Getting a Tree Survey – Some Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some Frequently Asked Questions relating to obtaining a BS5837 tree survey and arboricultural report, which is one of the most commonly requested arboricultural reports that we produce:

What is the BS5837 Tree Survey and Report?

Produced by the British Standards Institute, the BS5837 tree survey Standard defines what input an Arboricultural Consultant should have in a planning application where trees are involved. It dictates what information should be gathered in the tree survey and makes recommendations about the impact that various construction activities may have on trees. As it says on the British Standards Institute website, “BS5837:2012 provides recommendations relating to tree care, with a view to achieving a harmonious and sustainable relationship between new construction/existing structures and their surrounding trees.”

What are Retention Categories?

These are defined within a BS5837 tree survey and relate to the size, quality, life expectancy and amenity value of each tree. There are 4 categories as itemised below:

CATEGORY A – These are generally large, high-quality trees which the local authority will want to see retained if at all possible.

CATEGORY B – These may be somewhat smaller or not particularly high-quality trees. However, they still make a significant impact on the local environment and have a significant life expectancy. The local authority would prefer to see these trees retained, though the removal of occasional specimens may be acceptable.

CATEGORY C – These are smaller trees or ones considered to be of low quality. They may have a limited life expectancy or contribute very little to the amenity of the locality. Such trees should not be considered as a constraint against development and their removal will generally be acceptable.

CATEGORY U – These trees are recommended for removal due to their poor condition rather than to facilitate development.

What is the Root Protection Area?

This is the area around each tree which should contain enough roots to sustain the canopy. During a tree survey, the surveyor will measure the diameter of each tree stem. For straight-forward, single-stemmed trees in a uniform environment, the Root Protection Area (RPA) is equivalent to a circle with a radius equal to 12 x stem-diameter. This means that for a tree with a diameter of 50cm, you should try to avoid disturbing the ground within 6m of the tree stem.

Unfortunately, trees rarely grow in a uniform environment. An arboricultural consultant should amend the shape of the RPA to better suit the site conditions. For example, a tree growing adjacent to a road will have few roots under the road and will require the RPA extending further in the opposite direction.

Do I have to completely avoid all works in RPAs?

This is certainly a Frequently Asked Question by those who have been requested to undertake a BS58s7 tree survey. Avoiding disturbance to the RPA will be the preferred option of the local authority tree officer since this guarantees no significant impact on tree health. However, sometimes it is necessary to develop within RPAs and special construction methods need to be employed to minimise impacting on tree roots. Crown Arboricultural Consultants are experts in advising which works are likely to be acceptable to the local authority and which ones are likely to lead to a planning refusal.

How should I choose an Arboricultural Consultant?

An arboricultural consultant may play a pivotal role in determining whether an application is successful, so you should choose carefully. Here are some things to look for:

    You should choose a tree surveyor or an arboricultural consultant with several years of experience working with BS 5837 tree survey, both as a private consultant and as a local authority tree officer. Ideally, your tree survey consultant should have a good understanding of construction principles and experience in the construction industry.
    Your tree survey consultant should have at least a Level 5 qualification in arboriculture and should be a member of related professional organisations.
    Adequate Professional Indemnity Cover should be carried.
    You should choose a consultant who has a good reputation amongst local authorities as well as with discerning clients.
    A sub-standard tree survey or report will fail to meet validation criteria.
    The cheapest tree survey service does not always provide the best value for money. A failed application can be very costly and a good arboricultural consultant will help you to achieve the maximum potential from your site.

A good arboricultural consultant will be happy to provide proof of the above.

How much does a BS5837 tree survey cost?

The answer depends on the number of trees to be surveyed and the purpose of the survey. Once we have just a few pieces of key information we are able to issue a site-specific quotation.

Crown Arboricultural Consultants have invested in tree survey technology which enables us to be very efficient. We aim to be competitive and will endeavour to match any other quotation for a comparable level of service.


We can issue a no-obligation quotation the same day.

Get in touch with one of our arboricultural consultants today by calling  08000 141330 or completing a form on our contact page.