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Trees, woodlands and high hedges

Tree management

Trees and woodlands improve the appearance of the borough, they reduce air pollution and provide a habitat for wildlife and resource for recreation. They have also been shown to improve recovery rates from illness and contribute to mental well-being. We have policies in place to retain the existing trees and woodlands as well as to increase the tree and woodland cover throughout the borough.

Management of trees within areas of council-managed public open space and highways

We carry out work in accordance with the guidance and standards indicated within the St Helens Borough Council  Tree Policy 2021 (PDF) [5MB]

If you have a query about trees that lie within adopted highways or within areas of public open space, please get in touch with us using our online form:

Make an enquiry

If you need immediate advice please call our Contact Centre on 01744 676789 and our advisers will be happy to help you.


Development affecting trees

Where proposed development impacts on existing trees or woodland, a tree survey and arboricultural impact assessment (to BS5837 (2012)) is required to assess the impact on the existing resource.

Proposals affecting existing trees and woodlands will not normally be permitted if they would result in significant loss of trees, do not incorporate measures for the successful retention of existing trees or do not make adequate provision for replacement planting to compensate for any losses. The planting of new trees and woodlands is encouraged and will normally be a requirement of planning permission.

The felling of trees will normally need permission from the Forestry Commission. A licence is required under the Forestry Act 1967 (as amended) for the felling of growing trees except in certain circumstances.

Failure to protect trees during development can result in trees being permanently damaged within minutes of site works commencing. Root damage caused by soil compression, for instance, may go unnoticed yet could have serious repercussions for the tree. It is important therefore to understand the vulnerability of trees. Damage to stems and branches are not usually sufficient to kill a tree, but may make it unsafe by affecting the balance of the crown or by encouraging decay; such damage may also be disfiguring.

The most susceptible part of the tree to damage is the root system. Most of a tree's root system is within the top 600mm of the soil surface, where the balance of moisture, oxygen and nutrients necessary for survival are found. Tree roots are highly branched and form a network of small diameter woody roots, which typically radiate outwards for a distance greater than the height of the tree. All parts of this system bear a mass of fine none-woody absorptive roots (less than 0.5mm in diameter), which is where water and minerals are uptaken.

All parts of the root system, but especially the fine roots, are vulnerable to damage, which will restrict water and nutrient uptake until new ones have grown. Mature and post-mature trees recover slowly, if at all, from damage to their woody roots.

The root system and soil bound within it acts as a structural counter-balance to the above-ground parts of a tree. Excavation within the rooting zone can impair this, even when major roots have not been severed.

Potentially damaging operations include:

  • Excavation within the rooting zone
  • Raising or lowering of ground levels
  • Compaction of the soil by construction works, site machinery or vehicles and the storage of materials and debris (even a single passage by heavy equipment on clay soils can compact the ground and reduce diffusion and root effectiveness)
  • The dumping or spillage of toxic materials
  • The installation of impermeable surfacing
  • Direct damage to trunks and branches by construction vehicles
  • Fires built closer than 20 metres from the base of any tree.

Please contact the Trees and Woodland Officer, Antony (Thomas) Brandreth for further advice about development and tree protection on 01744 676189 or email