Arboriculture is the management of woody plants for their amenity. It is a science, a philosophy and an art, and is regulated through Local Authorities under the Town & Country Planning Act. The bio-diversity and sustainability of trees is an important part of their amenity. An Arboriculturist is qualified, experienced and insured to provide arboricultural advice. Forestry is the management of large numbers of trees as a commodity for timber, for conservation or for amenity, and is regulated through Forestry Authorities under the Forestry Act. Urban Forestry is a term that is used for urban forest management that may include all of the above.

1. The Importance of Trees

Trees are the most massive organisms ever to have lived on earth. Trees are dynamic living plants that adapt to their environment with strength and flexibility. The process of growing takes carbon dioxide from the air and exchanges it for oxygen. Forests form vast tracts that act as lungs and carbon store for the planet. They provide fuel and materials essential to human life. As urban individuals and woodlands, they form part of local, regional and global forests. They filter pollution from the air, cool the local environment by their shade and transpiration, and they slow and dissipate rainfall reducing flooding and soil erosion. Studies show the amenity and ecology of trees is of fundamental importance to the quality of our lives. These benefits must be balanced with their associated risks, nuisance, other societal needs and the costs of management. Trees take their oxygen from the soil through their roots. Soil disturbance, capping and compaction makes it difficult for trees to find oxygen and nutrition in the urban environment. Construction activities are a primary threat to trees. Good design and professional guidance can integrate trees with development to retain tree benefits into the future.

2. Trees & Development

Trees are a material consideration in the planning process and part of local planning policies. If trees are within 15m of the proposed development, a tree report to BS5837:2012 is required. A pre-purchase site feasibility assessment will identify if trees are likely to restrict development significantly. The sooner an Arboriculturist is involved, the greater the chance of an efficient and successful planning application. The local planning authority will provide specific guidance on tree information required.

3. Legal Protection for Trees & Associated Protected Species

Trees can be protected specifically in law by individual, group and woodland tree preservation orders (TPO), or generally by conservation areas, special areas of conservation (SAC) and sites of special scientific interest (SSSI). If trees are to be felled, a felling licence might be required. Any tree might also harbour protected species. Unauthorised works may all result in a criminal record and unlimited fines. The onus is on tree owners to find out if their trees are protected by contacting the appropriate authorities:

Wales - contact the Local Planning Authority regarding conservation areas and TPOs and; Natural Resources Wales for felling licences and protected species.

England - contact the Local Planning Authority regarding TPOs; the Forestry Commission regarding felling licences and; Natural England regarding protected species.

Scotland - contact the Local Planning Authority  regarding TPOs; the Forestry Commission Scotland regarding felling licences and; Scottish Natural Heritage regarding protected species.

Northern Ireland - contact the Local Planning Authority regarding TPOs; the Department of Agriculture & Rural Development NI regarding felling licences and; Northern Ireland Environment Agency regarding protected species.

4. Pests & Diseases

Trees cope with pests and diseases as part of life. However, conditions sometimes arise that benefit other species more than their host tree, and prolonged exposure to these conditions can result in problems for the tree. Global trade and travel can import foreign diseases that kill trees. If you have noted unusual features on your trees or a decline in health, an Arboriculturist can help determine the significance and appropriate response.  Be on guard for UK pests and diseases and be sure to report them to your regional forest authority.

5. Tree Work & Planting

A visual tree inspection might identify significant nuisance or safety issues, or improvement/ planting options. Sometimes the best or only option is to fell and replace a tree. Tree workers should be qualified, experienced and insured. Tree work must be undertaken to BS3998:2010 to maintain trees as safe assets. If anyone provides advice, consider if it is covered by professional indemnity insurance. Planting requires proper site/ species assessment, establishment and after care to ensure survival. This must be undertaken to BS8545 - Trees: From nursery to independence in the landscape - recommendations. A theme should consider pests and diseases, wildlife potential, risks, amenity features and permaculture.