Trees and Planning Permission

Pollarded veteran oak

There's life in this this old oak yet!

As some of our readers may be aware, most local planning authorities in the UK require that planning applications address the retention of existing trees on and around the site.  There is a British Standard BS5837:2005 “Trees in Relation to Construction – Recommendations” which covers such things as surveying the existing trees and ensuring retained trees are protected from damage during construction works.

A new edition of BS5837:2012 “Trees in relation to Design, Demolition & Construction – Recommendations” comes into effect at the end of April, and supersedes the 2005 edition.  This includes some significant changes, to reflect the perceived importance of trees in climate change adaptation as well as current practices and building regulations.

Some key changes include:

  • soil assessment is considered necessary at the conceptual design stage;
  • provisions added to address new planting design;
  • it is no longer permitted to displace root protection areas by up to 20%, making tree constraints much less flexible;
  • additional limitations on hard surfacing allowed near trees.

There are other changes, too.  Taken as a whole, it seems that getting planning permission for projects where there are existing trees will become more complex right from the design stage.  As such, it’s unlikely to be welcomed by developers, given the continued depressed state of housebuilding in the UK.  (However, it is worth remembering the recommendations apply equally to projects that don’t require planning permission.)

As landscape and garden design professionals, we’re ideally placed to help with the design of sites with trees.

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