered?
Considerations depend upon the site and type or scale of proposal, but may include:
- the quality of existing trees (health, structural condition and amenity)
- archaeological investigation
- trees or hedgerows with statutory protection
- the future residents living on site
- creating construction exclusion zones
- construction within root protection areas
- changes in soil levels including foundation trenches
- retaining walls
- installing services or providing trunking systems, and future landscaping, including SUDS.
These might be temporary (for the life of the building works) or permanent
What does an arboriculturist offer?
The extent of an arboriculturist’s involvement depends upon the site and proposed building works.
The arboriculturist will inspect your trees on site and determine their quality in terms of health and structural condition but also ‘amenity value’. They may also let you know if there are any flora or fauna with statutory protection living in an around the site which may need to be given additional considered.
They will liaise with other professionals to ensure the development runs smoothly, make recommendations which may save time and money whilst making the best of the site and discuss any problems which may arise and suggest ways of dealing with them.
If your development requires additional tree of hedgerow planting they will be able to recommend the most appropriate species for the location and discuss planting specifications and the best methods of establishment.
During the construction phase they might visit site to check on any tree protection measures, record events on site, supervise any contractors working in or around trees, provide training to operatives on site and discuss any arising issues or concerns with the site manager. They can create a specification for additional works such as landscaping, tender and supervise this.
After development they may undertake a follow-up inspection to discharge any outstanding planning conditions or undertake a tree health and safety survey.
Where do I get tree advice from?
It is best to seek professional advice from arboricultural consultants who will provide the necessary information and reports in line with the current British Standard, industry standards and our own requirements. There are two organisations who offer a searchable registry of consultants:
- Institute of Chartered Foresters (https://www.charteredforesters.org/about-us/hire-a-consultant/)
- The Arboricultural Association (https://www.trees.org.uk/Registered-Consultant-Directory).
Other professionals you might need include:
- Landscape Institute (for landscape architects or garden designers)
- Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (for habitat and species surveys)
- National Hedgelaying Society (for a hedgelayer)
Common documents used may include but are not limited to:
- South Cambridgeshire SPD ‘Trees and Development Sites’
- British Standard 5837:2012 ‘Trees in relation to design, demolition, and construction – Recommendations’
- British Standard 8545:2014 ‘Trees: from nursery to independence in the landscape – Recommendations
- British Standard 3998:2010 ‘Tree Work. Recommendations’
- Ancient Tree Forum ‘Ancient Tree Guides No. 3: Trees and development’
- Bats: surveys and mitigation for development projects
- LTOA ‘Surface Materials Around Trees In Hard Landscapes’
- NJUG Volume 4 ‘Guidelines for the planning, instillation and maintenance of utility apparatus in proximity to trees’
- TDAG Trees and Design Action Group Tree Species Selection
There are abundant products or commercial websites which provide advice on trees and landscaping, SuDS, tree planting pits, hard surfaces and foundation types.
Can the Council help me with my application?
We offer a pre-application advice service.
We are unable to offer services associated with surveying or creating reports on your site.
What report do I need from an arboriculturist for my application?
Your arboriculturist will discuss the types of reports you will need for your site and proposal. Generally tree information comes in three parts:
- a tree survey
- an arboricultural impact assessment or constraints plan
- a tree protection plan / methodology
They may also provide additional information about mitigation care or maintenance and tree or hedgerow planting.
For very complex sites or outline planning applications, arboriculturists may suggest providing less detailed information until the final design or layout is confirmed. They may also need initial maintenance works undertaken on site so they can clearly see any issues and give appropriate recommendations.
For less complex sites the arboricultural impact assessment or constraints plan may not be required.
What tree works can I undertake before I apply for planning permission?
If the trees or hedgerows have statutory protection you will need to apply to us first.
If there are trees or hedgerows with no statutory protection you can undertake maintenance works before application without informing us but this may prove detrimental to your development application and mitigation or replacement planting subsequently required.
Once your planning application has been submitted and validated it is inadvisable to undertake any tree or hedgerow works on site until your application has been approved.
Why do I have a pre-commencement tree protection condition?
If there are trees on or adjacent to the development site and no tree information or incomplete information has been provided with the application, you will be required to provide these before any works start on site.
What tree or hedgerow works can I undertake with planning permission?
For trees or hedgerows with no statutory protection the works listed in the approved tree survey can be undertaken. All trees and hedgerows which have been identified on any approved landscape or arboricultural document as retained should not be removed.
No hedgerow identified as an Important Hedgerow should be removed entirely or partially and only approved maintenance works undertaken.
In a conservation area planning applications can only undertake tree works which have been identified on an approved application. This includes above and below ground parts of the tree(s).
For trees protected with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) only tree works which have been identified on an approved arboricultural document can be undertaken.
A further tree works application is required if tree work is required on trees with statutory protection:
- which has not been listed on an approved arboricultural document
- planning permissions have expired
- only outline planning permission has been granted
What happens if trees are damaged during construction?
The planning authority may ask the land owner or developer to provide additional measures or treatments to trees to reduce detrimental issues or increase the trees health or provide replacement planting. These can prove expensive and are best avoided.
What happens if development is carried out without the necessary planning permission?
If development is carried out without the necessary planning permission, this may lead to enforcement action.
Anyone who undertakes, commissions or permits tree works or damages a TPO’d tree or a tree in a conservation area or removes or destroys a protected hedgerow without permission is guilty of a criminal offence. This can lead to prosecution with fines of up to £20,000. In serious cases offenders may be dealt with by the Crown Court, where an unlimited fine or a proceeds of crime fine can be imposed.
Proposed tree planting, landscaping and SuDS
Even on small developments you may have to provide some landscaping and planting. This might be to provide screening, diffuse the development, replace lost vegetation or create a verdant boundary.
If you would like to plant larger trees it might be better to ask a local landscape or tree surgery company for help. Large trees are very heavy and may require specialist anchor systems to hold them in the ground. Some tree suppliers may also provide a service to deliver and plant.
Trees come in all sort of shapes and sizes and provide a range of seasonal interest. Before picking your tree species consider what shape and space you would like the tree to have in maturity and what seasonal features you prefer. Tree species which are perceived as being too large are often overly pruned and will not look as beautiful in the property. Always pick the right tree for the location. Generally we are more supportive of tree species which are not sterile (do not provide pollen or nectar for pollinators and fruits or seeds for birds and mammals). Double flowers and some semi-double flowers are generally sterile or have limited wildlife value.
If you are planting a tree in a hard surface such a parking area or driveway, give it the best environment to thrive in by using a 3D cellular confinement system or structural soil within the tree pit. There are many companies offering their products and services online. You will need to know what tree species you are planting as this will affect the size of the tree planting pit.
If you tree planting pit does not contain a watering pipe, consider using an irrigation product such as a tree watering bag. These products help direct the water where it is needed and release it over a short period to ensure it does not run off dry ground.
Generally we are more supportive of mixed native hedgerows planted adjacent to rural land or open spaces. In residential or conservation areas species which match surrounding hedges can be more harmonious. It is possible to buy instant hedges of many different heights and species. Local stockists or mail order companies can be found online.
SuDS schemes can incorporate or utilise tree planting. We are supportive of multifunctional areas such as tree trench swales.