What is a Tree Consultant?

A tree (arboricultural) consultant is someone who has gained recognised qualifications and expertise in the care and management of trees.

Their role involves providing technical and professional tree care advice to a range of Clients. Including development design advice, tree risk management, management of tree populations, statutory protection assistance, property damage enquiries and supervising construction works.


Examples of some of the typical day to day work of an arboricultural consultant include...

Registered Consultants

The Arboricultural Association operates a directory of Registered Consultants. Members of the scheme have attained a recognised standard of knowledge and experience, and have demonstrated the ability to practise as an arboricultural consultant in the most complex and demanding situations.

The aim of the scheme is to recognise excellence in the field of tree consultancy, and it is promoted by the Arboricultural Association as establishing the highest level of attainment available within the UK.

You can search the directory by postcode or name

How close to my house should a tree be?

In spite of what you may read in newspapers or be told by insurance companies, there are no fixed minimum recommended distances that you should plant trees of certain species from buildings.

When choosing a tree or trees to plant, you should give careful consideration to design, in particular how they will fit with their surroundings when they have reached their mature size. Young trees are frequently planted in spaces which are too small to allow them to grow to maturity, and a consequence of this is that they may be disliked as they develop, frequently resulting in heavy pruning or removal. Consequently, it is important to consider the ultimate size of the tree when choosing what and where to plant.

If you live in an area where there is heavy clay soil it is possible that trees in close proximity to buildings may cause structural damage to them by causing soil shrinkage which can lead to downward movement called subsidence. This is rare and cannot easily be predicted and there are many factors which affect it including the nature of the soil, tree characteristics, foundation design and climate. In areas of heavy clay soil where building foundations are known to be shallow this issue should be considered when deciding where to plant trees and how to manage existing trees – further advice should be sought as necessary.

Further information:

How close can I build to my tree?

If the building work proposed requires planning consent, all trees which could potentially be affected by the development (including those off-site) should be assessed by an arboricultural consultant in accordance with British Standard BS5837:2012 Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction – Recommendations, and details of this submitted to the Local Planning Authority with the planning application.

This assessment will consider tree condition, dimensions, likely retention span (years), and future growth potential, and will inform design in relation to how close you can build to trees. If the tree is to be retained, constraints to be considered are those below ground and above ground. The below-ground constraints are dictated by the root protection area (RPA) the calculation of which is based on the stem diameter; the above ground constraints are dictated by the height and spread of the tree, future growth potential, shading potential and what you are proposing to construct.

If the work proposed does not require planning consent, it is advised that you still have the trees assessed in accordance with BS5837 to inform good design. If your tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or is located within a conservation area, legislation relating to tree protection overrides that of permitted development rights, and you risk prosecution if protected trees are damaged.

You will require the services of an arboricultural consultant to assist you with these matters.

Further information:

Will hammering a nail into a tree kill or harm the tree?

Hammering anything into a tree is intrusive and will cause harm; a tree is a living organism and an injury such as this is damaging.

The outer bark layer on a tree stem protects against disease and decay, anything that breaches it can allow the entry of harmful organisms.

The significance of any harm will depend on a number of factors such as the extent of the injury, the species and age of the tree and its overall condition.

For example, a single nail is unlikely to cause great harm to an established tree that has natural durability such as oak or sweet chestnut but it could be more harmful to a tree with lower durability such as birch or poplar.

What training & qualifications should tree workers have?

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place general duties on employers and the self-employed to provide health and safety information and training. 

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 place more specific duties on employers and the self-employed to ensure that any person who uses or supervises the use of work equipment has had adequate training.

What do they require?

Legislation requires that training is provided when first starting work, exposure to new or increased risks occurs or for refresher purposes for high risk activities or non-frequently used skills. In particular, the Approved Code of Practice accompanying PUWER, 1998 requires:

Training should be provided during normal working hours and at no cost to the employee.

Provision of Training

Training is commonly provided by a combination of in-house, college and specialist training depending upon the nature of the task involved and the required final outcome, i.e. certificates of competence etc. Where training is to be consolidated through work-based experience prior to testing the trainee should hold a recognised certificate of training and be adequately supervised by a competent person holding relevant certificates.

Due to the high risk nature of arboricultural operations it is strongly recommended that specialist instructors carry out required training.


Independent assessment is required for all professional users of chainsaws to ensure that the initial training has been fully understood and skills developed. For most advanced skills, assessment should be independent of any training (however some additional training may include integrated assessment). All such training and successful assessment will result in the award of a nationally recognised Ofqual qualification, certificate of competence, or licence to practice.

For less risky operations such as the use of woodchippers, stump grinders, MEWPS etc training and certification may be combined in an Integrated Training and Assessment package (ITA).

Any in-house training must be to the same level as the above and adequate records must be kept to demonstrate how this has been achieved.

Nationally recognised certificates of competence/licence to practice are a straightforward method of demonstrating skills for a particular operation without the need for further detailed records.

Holders of such certificates do not generally require close supervision, however ongoing monitoring of operating standards by the employer will be required, and should be recorded. It is unrealistic to expect operators who have passed certificates of competence to achieve full output until they have consolidated the skills learned.

Refresher Training

Regular refresher training should be completed by all professional users in order to maintain skills and knowledge. This will normally be every 5 years. Those who undertake operations infrequently may need more regular refresher training, every 2-3 years.

Further information:

I'm worried about the safety of my tree - can a Council's tree officer come and inspect it?

Council Tree Officers are not in post to give independent advice to the public about their trees or to recommend individual contractors or consultants.

We advise residents to seek help and advice when they are concerned from professionals who are approved by a recognised body such as the Arboricultural Association.

The Arboricultural Association has a list of Approved Contractors and Registered Consultants on our website.

I do not know who owns a tree, which is causing me concern – who do I contact?

Local Councils do not hold records of land ownership, and therefore cannot advise on the ownership of trees, you should contact the Land Registry who hold details of land ownership. A charge is made for this service.

The tree belongs to the person upon whose land it has originally grown. Even if its branches or, worse still, its roots have begun to grow over or into a neighbour’s territory, it belongs to the landowner where the tree was originally planted.

Even if the tree bears fruit or flowers on branches which overhang into your land, it’s an offence under the Theft Act 1968 to keep them or to take cuttings of flowers, for example

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Arboricultural Association
The Malthouse, Stroud Green, Standish, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10 3DL

Arboricultural Association Ltd. A company registered in England at The Malthouse, Stroud Green, Standish, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire GL10 3DL, UK. Company number 4070377.
+44 (0)1242 522152 | admin@trees.org.uk

The Arboricultural Association is a registered charity no. 1083845.

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