Trees and planning

The potential contribution of trees to development projects and the urban environment is considerable. As this website shows, their value is not confined to moderating climate change or sustaining environmental factors. There are also economic dividends and a substantial social dimension-gain is available too.

The inclusion of trees in any development project, especially larger trees, provides numerous benefits. As a result trees and woods feature extensively in UK planning statutes.

The following table amply demonstrates the substantial contribution trees can make to national Planning Policy objectives and shows why their inclusion in projects should be a priority:

The national planning policy backdrop


Status relating to trees 

 The Town & Country Planning Act 1990 Part 8 (Special Controls), Chapter 1 (Trees):Section 197 – when granting planning permissions planning authorities are to preserve and plant trees
Sections 198-202 – Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) defined
Sections 203-205 – TPO compensation
Sections 206-210 – legal consequences of TPO removal specified
Sections 211-214 – trees in conservation areas
Section 300 – Crown land disposal and TPOs
Note: the Forestry Commission is a statutory consultee for Local Planning Authorities in the case of mineral site restoration and aftercare.
 The Planning Compensation Act 1991 Part 1, sub-chapter ‘Controls over particular matters’ – Section 23 – substitutes Section 207 of the Act above concerning consequences of TPO removal
The Town & Country Planning (Trees) (England) Regulations 1999 These regulations make provision for the form of TPOs and applications to carry out work on them
The Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 Part 7, Chapter 1, sub-chapter ‘Trees’, sections 85 & 86 are substitutions for sections 200 & 211 of the 1990 Act concerning Crown activity featuring TPOs and trees in Conservation Areas
 The Planning Act 2008 Part 9, Chapter 2, sub-chapter ‘Trees’, sections 192 & 193 amend sections 198, 199, 201, 202 and 203-205 of the 1990 Act relating to TPOs
 The Town & Country Planning (Trees) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2008  These 2008 regulations amend the 1990 Regulations to provide the use of the 1APP to apply for TPO consent
 The Forestry Act 1967 (as amended)  Part 1, Section 1 sets out the statutory basis of the Forestry Commission; Section 2 covers constitutional matters; Section 3 management of Forestry land of which Part 2 includes the legislative provision for tree-felling
Note: wherever planning has been granted there is no immediate requirement for a felling licence for the purpose of undertaking the actual development
 The Climate Change Act, 2008 The world’s first legally binding long-term framework to cut carbon emissions. It also creates a framework for adapting the UK to climate change, plus the role of trees to support such adaptation

Download national policy table

The policy context and planning framework is presently evolving. Nevertheless, the comprehensive list of policy requirements outlined in this table makes it plain that the role of trees in development is substantial, varied and likely to remain so:

Policy requirements

Government policy documents

Objectives in relation to trees

– The Coalition: Our programme for government- Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition Negotiations:Agreements reached- Building the big society

– Queen’s Speech 2010, to both Houses of Parliament

– Budget 2010

The need to plant trees, protect and enhance greenspaces and wildlife corridors and promote renewable energy (including woodfuel) is stressed. There are aims to reduce urban density to make space for trees in urban areas, whilst the resulting pressure for development in the countryside increases the important role of woods and forests as development mitigation.

Forestry policy documents

The UK Forestry Standard This strategy and regulatory framework acknowledges the importance of urban woodland
A strategy for England’s trees, woods and forests Trees and woods in development and Green infrastructure are regarded as an important community resource that instils a sense of place
Keepers of time: A statement of policy for England’s ancient and native woodland It is important that development protects existing ancient woodland and increases native woodland cover. Accordingly development proposals and strategies must ensure trees contribute to quality of life, sustainable development, wildlife and biodiversity, plus cultural heritage and landscape


1: Delivering Sustainable Development Trees alleviate the impact of climate change through carbon sequestration and local climate regulation. Trees also improve air quality
Supplement to PPS 1: Planning & Climate Change Trees have a fundamental role in climate change resilience and for conserving biodiversity
3: Housing The need for access to GI networks for sustainable communities is fundamental. Trees have a key role to play in this provision
4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth Trees contribution to environmental, social and economic sustainability objectives is considerable and their presence on development sites can help attract inward investment and thereby increase an area’s prosperity
5: Planning for the Historic Environment Trees, woods and forests are fundamental elements of the historic environment, which contributes hugely to a sense of place
7. Sustainable Development in Rural Areas Trees improve environmental quality and enhance public access, as well as ensuring development and Green Infrastructure is sensitive to countryside character in rural areas
9: Biodiversity & Geological Conservation Trees contribute to habitat connectivity and retention/planting projects enhance a site’s biodiversity
22: Renewable Energy Promotes the use of renewable energy resources – woodfuel has substantial potential in this respect
23: Planning & Pollution Control Trees serve a valuable mitigating role for polluted land and can be a significant component of land remediation projects
25: Development & Flood Risk Trees’ attenuation of water contributes to the integrity of functional floodplains and can improve the effectiveness of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)


2: Green Belts Trees and woods in the urban fringe contribute significantly to landscape, historic, biodiversity and recreational values
17. Planning for Open Space, Sport & Recreation Woodland and urban forests provide considerable public benefit. The Forestry Commission holds valuable data to support Local Planning Authorities in the preparation of PPG17 assessments

Download policy requirements table

 Local level

Model policies

Whilst both legislation and policy are constantly subject to change, there are some constants that need to be borne in mind:

Local Development Frameworks

  • There is a need to adopt measures to protect or increase the area of tree canopy in Local Development Frameworks (LDFs):
    • Given the volume of legislation on trees and woods
    • the significant and varied roles they can play across a wide range of planning policy objectives
    • their vulnerability to development

• It is now a statutory requirement that every LDF incorporates an outline of a local authority’s Green Infrastructure (GI) intentions, as the Haven Gateway proposals illustrated here exemplify. Naturally LDFs also need to reflect the relevant woodland strategy or forest framework.

• In principle, the Forestry Commission’s minimum policy objective is that development ought, through GI provision, to lead to an increase in tree canopy cover by 5%.

Haven Gateway

Best practice example

The ‘street trees’ segment of the London Plan and the role of trees and woods in the Capital is an excellent exemplar.

Visit the London Plan website

  • The consultation draft replacement Plan of October 2009 reflects the objectives of the ‘Tree and Woodland Framework for London’. This replacement Plan promotes the guiding principle of ‘right tree, right place’ and is also aligned with the environment programme for the Capital ‘Leading to a Greener London’.
  • Chapter five of this Plan relates to climate change and supports urban greening.
  • While chapter seven, ‘living spaces and places’, emphasises protecting, maintaining and enhancing trees and woodlands.

Comprehensive tree and woodland strategies

Such strategies perform a variety of functions:

  • Ultimately they may become a material consideration in planning application
  • they could also serve managerial and/or
  • perform communications roles.
  • A local authority’s tree and woodland strategy could be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), so that it could then be part of its LDF. Once formally adopted, tree strategies constitute a material consideration in the determination of planning applications.
  • Such strategies should cover all aspects of trees and woods in an area, providing details as to:
    • policy direction and
    • management action plans
  • These strategies ought not only to specify the maintenance of the existing tree stock to high standards, but also commit to the planting of new trees, along with the provision of trees in new developments. Thus they could involve pursuing:
    • increased canopy cover
    • greater provision of large trees
  • On the communications front it is helpful if they additionally:
    • advocate tree planting
    • outline good practice standards for both tree planting and aftercare
    • contain a valuation of the local authority’s tree stock
[Click for link to Calculating tree values]
  • Finally, a comprehensive tree and woodland strategy is a distinct strategy, but it ought also be linked to all other relevant local strategies, such as open/greenspace, play, transport and climate change.

Best practice example

The London Borough of Islington’s Tree Strategy offers a comprehensive trees and woodlands policy that has been widely cited as best practice.

  • This Strategy not only describes the baseline situation, but also identifies the current management challenges for the Borough’s Tree Department. Both Council and privately owned trees are dealt with.
  • This Strategy also relates well to the Borough’s strategies for sustainability, climate change and biodiversity.
  • The Borough holds an inventory of the tree stock and is working towards allotting each tree a CAVAT score.

View the Borough of Islington’s Tree Strategy

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Development Management checklist

Translating policy into reality –

Tips and key regulations to be borne in mind by developers and planners when considering development projects incorporating trees and/or woods.

Six issues to consider are:

Tick 1 1. Planning Application Process

It is important to consider trees and woods from the outset of the planning applications process. This process might involve four steps:

a. Pre-application discussions

The Planning Advisory Service points to a number of benefits arising from incisive pre-application discussions. These include:

  • Avoiding incomplete applications that cannot be registered
  • Reducing the number of unsuccessful planning applications
  • Saving time and money
  • Avoiding confrontation
  • Raising the quality of developments
  • Gaining community acceptance

When making provision for trees in development projects it is vital to exploit these pre-application opportunities.

  • Following the mandatory survey of existing trees (see step 2 below), trees should be incorporated during the concept and design stage along with a vision of:
    • the optimal level of tree canopy cover
    • help from arboriculturists to select the most appropriate trees
    • provision for sufficient infrastructure amendments to allow trees to mature.

Big is better

The selection of larger trees in developments bring proportionately greater benefits in terms of:

  • shade
  • shelter
  • water attenuation
  • air quality
  • biodiversity
  • aesthetic values

Use of ducts

The adoption of shared service ducts for utility apparatus allows:

  • room to accommodate larger trees and
  • can also contribute to sustaining trees.

Early inclusion advantages

Thinking about trees late on in the planning process can prevent the provision of larger trees and may also mean subsequent maintenance proves more expensive.

b. Consultation

Local Planning Authorities have a statutory duty to consult the Forestry Commission for minerals and waste applications when an aftercare condition relates to forestry.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission has a statutory duty to consult the Forestry Commission for all applications impacting on the protection or expansion of forests and woodlands.

The Government recommends that the Forestry Commission should be consulted for applications affecting ancient woodland (when any part of the development site is ancient woodland, or is within 500 metres of ancient woodland), veteran trees and when minerals aftercare schemes are supported by Forestry Commission grants or include significant planting.

c. Determination

All planning applications for development are determined in accordance with the LDF, including Green Infrastructure (GI) intentions, policies for protecting existing trees and/or encouraging planting, unless there are material considerations.

Where Forestry Commission guidance documents or policies are relevant, they are regarded as material.

d. Conditions and obligations

Planning conditions should require tree planting and/or protection measures. Also planning obligations need to allow sufficient funds for GI.

Tick 2 2. The 1APP

The standard 1APP planning application form requires:

  • identification of trees on-site and/or on adjacent land
  • if trees are present a full tree survey compliant with BS5837 is requiredView example of a 1APP planning application form

Tick 3 Tree Preservation Orders (TPO)

TPOs serve to protect notable trees and/or areas of woodland for the purposes of public amenity, enjoyment and the environment:

  • Breach of a TPO is an offence
  • Permission to alter/damage/remove trees must be sought from the local planning authority concerned

Tick 4 Conservation Areas

  • Tree and woodlands in designated conservation areas are protected:
  • To alter/remove trees in such areas a Section 211 Notice must be issued in good time to the planning authority
  • This notice must identify the tree/trees involved and outline the proposed works
  • The proposals cannot be fulfilled until the applicant receives formal permission to proceed

Tick 5 Tree felling licences

To help protect Britain’s forests, a tree felling licence is required from the Forestry Commission. Whether or not a TPO is in force, a licence is required if more than five cubic metres is to be cut, unless an exemption applies, for example, for certain locations, less than prescribed trunk diameters, or if trees are actually dangerous or are causing a nuisance.

Tick 6 British Standard 5837

During construction trees must be protected as prescribed by this standard.

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