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A guide to employing a tree surgery contractor

All tree owners are responsible for ensuring that their trees are in a safe and healthy condition and are not a liability to persons or property in the vicinity. To do this, you will, at some stage, need the services of a competent and well trained tree surgeon (arborist).

Anyone can claim to be able to carry out tree work, but to do the job properly entails a lot more than just having a certificate to use a chain saw. The future health of your trees depends on the pruning being done by someone who understands their biology and how they respond to each cut. Poor pruning can cause damage that will last for the life of the tree - and can often reduce its life span. A competent contractor will need to be technically proficient and experienced, having undertaken the appropriate training. They will be able to give advice on safe and effective pruning to maintain good tree health and structure.

What qualifications should a tree surgery contractor have?

There are various levels of qualification for tree work but the industry standards include the NPTC (National Proficiency Test Council) certificates of competence in Chainsaw Operations CS30.1 and CS30.2 and Tree climbing and Aerial Rescue, ACTR02 Units 01 and 02. More advanced qualifications, such as National Diplomas and Certificates give a much more complete understanding of appropriate work for the situation and will enable the contractor to work to current best practice, British Standard 3998. This is essential, particularly when dealing with trees that are subject to a Tree Preservation Order. All arborists must comply with Health and Safety regulations and that includes regular examinations of their safety clothing, climbing equipment, ropes and machinery (LOLER checks) with records to show these have been carried out. They must provide for the safety of others and use warning signs, barriers and cones when working adjacent to the public highway. They should also ideally have a First Aid at Work certificate.

How much insurance should a tree surgery contractor have?

All contractors must also be adequately insured and cover for £5 million is the accepted level required. Always ask to see their current Certificate of Insurance for Public Liability and Employers Liability and, ideally, references from recent customers. It is advisable to obtain at least two quotations. These should be in writing and should include the name, address and a land-line telephone number, a clear description of the work to be undertaken with reference to BS 3998, what will happen to the debris and protection measures for your property where necessary. It should also clearly state whether VAT is included.

Remember - reputable contractors do not generally knock on doors looking for work and should be able to provide copies of their insurance, qualifications and professional memberships. They will be aware of, and work to, nationally recognised standards. Further information can be obtained from the Arboricultural Association and the International Society of Arboriculture.

What if my tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order?

If your trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order, permission from the Council is required before carrying out any tree surgery work whatsoever. This permission can be obtained either by yourself, as owner, or by the contractor, as your agent. Failure to gain consent could lead to prosecution of both parties.

What if I live in a Conservation Area?

If your property is within a Conservation Area at least 6 weeks notice of the work you wish to have done must be given to the Council. Again, failure to comply with this requirement could lead to prosecution. Application forms are available to download from this website or contact the Planning Policy Section at the address given below.

Who to contact about trees

For advice about whether your tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order:

  • Eden District Council
    Planning Policy, Mansion House, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 7YG
    Telephone: (01768) 817817
    Fax: (01768) 890732

  • Arboriculturist
    (Thursday and Friday only)
    Telephone: (01768) 212159

  • Planning Technician
    General Enquiries
    Telephone: (01768) 212161

For general information and advice on felling trees in the countryside:

  • Forestry Commission
    Peil Wyke
    Bassenthwaite Lake
    Cockermouth Cumbria CA13 9BR
    Enquiries: (017687) 76616

For advice on trees within the Lake District National Park:

  • Lake District National Park Authority
    Murley Moss
    Oxenholme Road
    Kendal Cumbria LA9 7RL
    Enquiries: (01539) 792614
Setting sun shining through tree branches

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