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42 | BALI Whos Who Landscape Directory 2012 | Trees and Development

Trees and
Development
Everybody loves trees
as long as they belong
to someone else
Graeme Drummond is a professional
member of the Arboricultural Association,
a Chartered Landscape Architect and a
director of both Open Spaces Landscape
& Arboricultural Consultants Limited and
Turning Leaf Garden Designs Limited.
BALI Whos Who Landscape Directory 2013 | Trees and Development | 43
After many years of working rst
as a local authority tree ofcer and
then as an arboricultural consultant,
I have come to the conclusion
that most developers prefer to
cut down trees that prevent them
from developing the land for
maximum prot rather than nd a
way to retain trees on a proposed
development site, allowing the best
trees to improve the character of
the development. This scorched
earth policy, favoured by some
developers, is a real indictment of
their mind set and most see the
constraints imposed by trees (and,
indeed, other ecological elements
identied on site) as a harbinger
of unnecessary expense and an
unwanted imposition upon their
(usually already well-developed!)
proposed schemes. Regrettably,
they appear to see little or no value
in retaining ne trees at the expense
of a fully informed design process.
The latest edition of the British Standard:
Trees in relation to design, construction
and demolition recommendations, also
known as BS 5837:2012, came into force
at the beginning of April 2012. It replaces
the 2005 edition and sets out a series of
recommendations to identify trees that
are important within and adjacent to the
development site. It also identies how
the proposed development impacts on
the trees and sets out requirements for a
range of methodologies to mitigate any
negative impact on the trees caused by
the proposed development. The Standard
also sets out how trees that have been
identied for retention shall be protected
during the whole of the demolition,
construction and landscaping phases, and
how the tree protection measures are to be
monitored.
The Standard is an expensive document,
retailing at over 160. This is, quite frankly,
a ridiculous price to pay for what is no
more than a 40 page document, especially
as it is essential reading for anyone
involved with development sites where
trees are growing. The Standard makes
clear that other professionals should also
consult the document during the pre-design
and design phases, including architects,
developers and engineers, but I would be
very surprised if no more than a handful of
non arboricultural practices have a copy of
the document available to their staff. This
is a shame because it means that those
with inuence (architects) do not consult
the document, which, if not complied with,
is likely to result in the planning application
being refused.
I am usually involved with planning
applications where the developer and their
architect have already completed the site
layout design, only to nd out that they
have not taken into account the trees
growing within and adjacent to the site. I
am then asked to rescue the scheme via a
(retrospective) tree survey and Arboricultural
Impact Assessment that should have been
undertaken at the outset.
Even a proposed car parking area or
access roadway will result in planning
refusal if it covers more than 20 per cent of
the available root protection area (RPA) of a
retained tree.
Often I am seen as the bad guy because
my professional role is to tell the developer
that his scheme will need to be altered if
planning permission is to be achieved. This
may mean reducing the number of housing
units on a scheme or moving a proposed
building from what would be considered
the obvious position. Recently, one
developer who had instructed me to
provide arboricultural services referred to
me as the enemy! It is just as well I have
the British Standard to fall back on
The Standard is very clear in its approach
to trees growing on, and growing adjacent
to, development sites. It is important to
realise that trees growing adjacent to a
development site will be regarded by the
local planning authority in the same way as
any tree growing within the development
site. This is something that many developers
fail to grasp and on many occasions I have
received a topographic survey plan from
the client showing no trees growing on
neighbouring land; it is only during my site
visit to carry out the tree survey that I nd
half a dozen mature trees growing adjacent
Basement built in the root
protection area of a mature tree
to the boundary fence, with their crowns
overhanging the development site (their roots
being no respecters of boundary fences).
Unfortunately, such a blinkered approach is
destined to lead to unnecessary expense
and delays in their bid for planning approval.
There are times, though, when even I am
astounded by a developers attitude to trees.
This is when a developer cuts down mature
trees on the proposed development site
before any planning application is registered.
Providing there is no Tree Preservation
Order (TPO) or planning condition on these
trees, or that the trees are not growing
within a Conservation Area, there is nothing
unlawful about removing high quality mature
trees that may have dominated and added
character to the local area for generations.
Where this stands on the ethical front is
debatable.
These attitudes and behaviours by some
developers only cause them to be seen in
a poor light by local authority tree ofcers;
and so begins a war of attrition with each
party badmouthing and distrusting the other.
I can appreciate why some tree ofcers rush
to use a TPO at the rst sniff of a proposed
development. Developers should bear in
mind that most local authorities do their best
to ensure trees are retained and protected
on development sites and, although they can
be a touch too zealous at times, it is a small
price to pay if important trees are protected
for the next generation.
I sometimes wistfully imagine a situation
where a site is purchased, trees are surveyed
and their constraints identied at the outset,
architects collaborate with me and plans
are produced respecting ne trees, and a
beautiful, partially mature landscape evolves
as their setting. Planning consent is gained
without problems or fuss, money is saved on
landscape implementation and, with such an
enhanced aesthetic for future generations to
enjoy, quick sales are achieved and everyone
is happy. And then I wake up.
Do trees have any allies out there?
I wonder sometimes. Everybody loves
trees as long as they belong to
someone else.
44 | BALI Whos Who Landscape Directory 2013 | Trees and Development
Trees and Development
Everybody loves trees as long as
they belong to someone else (cont.)
Bartholomew Landscaping ground
maintenance contract, London