As part of the neighbourhood planning process, you need to develop a number of key topics or issues that are important to your neighbourhood.

For each key theme, trees can play a positive role in the realisation of your community’s aspirations.
Top tip

There is no fixed approach or model for your plan. It can cover just a few streets or a large area - equally it could be a few pages long or hundreds.

Evidence is key

A neighbourhood plan should be specific to your community, reflecting your community’s aspirations.

You will need to evidence what you include in your plan as it will ultimately have to pass an independent inspection. This evidence is critical to justify the contents of your plan.

Your evidence needs to comply with the Localism Act and the 2012 Neighbourhood Planning Regulations.

As long as your evidence is in general conformity with local and national policy and reflects your whole community, there are no rights or wrongs.

Getting the right evidence

Contact your local authority and speak to local people to gather evidence. Your local authority will have an evidence base you can draw upon.

You also need to seek the views of as many people as possible that live, work or visit in your neighbourhood. It’s important to find out what they think is good and bad about the area, so you can work together to plan the future based on this information.

You could do this through:

  • Questionnaires (online and on paper)
  • Social media
  • Workshops (perhaps specific groups, such as environment groups or local business leaders)
  • Community information sessions
  • Planning for real - local schoolchildren can build a model of your neighbourhood which people use to consider how to improve the surroundings.

Gathering the evidence together under a number of themes can be helpful. Those themes are up to you, but might include environment, housing, transport, crime or community facilities.

What does good policy look like?

Ideally, policies should set out protection for existing woods and trees and promote new planting too.

In terms of woods and trees, a useful plan to look at is the Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan. We think it has some great policies on trees and green spaces. Of course this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for your plan, but it can provide good food for thought.

Some pointers to help you think beyond standard policies:

  • No loss of ancient woodland and no net loss of woods and trees in general.
  • Canopy cover: if a street tree canopy will be lost immediately, any replacement tree will take decades to replace what has been lost.
  • Consider including a specific requirement that trees are replaced on a 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 ratio.
  • Root protection areas: roots are vital to keep trees healthy and upright and can often stretch further than the height of the tree.
  • Think of all trees, including lone ancient and veteran trees as well as ancient woods and hedgerows.
  • Think about how to maximise the benefits of woods and trees for people and wildlife.
  • Replacement planting for every tree felled by development. Do you just want to plant one tree or do you want to aim for more? Some local authorities have adopted 2 for 1 or even 3 for 1 replacement policies. Note that replacement planting isn’t suitable for ancient woods or ancient trees.
  • Do you want to specify a certain number of trees for new developments? For example you could stipulate that three trees should be planted for each new residential property.

Helpful organisations and links

Your local planning authority will always be the best starting point when setting up a neighbourhood plan, so remember to speak to them about your options first.

If your plan might pose a risk to heritage or the natural environment, the local authority may advise you to contact: 

For help with the best species, where and how to plant and aftercare tips, visit our planting advice pages.