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Planting trees on the highway

Generally, we don't remove trees from highway land unless they are unsafe or they are causing significant damage. If we have to remove trees and provision for their replacement is available, we will make sure that any replacement plantings are suitable for the location, and can be maintained at minimal cost.

Who can apply for permission to plant trees?

Permission will only be granted to other councils within Surrey and not to the general public, as Highway law only allows for public bodies to be granted a licence to plant trees on highway land.

If you are a member of the public and would like to plant on the highway, you must contact your local Borough, District or Parish Council to see if they are willing to make an application on your behalf.

Costs may vary depending on the location, species and maintenance among other factors, which would need to be discussed with the relevant council.

How do I apply for permission?

If you are a local Council please use the planting on the highway request form. We will only process applications from local councils (borough, district, parish or town councils only).

What are the terms and conditions?

There are a number of conditions that must be met by the Council making the application;

  • The member of public, on whose behalf the application is being made, must be the owner or occupier of the property next to a suitable verge wide enough to accommodate a tree without risk of damage to a highway path
  • 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
  • The licensed authority must cover the cost of grass verge reinstatement or replacement should the tree be lost due to natural causes, or damage, however caused
  • 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. You can download our list of approved trees at the bottom of this page.

What we check when we look at the proposed location?

  • That there is space for the tree
  • That there are no street light columns nearby (5 metres)
  • That there are no overhead cables that a mature tree might reach
  • It would be in character with the localised street scene
  • That there are no underground pipes or cables nearby
  • That 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 1.1metres width (as measured from the kerb) to provide space for it to be planted. We also need a further 1.6metre clear width on the pavement to ensure pedestrians can pass safely.

We also check that a tree could not damage nearby surfaces and structures.

What happens if nearby residents object to the tree planting?

Where the planting is borderline between properties, the applicant is responsible for ensuring adjacent owners are in agreement.

What if I have any queries?

If you have any queries, please use the highways contact details to get in touch.

Files available to download