Trees are a major part of Surrey's identity
Surrey is England's most wooded county, with approximately 42,091 hectares. This makes up around 24% of the total land in Surrey compared to the 10% national average.
Approximately 21% is mixed deciduous, beech and yew woodland, with the remaining 3% being conifers. This includes beech hangers on the North Downs, historic yew groves, extensive wooded Low Wealden ghylls, Box Hill's nationally significant native box trees and more.
Protecting our woodland heritage
We recognise the huge importance of our woodland heritage and the biodiversity, health, wellbeing and climate change benefits that it provides for all residents. However, significant challenges threaten the health and viability of much of the woodlands and trees in Surrey and nationally.
The most diverse woodland in Surrey is the ancient broadleaved and mixed woodland, which played an essential role in providing timber for local areas, harvested on a regular rotational basis. Since the decline in demand for home grown wood in the last 100 or so years, many wooded areas have not always been managed as woodlands and lack of management has led to a decline in biodiversity, and in some cases extinction of local species for example some woodland butterflies. The rise in the deer population and diseases such as ash dieback and oak processionary moth have all led to a worsening of the problem.
Climate change is making the situation worse with the impact of hotter, drier summers and more severe storms. Such unprecedented circumstances require a much more positive and active approach to how we manage our woodland and trees if we are to maintain Surrey's status as the most wooded county in England.
A new approach is needed. This new suite of tree and woodland management policies described below seeks to not only manage tree risk and enable the planting of more trees and the creation of new woodland, but will also seek to support better woodland management and tree establishment, with the express aim of increasing biodiversity and encouraging a more rapid increase in woodland nature recovery.
Tree and woodland management policies
Tree and Woodland Management Framework
The Tree and Woodland Management Framework will provide the strategic context for how we proactively manage trees and wooded areas for nature and people, enhancing biodiversity and supporting residents to experience the wealth of health and wellbeing benefits.
Our evolving Land Management Policy sets out how we manage and use the land we own and works together with our Tree Management Policy Strategy Statement. Both documents directly feed into the following 3 policies and plans:
- Tree planting and woodland enhancement plan
- Tree risk management policy
- 10-year Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) woodlands restoration plans
Tree Planting and Woodland Enhancement Plan
Our plan will update the existing Tree Strategy and will have a dual purpose of tree planting and woodland management.
The policy will:
- Have a greater focus on nature recovery and increasing biodiversity. The policy will also have a stronger emphasis on natural tree and woodland establishment to compliment large scale planting of new trees (whips).
- Encourage more community orchards and Miyawaki Forests and form a key strand of the emerging Land Management Policy.
- Have a much greater emphasis on the importance of urban and street trees, working more closely with local Tree Wardens to reverse the decline of urban trees.
Tree Risk Management Policy
Our Tree Risk Management Policy (PDF) defines our proactive approach to managing trees and the associated benefits and risks. It applies to trees under our ownership and management. It also refers to those trees which are not in our ownership or management but could pose a safety risk to people or property in locations that are owned or managed by us.
Biodiversity, nature recovery and resident wellbeing as well as health and safety to people and property will be taken into consideration when managing Surrey's trees. Where possible trees will not be felled where other access can feasibly be reduced or restricted to reduce risk and allow felling to occur naturally.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Woodlands Restoration Plans
This will strengthen our approach to managing protected woodlands with the aim of bringing their condition to favourable. The existing ten year woodland management plans are being updated in 2023 to reflect current challenging situations in relation to new diseases and climate change as well as the developing Nature Recovery Strategy.