Trees and Telecommunications

The roll-out of 5G and the installation of new telecommunications infrastructure are certain to go ahead, so it is important that the arboricultural profession and the telecommunications industry work positively together to achieve good outcomes for both the operators and trees.

The aims of this document are twofold. Firstly, it gives guidance to telecommunications infrastructure companies, local authority planners and Tree Officers on how best to lessen the effects of installing the 5G system (and other telecommunications infrastructure) on trees by emphasising that trees are a material consideration as part of the planning process. This is important in order to ensure that the installation of new telecommunications equipment avoids direct harm to existing trees and minimises future requests for tree pruning or removal at a time when tree retention is of vital importance to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Secondly, this document provides guidance on processing requests for tree pruning as a result of conflict between existing telecommunications equipment and tree canopies.

This guidance was written by representatives from the Association of Tree Officers, Thames Valley Tree Officer Forum, West Sussex Tree Officer Group, Municipal Tree Officers Association, the London Tree Officers Association and the Arboricultural Association. The individual representatives were Sarah Hanson, Reading Borough Council, Julie Bolton, West Sussex County Council, Andrew Shervill, Derby City Council, Lynden Reed, Enfield Council, Mark Taylor, Bexley Council, Richard Edwards, Croydon Council, Peter Howson, Liverpool City Council, Al Smith, ATO Director and John Parker, Arboricultural Association.

The guidance is available to download here (PDF)

Telecommunications Appeal decisions

The unacceptable impact of telecommunications planning applications can be for a variety of tree or landscape reasons, e.g. harm to the character of an area where trees or the treescape is important, direct harm to the root system, a requirement to prune to allow for the equipment, foreseeable future pressure to prune or fell, or simply because the applicant has provided no, or insufficient, arboricultural information.

It is perfectly acceptable for Tree Officers to offer objections to such applications and encourage the Planning Department to support those concerns. Officers will need to provide clear justification for their objections, quoting national and local policy and making reference to any other adopted documents, e.g. Tree Strategies – this helps planning officers to better understand the concerns and relate those to sound reasons for refusal.

The following are examples of appeal decisions where the planning application has been refused (partly) on tree grounds and the appeals have been dismissed. These demonstrate that the Planning Inspectorate is willing to support such refusals and this should encourage Tree Officers, and enable these examples to be brought to the attention of any Planning Department who may be wary of refusals on tree grounds.

Planning application Ref 210597 in example 1 below.  Issue: Impact on street trees and TPO trees – lack of arb info to demonstrate no harm, inaccurate tree info.

Planning application Ref 199499 in example 2 below.  Issues: Character and appearance of the area, including the effect on Prospect Park (high treescape value) and on nearby highway trees (direct impact of installation & future pressure to prune).

Planning application Ref 220587 in example 3 below.  Issues: Character and Appearance (including impact on trees in a Conservation Area); Alternative sites.

Planning application Ref 230071 in example 4 below.  Issues: Character and Appearance; Designated Open Space; Impact on mature Council Oak tree; Alternative sites.

Example 1 (PDF)

Example 2 (PDF)

Example 3 (PDF)

Example 4 (PDF)