Considering trees in planning applications
All trees are a material consideration in planning. When a planning application is submitted, developers should supply details of any trees affected and show them on application plans with their crown spread and appropriate, calculated root protection area. The trees are usually categorised according to the latest version of British Standard 5837 Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction - recommendations. This system proposes that trees are surveyed and allocated to different categories according to their quality, whether arboricultural, landscape or cultural values, including conservation.
When a planning application is made, the Local Planning Authority has a duty to ensure that planning conditions are used to provide for tree preservation and planting. All the relevant development documents, including any tree survey or arboricultural reports, will usually be available on the local authority Planning Portal for members of the public to view.
In England, development is also controlled through planning policy. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) acts as guidance for local planning authorities and decision-takers, both in drawing up plans and making decisions about planning applications. A significant policy for trees is incorporated in paragraph 118 which states that:
'Planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and the loss of aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland, unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss.'
In England, Standing Advice provided by the Forestry Commission and Natural England clarifies the meaning of this paragraph and how it should be applied. The Standing Advice points planning authorities in the direction of the Ancient Tree Inventory. This citizen science based database, run by the Woodland Trust in partnership with the Tree Register of the British Isles and the Ancient Tree Forum, is not yet complete, but it is growing all the time and is a major source of information about ancient, veteran and notable trees in the UK. We would encourage anyone interested in protecting important trees to add them to this database. Another inventory – for priority wood pastures and parkland (in England only) is available as a layer on the government’s MAGIC website.