UKTC Archive

RE: Location of structures near trees

Subject: RE: Location of structures near trees
From: Wright, Matthew
Date: Nov 12 2001 15:39:55

I inherited exactly this policy when I came down to Exeter last February and
have finally managed to persuade the planners to look at getting rid of it
in our new Local Plan. The will to do this was reinforced by the fact that
the Government Office for the South-West had advised that we should avoid
overly-prescriptive policies. As a result we are now likely to have a very
open policy which basically states that development will only be permitted
where the Council considers that proper provision has been made for the safe
retention of natural features (including trees) which it considers to be of
importance. We have also moved tree and landscape issues in relation to
development into a comprehensive chapter on design guidance to try to
reinforce the fact that trees/landscape need to be carefully considered as
part of the design process rather than a separate (and therefore laughably
inconsequential) issue that only needs to be addressed when planning
permission appears as if it is going to be refused.

Some of the problems that I found with the policy are:

1. Developers presume that provided everything is 5 metres from a green blob
on the plan then it must be acceptable. They therefore fail to seek
arboricultural advice because they think that they can do it all themselves
- after all you have told them exactly what is acceptable as far as the
Council is concerned! Result is that trees are not considered a "proper"
issue and are not considered as part of the design process for the
development. No consideration is given to issues such as tree quality,
aspect, fenestration, shading, perceived threat to future occupants etc.
etc.. In essence, the policy goes a long way to taking arborists out of the
equation which won't be of any benefit to anyone.

2. It is impossible to stand at an appeal or public inquiry and say that you
can accurately predict what the crown spread of a semi-/early mature is
going to be: you just end up looking like an idiot when pressed on the
issue. Three or four metres here and there (trying to predict the mature
crown spread of a semi-mature Beech for instance) will make a massive
difference to how the site can be developed. As Rupert and Scott have
already said, many brownfield sites would be impossible to develop if you
stuck rigidly to the rule so you are likely to start bending it. Once you
start bending it you are setting a precedent which will be used against you
on other sites.

3. If you won't allow any building within 5 metres of the 'mature canopy
spread' of a semi-mature tree to be retained, how can you force a developer
to plant any trees on dense housing sites? On many sites you wouldn't be
able to plant any trees that would comply with the 'mature canopy spread'

4. Finally (and perhaps most importantly) the policy makes trees and
buildings appear entirely incompatible and raises them as a problem rather
than a benefit. We all know that trees and buildings can work fantastically
together provided that they are taken into account in the design process and
it just becomes a little frustrating when you have been backed into a corner
by your own policy and can't get a little creative.

All in all, my advice having worked with this policy for almost a year is to
avoid it like the plague and trust your professional expertise and judgement
to win the argument. It seems like a good short term fix but you will, in my
opinion, end up regretting it. The best thing you can do is provide good
supplementary planning guidance and make sure that trees are considered an
important issue.

Spleen vented, back to work,


Matthew Wright
Landscape & Tree Officer
Planning Services, Exeter City Council, Civic Centre, Paris Street,  
Exeter  EX1 1NN

Ph: 01392 XXXXXX   
Fax: 01392 XXXXXX  

The views expressed in this e-mail are personal and may not necessarily
reflect those of Exeter City Council, unless explicitly stated otherwise. 

Please note that this message and its content are for the intended recipient
only. If you are not the intended recipient please disregard the content and
return to the original sender.

-----Original Message-----
From: Tim Errington []
Sent: 12 November 2001 09:32
To: UK Tree Care
Subject: Location of structures near trees

My Local Authority is planning to adopt a policy within its Local Plan in
which no new development is to be permitted within 5.0 metres of the
expected mature crown spread of any retained tree within a proposed
development site. Although I support this policy in principle, I have a
number of reservations concerning such a rigid line. Does anyone have
experience of such a policy  and is it a practical stance to take in terms
of Planning Appeals etc.

Any observations are welcome.

Many thanks, Tim

The UK Tree Care mailing list -
To unsubscribe send
To change your subscription options visit