Guide published for quick assessment of veteran tree status

Forbes-Laird Arboricultural Consultancy principal Julian Forbes-Laird has published a "simple and rapid" guide to assessing whether individual trees meet the definition of "ancient" or "veteran" under the revised National Planning Policy Framework.

Image: Carrie Moran (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image: Carrie Moran (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Based on a hierarchy of ancient and veteran tree characteristics published by the Ancient Tree Forum, Recognition of Ancient, Veteran & Notable Trees (RAVEN) provides a checklist of recognised criteria against which to assess trees.

This method is "designed to reduce false positives", Forbes Laird said, adding that the NPPF, which was revised this summer, "is intended to protect rare and special trees - otherwise it becomes disproportionate if ‘veteran trees’ are common, and developers can’t build round them".

He said the new definition "is much more scientific and rigorous, and gives us something to work with is a systematised way".

Forbes-Laird developed RAVEN for use within his own practice, but a colleague suggested he made it free to use by anyone.

The first of its criteria is that the tree in question should be large in girth for its species, he said, adding: "It also needs a combination of features as well as size, though these should be fairly empirical."

For this it then lists "primary characteristics" of veteranisation, of which one should be present, the "secondary characteristics", of which four should be apparent if the tree is to be given protection.

The guide "has already been well received including by tree officers, who can put it in their toolkit, though those on the lobbying side are less thrilled with it", said Forbes-Laird, among whose clients are volume homebuilders and other developers.

He added: "They tend to quite responsible, and will work within constraints provided they are reasonable."

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