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Taking tree safety seriously

Louise Alexander explains the value to landowners of a tree safety strategy

Falling trees or branches kill five or six people every year in the UK. Managing the risk from trees is the responsibility of the owners and managers of the land on which they grow.

Risk management can be undertaken only by understanding the trees and their value to people in the context in which they grow. The requirement under health and safety legislation is to have a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, and to apply measures that are reasonable and practicable.

Our team can produce a tree safety strategy to identify areas requiring survey and prioritise these into risk zones. Once identified, all trees within the survey area will be inspected to determine if any represent a foreseeable hazard requiring remedial action.

The firm has recently been working with Dallas Estate in Moray to produce a tailored tree safety strategy. The estate wanted to take a proactive approach to managing the large number of mature trees close to public roads and estateowned properties. The first survey identified more than 100 trees where work was required and this was carried out over a three-year period using a local contractor. Annual surveys continue to be carried out to ensure the trees continue to be proactively managed as they naturally decline and die.

Tree surveys for development work

When carrying out any building work or development near trees, local authorities require all potentially affected trees to be surveyed by a qualified arboricultural surveyor in accordance with BS 5837:2012 Trees in Relation to Design, Demolition and Construction.

The survey will ensure there is a ‘harmonious and sustainable relationship between trees and structures’. The standard is required whether or not planning permission is required.

We are finding that more and more planning applications have not addressed this issue until it has been raised by the local authorities during the decision process. This affects the timescales and ultimately the design of the application as changes will inevitably be needed to ensure the trees become an integral part of the design.

To avoid this it is important to involve all parties throughout the design process.  A tree survey should be carried out at preapplication stage in conjunction with the designers to identify any conflicts that may arise, and will include a retention/removal plan.

Depending on the scale and impact of the application a further tree protection plan and arboricultural impact assessment may be requested, evaluating the direct and indirect effects of the proposed design and where necessary the recommended mitigation measures.