Insurance agreement designed to tackle disputes over street trees

Local authorities, arborists and insurance firms devise protocol to prevent unnecessary removal of street trees

Local authorities are working with the insurance industry on a protocol designed to prevent street trees from being removed unnecessarily in cases of subsidence. The insurance industry has come under fire in the past for recommending that vast numbers of trees are unsuitable for their location and should be taken down. One insurer, Zurich, was criticised when it issued guidance saying that oak and elm trees created a potential hazard if they were within 30m of any building. To prevent disputes between the insurance industry, the public and local authorities, a value will be assigned to trees based on their contribution to the local environment. The value will depend on the species, the tree’s condition and its location. The protocol, outlining the exact method of valuing trees, is being drawn up by a “subsidence forum” comprising the major insurers and a select group of arboricultural consultants, loss adjusters and lawyers. The forum is working closely with local authority body the London Tree Officers’ Association. Zurich Insurance subsidence claims manager John Parvin is chairman of the forum. He explained: “If a tree with a notional value of £10,000 causes subsidence costing £2,000 then we will repair the damage and keep the tree. “If a tree is worth under £2,000, it’s better to remove it.” He added that in many cases, problems disappeared once the offending tree was removed. He said the protocol, which is being trialled in the London Borough of Barnet, could be in use across Britain within months. He added: “We hope this will result in fewer misunderstandings.” Barnet Council head tree officer Andy Tipping said: “It seems a useful system. We are currently surveying around 400 trees a day.”

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