When the tree enthusiast knows best…
I am passionate about trees, especially the ones that are more special and valuable. I am also a believer in being realistic about the trees being retained on development sites. There are those who worry that someone who is passionate about trees will be reluctant to see any being felled on a development site. I try to dispel this image.
When it comes to retaining trees, I have a simply approach. If it is worth keeping, I will do my best to ensure this. If it is not, then I see little purpose in pursuing retention that is difficult to justify. I would prefer to see new trees being planted to mitigate the loss.
Being passionate about retaining the good trees, I am comfortable about recommending removals where appropriate. BS5837:2012 has a focus on how a proposed development could affect trees being removed, and rightly so. However, the relationship between trees being retained and the implementation of a development is also important. With a number of sites where I have provided arboricultural input recently, and where other specialists have made this contribution before me.
My experience has been of an effort to play down the impact of developments on trees, to be too cautious. The drawback with this is that it can delay implementation of planning approvals. For one site, where the possible (but unlikely) impact of the development on a neighbour’s tree was the focus, the need for pruning of overhanging branches received little attention. I provided a detailed method statement explaining how work could proceed without damaging the roots. The need to prune became evidence as construction work progressed and I was subsequently asked by the planners to explain how this would be beneficial to the tree (the work was aimed at minimising the impact of the development, not enhancing the tree).
A planning condition could have been proposed to deal with the pruning, and it would have been fulfilled in a timely manner following approval. In the absence of specialist knowledge, a formal tree works application was requested and submitted, requiring an eight week delay to building work.
On another site, tree surveyors working for an ecological practice working on a proposal to extend factory operations in to a wooded screen recommended only the removal of sufficient trees to physically accommodate the development. The impact of the limited removals on the remaining trees was not explored and as construction work commenced, the need for more extensive removals became evident, requiring further technical input and delays to the project.
It doesn’t have to be this way. When Siltbuster, an engineering practice in Monmouth, needed arboricultural guidance for a relocation, they sought my guidance in a timely manner. I was able to ensure a realistic approach to tree retention on the site, mitigated by a quality tree planting landscape scheme.
The planning process contains enough challenges without unrealistic arboricultural input adding to this. Informed input can help to smooth the process and minimise the delays that can so easily occur.