Choosing a tree surgeon

Anyone can set up in business and call themselves a tree surgeon or arboricultural contractor.

This page has been produced to help you choose the right person to work on your trees. The following information is for guidance only and is not a statement of the law. You should consult a solicitor if you are unsure of your legal rights or obligations.

What is Arboriculture?

Arboriculture can be defined as the cultivation, care and preservation of individual trees, tree groups and woodland, for their visual amenity (as opposed to timber production). It is often coupled with recreation and wildlife considerations.

What does an arboricultural contractor do?

A reputable arboricultural contractor will have the skills, experience and equipment needed to prune or remove trees competently and safely. They will usually also be able to carry out safety inspections and be able to advise on any pruning or other treatments needed to maintain or improve the health, safety or appearance of your trees and help you to decide when a tree needs to be removed or pruned.

Additionally, they should be able to recommend suitable species of trees for planting in a certain location, and be able to supply and plant nursery stock to a suitable standard.

Most arboricultural contractors will also be able to act as an agent and obtain any necessary consent for works that are proposed to protected trees.

Why should I employ an arboricultural contractor?

Trees are long-lived community assets and, as the owner or manager of a tree, you are responsible for its well-being. You also have a duty-of-care with regard to the safety of the tree and need to take all practicable precautions to avoid the tree causing damage to third parties.

Tree work operations require a high degree of skill supported by training and experience. Ill-advised and poorly executed tree work could leave your trees seriously harmed, disfigured, destroyed or in a dangerous condition – and you could be left with damaged property and unwanted timber and masses of prunings.

If you own or manage protected trees you could be liable to prosecution if work is carried out without permission or does not comply with the consent that has been granted. A good arboricultural contractor will ensure that they, and you as their employer, carry out tree work within the law.

Do I have to employ an arboricultural contractor to work on protected trees?

No, we cannot insist that you employ a professional arboricultural contractor to carry out works to protected trees

However, we can insist that work is carried out to a recognised standard; British Standard 3998: 2010 Recommendations for Tree Work. If work does not meet this standard the Council can take enforcement action and could initiate proceedings in the Courts and you could get a criminal record and a fine of up to £2,500.

Can Doncaster Council recommend a suitable arboricultural contractor?

No, for legal reasons Doncaster Council does not provide recommendations for arboricultural contractors.

How do I find a reputable arboricultural contractor?

Many arboricultural contractors advertise in local business directories (e.g. Yellow Pages), but this is no guarantee that work will be carried out competently or safely. Recommendations from friends, relatives or neighbours are a good starting point and give you an opportunity to see the standard of work for yourself.

A competent arboricultural contractor will have certificates to show that they have been properly trained and assessed. Always ask to see proof of qualifications, insurance and professional memberships. A reputable arboricultural contractor will be pleased to show you. We are always happy to give advice on relevant qualifications and insurance requirements.  

At all costs, avoid ‘door-knockers’ and leaflets offering bargains for performing tree work, or giving you alarming views on the safety of your tree(s). They often have no business address, only a mobile phone. Professional arboricultural contractors are usually too busy to spend time knocking on doors or leafleting.

If you have any doubts about the competence of an arboricultural contractor, do not employ them.

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Last updated: 26 September 2018 12:47:49