Planting trees on the highway

The UK government has committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and on 9 July 2019 the council followed suit by declaring a 'Climate Emergency'.

As part of our overall response to this, Surrey County Council has committed to facilitate the planting of 1.2 million trees – one for every Surrey resident – by 2030.

Surrey County Council has a number of pressures on the Highways budget, but will consider locations proposed by individuals as well as groups. This page explains how residents and organisations can apply for trees to be planted outside their own property or on local areas of large highway verge.

Full details can be found on Appendix 4 of Surrey's New Trees Strategy (PDF).


Who can apply to plant trees?

While in the past permission was only granted to other councils within Surrey and not to the general public, now any resident or organisation within Surrey can apply for trees to be planted outside their own property or on local areas of large highway verge.

Applicants will need to show that they have consulted adjacent properties, if there any within the proposed planting location.

What are the costs?

There is a £25 non-refundable fee for the application, to cover a single location up to 50m in length. This covers administrative tasks, including stats plans (showing underground utility equipment in the area) and a site suitability survey.

The cost of planting a tree will vary but is expected to be between £200 and £300 per tree when planted on a grass verge.

This cost can be met by an individual, a group such as a Residents Association or by Surrey County Council. As part of our initial assessment of each application, we will confirm whether we are able to fund the tree planting, or if this will need to be funded privately.

Costs may be more if the tree planting cannot be grouped together with other trees, if a very specific tree species is chosen or the location is on a wide pavement which will require an engineering solution.

How do I apply?

Please apply using our online form:

Apply to plant a tree

You will need to provide the following documents as part of your application;

  • Watering plan
  • A map or location plan, if you wish to supply this in addition to a written location
  • Views from adjacent property owners (if there are any)
  • £10 million public liability insurance (only required if you intend to use your own contractor)
  • Evidence of New Roads and Streetworks Act (NRSWA) qualification(only required if you intend to use your own contractor)

What happens next

When we receive your application, the location will be assessed by an Engineer who is familiar with the area. It will also be assessed by an Arboriculture Officer, who will be looking at the proposed size and species (if you have requested a specific one), and discuss funding and aftercare of the tree with you. We aim to carry out the initial assessment within 28 days.

What we check for when we look at the proposed location

We will be checking that;

  • there is space for the tree (see section below)
  • there are no street light columns nearby (5 metres)
  • there are no overhead cables that a mature tree might reach
  • it would be in character with the localised street scene
  • there are no underground pipes or cables nearby
  • the tree will not block sight lines at bends or junctions, or block the view of traffic lights or signs

Space for the tree

A tree needs a minimum of 1.1m width (as measured from the kerb) to provide space for it to be planted, or more depending on the tree size. We also need a further 1.6m clear width on the pavement to ensure pedestrians can pass safely.

When will the tree be planted?

Requests for tree planting can be accepted at any time of the year, however trees will normally be planted between November and December.

Common tree orders need to be placed with the tree supplier by February, the year of planting, in order to secure those trees for that year. Please therefore ensure that applications are submitted well in advance, to enable us to carry out assessments.

Specific trees may require 2-3 years notice, in order that a nursery can grow and develop them to a suitable size.

Can my request be turned down?

Surrey County Council will endeavour to respond positively to tree and shrub planting requests, and each request will be considered on its merits

In some cases planting cannot be carried out due to lack of space, overhead cables, street lights, signs, road visibility and underground services.

Where the site is suitable but Surrey County Council Highways are unable to fund the tree planting, individuals and groups would need to raise the funds to ensure the planting can be progressed.

Who actually plants and cares for the trees?

Trees will be planted by a Surrey County Council Highways approved contractor. The initial maintenance of the tree of up to 2 years, which will include a regular watering programme, will remain with the named individual on the initial tree application.

The tree will belong to Surrey County Council once planted, and Surrey County Council will be responsible long-term for its ongoing maintenance.

Residents may, by exception, arrange their own planting of a tree. However, the contractor must have £10 million public liability insurance, be qualified to work on the highway and have robust health and safety processes in place.

All trees and their locations must be approved by the Highway Arboriculture Team through the above process before any works take place.

What are the terms and conditions?

There are a number of conditions that must be agreed by the applicant. Please ensure you agree with the below conditions before submitting your application;

  • The application fee is non-refundable
  • You have read and understood Appendix 4 of Surrey's New Trees Strategy (PDF)
  • Be able to commit to the maintenance associated with establishing the new tree. The minimum commitment is normally for two years
  • Accept that the tree will be managed to highway standards as it matures, which is aimed at minimum intervention. Pruning will only take place if necessary to reduce risk of harm being caused to the highway users due to hazards or obstruction
  • Agree the location of the tree with our Highways Maintenance Engineer who will confirm the location is suitable for planting or propose an alternative, if available
  • Agree the species with the county council's Arboricultural specialist, prior to agreeing to plant a particular tree for the customer

Files available to download