National Tree Officers Conference Tree Establishment Opinion Survey

Last November, our Communication and Innovation specialist Daisy conducted a micro-survey of Tree Officers at the National Tree Officers Conference in Telford. This research was kindly supported by a bursary from Fund4Trees.

Who are Fund4Trees?

Fund4Trees is a registered charity which promotes sustainable treescapes. As stated on their website, they do this by:

  1. promoting for the benefit of the public the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment by promoting sustainable treescapes.
  2. advancing the education of the public in the conservation, protection and improvement of trees in the physical and natural environment.
  3. advancing research for the public benefit in all aspects of trees and to publish the useful results.

What was the purpose of the survey?

The survey aimed to form a cursory impression of existing post-planting maintenance programmes and the perceived sufficiency of revenue funding available for such programmes. The researcher also wanted to know whether Tree Officers perceive these factors as worthy of further research and whether there are other factors they would investigate in relation to urban tree establishment success.

A photo of daisy brasington and the survey documents she was handing out at the NTOC alongside a photo of the conference hall with people listening to a speech

Summary of the results.

Current Post-planting maintenance: The results were encouraging (80% of trees receive post-planting maintenance) within their respective local authorities, but this response should not be interpreted as a representation of the whole country as a different sampling methodology would be needed to accurately represent that. Additionally, there was a possibility that the local authorities (LAs) that could send Tree Officers to this national conference (and furthermore, who have dedicated Tree Officers at all) may be better-resourced LAs.

Post-planting maintenance across the UK: This survey showed a high level of agreement among surveyed Tree Officers that, across the UK as a whole, “A lack of revenue funding to ensure post-planting maintenance is an issue impacting successful tree establishment”. The private sector was perceived to be most affected, followed by the public sector and then the third sector.

Considering what arboricultural research is required: 75% of Tree Officers surveyed agree that “urban planting mortality rates’ is an important subject for further investigations. 70% of Tree officers agree that urban tree establishment generally is an important topic for future research and 65% agree that research into the availability of revenue funding is important.

Click the link to read the full report with further discussion of the results and context (opens in a new tab):

National Tree Officer Conference – Opinion Survey Results and Discussion – Published 14.3.23

What happens next?

The results of this survey are now being used to refine a proposal to investigate the efficacy of tree establishment in urban environments which we look forward to sharing the results/progress of later this year. The results will also be published in the Summer edition of the Arb Magazine, which all professional members of the Arboricultural Association will have access to.


Daisy would like to extend gratitude to all those who made undertaking this micro-survey possible; to Fund4Trees for the bursary, the National Tree Officers Association Conference for allowing us to survey at the conference and to the Institute of Chartered Foresters for assistance in following up responses. Final and important thanks must also go to Dr. Mark Johnston for his ongoing guidance, including suggesting not to over-interpret these initial survey results but use them to develop further robust research in this area, which is certainly needed.

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    Case Studies

    Tree Condition Survey, Inventory and Management Plan – Whiteley Village, Surrey

    Tree condition survey, inventory and management plans for circa 250 trees within the grounds of Whiteley Village.

    In March 2017 Crown Tree Consultancy were instructed to undertake a tree condition survey on trees within the grounds of Whiteley Village. As this is a retirement village tree inspection is highly important to help maintain safe parks, roadways, footpaths and any other area open to the public.

    Our consultant visually inspected all of the trees that presented any safety concerns, recording information and plotting tree positions of any trees which were deemed to be hazardous / potentially hazardous. This is predominantly to prevent defects from developing and to provide management recommendations on how to maintain the trees health and safety in the future.

    The survey was undertaken by one consultant over four site visits due to the sheer size of the site. The Northern section of the site was surveyed with the Eastern, Southern and Western sections following.

    Decay Detection using a Resi Drill™

    Following our tree survey we were then further instructed to undertake decay detection using a Resi Drill™. This was recommended within our report and was undertaken on any trees that our consultant picked up on throughout the survey thought to appear hazardous or at risk of potential structural failure.

    We have since been instructed to return to Whiteley Village to undertake tree condition surveys throughout various different areas of the village grounds and have also undertaken further Decay Detection following recommendations made within our reports.

    In conclusion, we have now carried out annual tree condition surveys at Whiteley Village and shall continue to do so in the future, in order to ensure that the trees are maintained in an acceptable condition.


    What is a Home Buyers Tree Survey and Report?

    A pre-purchase tree survey can also be called a Home Buyers Tree Survey or pre-purchase tree report. The purpose of a Home Buyers Tree Survey and Report is to assess whether there is a risk of damage to the property from nearby trees and their rooting activity. A pre-purchase tree survey is quite commonly asked for when purchasing or re-mortgaging a home where trees are present on site. Sometimes these surveys are referred to as a Subsidence Risk Assessment tree survey. We regularly provide arboricultural reports for lenders, insurers, homeowners and buyers. This is a cost-effective per-purchase tree survey for prospective home buyers and house purchasers to quickly identify any tree-related issues.

    Our pre-purchase / home buyers’ tree survey consists of three services:

    Under Ground Risk Assessment

    An Under Ground Risk Assessment is suitable for lenders and insurers and covers all trees potentially affecting the property. This also includes vegetation management advice to reduce any risk of root related damage.

    Our consultant will assess the potential risk of root related damage based on several factors such as the tree species and NHBC water demand classification, tree height and canopy size. You will be provided with management recommendations where required which will help to alleviate any risks that may be identified.

    Above Ground Risk Assessment

    An Above Ground Risk Assessment will cover all trees within the curtilage of the property and includes recommendations to reduce the risk of structural failure of the tree and its branches.

    Our consultant will assess the physiological and structural condition of each tree present on site. The trunk, stem base, scaffold branches and branch junctions will be inspected for defects, disease or any symptoms of inner decay which may structurally compromise the tree. This makes sure that you meet your obligations under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 by ensuring that any trees within the property do not pose an unacceptable risk to members of the public.

    Tree Protection status Query

    If instructed, we will liaise with the local authority to find out the protection status of any trees on site and whether or not you are located within a conservation area.

    This is often to assist with management recommendations should they have been recommended. If a tree is protected you will need to apply to your local authority to undertake works to a protected tree before any pruning / tree works may commence. There can be huge fines for working on a protected tree without permission! If you are within a conservation area you will need to submit a notice of intent to undertake works to a tree within a conservation area.


    Resi Drill ™ – Decay Detection Equipment

    Resi Drill ™

    A Resi Drill is also used to help determine the extent of internal decay present throughout the stem or buttress roots of a tree, based on the drilling resistance. A Resi Drill is used with a hand held drill and a spinning probe is inserted in to the wood. The device measures the resistance that the wood offers while drilling. The obtained data can be recorded electronically and then transmitted, evaluated and processed on a PC with special software. The measurement profile recorded whilst drilling provides information about the internal condition of the wood and decayed zones.


    PiCUS Sonic Tomograph

    Decay detection with a PiCUS Sonic Tomogrpah.

    A PiCUS Sonic Tomogrpah test is used for tree risk assessments to determine the extent of internal decay or cavities throughout the stem of a tree. This is done by sending soundwaves through the wood; the density of the wood (extent of decay) is determined by how fast the sound travels through the wood.

    The quicker the sound waves travel the more decayed the wood is. The sound is sent through the wood by using a small hammer and sonic sensors. The soundwaves are recorded electronically by the numbered sensors placed all around the tree stem (as seen below) and the data then transmitted and shown on a graph.

    The graphic results from the PiCUS Sonic Tomograph then inform the consultant as to the shape of decay within the stem. The consultant will then use these results to inform management recommendations, based on the extent and progression of the decay.

    See an example of the PiCUS Sonic Tomograph results here: example PDF.

    Case Studies

    Tree Condition Surveys & Inventory – St Albans Cathedral , London

    Tree condition surveys, inventory and tree management plan for 250 trees in the grounds of St Albans Cathedral, London.

    Crown Tree Consultancy were commissioned to carry out tree surveys at St Albans Cathedral, London. The tree surveys were predominantly for safety reasons. We were also asked to produce an inventory and record the condition of all trees within the cathedral grounds.

    Within our report we produce tree location plans showing the location of individual trees as well as tree groups, giving them T numbers and management recommendations, if any should be required. In total we surveyed circa 250 trees.

    Decay Detection in Cedar of Lebanon

    Following the condition report, we were then further charged with undertaking decay detection of a Cedar of Lebanon tree using our specialist equipment:

    • a PiCUS Sonic Tomograph
    • Resi Drill™.

    PiCUS Sonic Tomograph

    The purpose of a PiCUS test being to determine the extent of decay throughout the stem of a tree by sending sound waves through the wood, the density of the wood is determined by how fast the sound travels through the wood (the quicker the sound travels the more decayed the wood is).

    Resi Drill™

    A Resi Drill™ is also used to help determine the extent of decay throughout the stem of a tree based on the drilling resistance. A Resi Drill™ is used with a hand held drill and a spinning probe is inserted in to the wood. The device measures the resistance that the wood offers while drilling. The obtained data can be recorded electronically and then transmitted, evaluated and processed on a PC with specific software. The measurement profile recorded whilst drilling provides information about the internal condition of the wood and any decayed zones.

    Air Spade Investigation

    We were also further commissioned to oversee an air spade investigation to determine the extent of the rooting activity around the Cedar of Lebanon. The main purpose of this being to assess what the impact of development within the surrounding area would have on the tree and its roots.

    Our investigation concluded that providing any large roots were not harmed and an arborist present throughout construction stages, the proposed development would impose no harm to the tree’s condition and/or stability.

    In conclusion, we will offer our services for an updated tree condition survey in approximately three years’ time to comply with British Standards.


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