Rural Hub
Back

Developing a tree risk strategy – advice for landowners

2 mins

Many landowners have seen a massive rise in the number of people wanting to walk in the countryside as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, so now is a good time for farms and estates to review their tree management strategy.

The Health and Safety Executive reports that every year between five and six people in the UK are killed when trees or branches fall on them.

This is a tragedy for anyone affected, but considering the vast number of trees there are in the country – and the UK’s population density – the overall risk of anyone dying after being struck by a tree is still extremely low.

However, landowners need to be aware of tree risk management and have an understanding of their liabilities if something does go wrong.

This is particularly important given farms and estates are likely to be facing an increase in tree failures because of Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus).

The fungus is expected to infect 80% of the UK’s ash trees, leading to their decline over a number of years until the tree eventually dies.

A tree risk strategy can be an evolving process, but key considerations include:

  • A landowner has responsibility, under both the civil and criminal law, for the health and safety of those on or near the land and has potential liabilities arising from a falling tree, branch or structural failure
  • The HSE acknowledges that inspecting and recording every tree would be disproportionate to the risk involved, so landowners are encouraged to use a common-sense, risk-based approach. Once such system is the well-used VTA (visual tree assessment) technique. This is based on a negative reporting system i.e. only trees with a visual defect or other likelihood of failure are recorded.
  • Any strategy should be a working document and adaptable to changing conditions, but key questions should include survey frequency and whether trees are in a public place or a high occupancy area.
  • National Tree Safety Group guidance suggests zoning land according to levels of use, so proactive tree inspections are focused on those areas where there is the greatest risk. Low risk zones, where there is no public access, may only require irregular inspections, if at all.
  • For trees in a frequently visited zone, a system of periodic checks is appropriate. A detailed inspection is best done by an appropriately competent specialist.  A benchmark is the Lantra Level 3 PTI – Professional Tree Inspector.
  • The type of checks, frequency of checks and competency of surveyor would all be issues examined by the courts should injury or damage occur due to a tree failure. Landowners must be aware that their tree safety regime needs to be robust and defensible in court should the worst happen.
  • Carrying out the checks/survey is only half the job. If the recommended works are not carried out within the recommended timescale the landowner may be seen by the courts as negligent, so it is important to act on any findings.
Oliver Thompson
Associate Director
Central & North West
01844319829
Send a message to Oliver Thompson
2 mins

Related Articles

06.09.2021

Tree Health pilot scheme opens in England

Land managers in England with trees or woodlands affected by some specific pests and diseases may be eligible to take part in a new pilot Tree Health Scheme. The three-year pilot scheme will initially focus on tackling trees and woodland affected by ash dieback, Phytophthora ramorum in larch or sweet chestnut, sweet chestnut blight and […]
03.09.2021

A quick guide to Defra’s Landscape Recovery Scheme

Defra has shared details of its Landscape Recovery Scheme pilot – the ‘top tier’ of the three different Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes in development. The Landscape Recovery Scheme will be available in England to support the delivery of landscape and ecosystem recovery through long-term (20 years +), land use change projects, including projects to […]
13.08.2021

Book tickets for 2021 UK Forest Market Report

Forestry is in the political and media spotlight like never before, but how is this increased awareness of the potential of trees affecting the UK commercial forestry and woodland investment market? The government has an annual UK planting target of 30,000ha of new trees to 2050, with the forestry and woodland sector regarded as having […]
03.08.2021

Businesses we admire: Deene Park Estate

Deene Park Estate in Northamptonshire has opened up new income streams by working with its tenants to implement a whole-estate plan for Countryside Stewardship. When one of your ancestors led the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War, it is perhaps not surprising to find the pioneering spirit still alive and well in […]

Talk to us

Want to talk to us about our rural specialisms? Send us a message and we will make sure it gets to the right person.

Please write your name
Please write a message

Sign up

Sign up to be notified when we launch new publications so you’re always ahead of the research.

Please write your name
Please write a correct email address
Send me updates about
Please tick a box