Selecting a tree surgeon

We recommend that tree work should only be carried out by well trained and competent tree surgeons. This is because trees take many years to grow and can be destroyed or disfigured within a few minutes through poor work. Poor tree works can lead to:  

  • injury to people
  • damage to property
  • costly re-pruning
  • irrevocable damage to your trees

Tree surgery is a highly skilled profession and a good tree surgeon (also known as an arborist) will have spent several years training and gaining experience to become competent.

How to choose with confidence

Some tree surgeons are members of the Arboricultural Association ARB approved contractor scheme which assesses (and reassesses at regular intervals) their competency to provide arboricultural services to clients. The scheme is searchable by postcode or contractor name on trees.org.uk Find out more information on the scheme.

Other arborists may be equally competent but not belong to one of the schemes. If so, you may wish to follow the guidelines below to help you choose the right tree surgeon for you.

Always ask for a written quotation.
We recommend you obtain three quotations if you can. If any of the companies refuse to supply a written quotation, reject them.

Ask to see evidence of insurance.
The current recommendation is £5m Employers and Public Liability cover.

What qualifications do they hold?
It is compulsory that tree surgeons have NPTC certificates for chainsaw use. A competent arborist will be able to show you their A4 certificate or plastic ID card.

Do they work to a recognised standard?
Tree surgeons should work to British Standard 3998:2010. This is particularly important if they are carrying out work to a protected tree. Failure to adhere to the British Standard could result in the prosecution of the tree surgeon or tree owner. More information on protected trees can be found here.

Agree a written specification.
We recommend you agree a written specification giving full and clear details of the work to be undertaken, before work begins. This will include information about what will happen to the debris, whether VAT is included, who will check whether the tree is protected, if the tree is protected, who will obtain any necessary permission for the work and what steps will be taken to protect you and your property.

Written reports, tree surveys and advice

If you require a written report on your tree or technical or legal advice on tree related matters you should consider using an arboricultural consultant. The Arboricultural Association provides a list of registered consultants. In addition, the Institute of Chartered Foresters maintains a directory of forestry and arboricultural consultants.

An arboricultural consultant can also provide you with a tree survey if you need one as part of a planning application.


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