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A guide to employing a tree work contractor


All tree owners are responsible for ensuring that their trees are in a safe, healthy condition and are not a liability to persons or property and therefore may need the services of a competent and well trained arborist (tree surgeon).

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 arborist 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?

NPTC/LANTRA Awards certificates for chain saw use are compulsory. Further information can be obtained from the NPTC City and Guilds and Lantra.

More advanced qualifications include certificates and diplomas in arboriculture that help to give a much more complete understanding of appropriate work for the situation and will enable the contractor to work to the latest version of 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 be trained in First Aid with a current certificate.

How much insurance should a tree surgery contractor have?

Always ask to see their current certificates of Insurance for Employers Liability and Public Liability, the recommended minimum level of cover is £5 million.


Contractors should be willing to provide a written quotation and it is advisable to obtain at least two. A written quotation should include the contractor’s name, address and contact telephone number, a clear description of the work to be undertaken with reference to BS 3998, what will happen to the timber and other arisings, what happens to the stumps, who will check if the trees are protected and protection measures for your property where necessary (the risk assessment). It should also clearly state whether VAT is included and how long the quotation is valid for. It is also worth requesting contact details of recent customers/referees to see examples of their work.

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, British Standard 3998. 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 you must give a minimum of six weeks written notice to the Council of any work to a tree with a stem diameter of 75mm or greater when measured at 1.5m above ground level. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in prosecution. 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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