Protecting trees on development sites: a good example of bad practice

During a recent drive around a local town, we came across a building site. The billboards advertised a new housing development that would consist of eight residential properties. Unfortunately, the site attracted our attention for all the wrong reasons. What we saw is a prime example of when laws designed to protect trees on development sites are ignored or not correctly applied. 

Development sites and tree legislation

The development was home to several silver birch trees, all of which were protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). 

TPOs are issued by local planning authorities.  They are designed to safeguard trees that are considered important on public enjoyment, environmental or aesthetic grounds. It is illegal to do any of the following to the trees without first gaining permission from the relevant authority:

  • removal
  • lopping
  • topping
  • uprooting 
  • causing damage

In addition to this, trees on development sites are subject to BS5837:2012 legislation.  These regulations apply to all trees that are affected by construction or demolition. 

Issues on site

It was immediately clear that the trees were not being properly protected. We saw two main issues:

  • The developers had failed to safeguard the trees from damage. Erecting heras fencing would have easily solved this problem.
  • The building work was in such close proximity to the trees that their major supportive roots had been removed. We do not know whether or not a topological survey had been undertaken.  However, if it had, it would have pinpointed the exact location of the trees.
Heras fencing could have been used for tree protection.

BS5837 tree surveys

BS5837 legislation is very clear. Before work commences, a professional must carry out an assessment of the risk posed to the trees on site.  This must involve a thorough tree survey. In addition, it should include:

  • an Arboricultural Impact Assessment.
  • an Arboricultural Method Statement.

These surveys are key to ensuring legal, responsible development practices, and should only be undertaken by a qualified arboricultural consultant. What we observed at this particular housing development suggested that either:

  • a BS5837 survey had not been carried out properly.
  • a survey had been done, but recommendations had been ignored.
  • a BS5837 survey had not been done at all.

Breaching legislation

“Where regulations are breached, developers can be fined an unlimited sum and work on site can be stopped.” – Joanna Wells, Taylor Wells

Sadly, in this case, some of the trees will almost certainly be lost due to the damage caused. 

Finding solutions

“Although tree regulations can limit what a developer does, a good tree consultant will work with them to find solutions to problems.” – Solid Start Property Inspections

“Even a small change in site layout, ground levels or construction techniques can aid tree protection.” – QMAX Pumping Systems

Aodhan at – a waste and recycling business often has to work with construction sites and new builds – we have seen sites that really do not care about legislation – but the smarter and more successful companies have a real focus on protecting the environment and sustainability.

We offer a full range of BS5837 surveys and reports.  For more information click here.

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By |July 25th, 2018|Blog|