Amenity Tree Valuation

What is a tree worth?

You're probably reading this because you either own a damaged tree & seek compensation or because you have damaged a tree and someone is seeking compensation from you.

Tree Owners

Ultimately, compensation is determined by a court but, on the basis that few trees are worth a day in court (outside of the small claims court, budget on the tens of thousands of £) few tree cases get to court. Most tree claims are thus resolved prior to an appearance in court, although lawyers may be engaged.

The question therefore is how to get matters resolved with both sides seeing that the figure involved is fair.

As a bare minimum, compensation for costs incurred should be possible - professional advice, tree surgery and a replacement tree.....but the most significant cost is the size of the replacement tree. Practical considerations are often most important as, whilst semi-mature trees may be available from specialist nurseries, they require access by machinery (they are large and heavy!) and this is often not possible in rear gardens, for example. Costs increase dramatically with increasing tree size and the resultant costs have to be justified. A useful thing to consider is how much money would you spend on a tree replacement, forgetting for the moment that someone else or an insurance company may be paying.

Damaged a tree or need to pay compensation for another reason?

Trees can be damaged by various means - vehicles, excavation, deliberate, criminal damage via trespass, chemical escape (particular oil) - or possibly "damage" is planned and a tree has to be removed for a deliberate purpose.

Unfortunately, the law as determined by the courts have diverged from what councils believe their trees are worth. The court of appeal, with their feet very much on the ground, has made its views known in the following two cases:

1) Scutt v Lomax (2000) - a transcript of the case is available but otherwise only available via law reports.

2) Bryant v Macklin [2005] EWCA Civ 762 available at  http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2005/762.html

Both cases developed some head of steam as the defendants in their respective cases chose to ignore the legal process or failed to attend court.

The Bryant v Macklin case deals with damage to mature trees by a neighbour's livestock, but was prolonged by less than clear expert advice.

Several councils on the other hand have adopted a valuation system called CAVAT. It places very high values on relatively small trees and enormous values on large trees. Inevitably, such values are never a burden to any particular value, only when money is extracted from third parties. There are various reasons why this system should be questioned.

Unfortunately, the arboricultural profession are untrained & inexperienced in valuation issues and thus there should be no surprise when experts provide variable and sometimes poor quality advice to clients  Getting the best valuation advice early on in any dispute can be invaluable.

Duramen's principal consultant, Dr Jon Heuch , has developed the only bespoke LANTRA accredited training course on amenity tree valuation to arboricultural consultants, tree officers and landscape architects. He is a Chartered Forester & practices as an arboricultural consultant. His qualifications include an MBA, PhD and BSc(For.). He served as a Trustee of the Arboricultural Association 2007 - 2016 and was Chairman 2009-2010.

Arborists have developed four groups of methods for considering value - Helliwell, CAVAT and CTLA & i Tree. The Royal Institutions of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has reviewed three of them and concluded "they can arrive at substantially differing figures" and "great care is likely to be needed in recognising that each method has been formulated for a particular application and on a particular methodological basis".

Dr Jon Heuch has appeared as an amenity tree valuation expert in the Crown Court. He has dealt with valuation claims in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As a double graduate of a Scottish University (Aberdeen) he is well aware that the Scots have their own legal system.

He has experience of advising insurance companies, loss adjusters and owners of vegetation with regards to appropriate methods for estimating monetary value for their particular case. However, knowledge of valuation first principles underlying valuation techniques makes his valuations robust and less likely to be queried. He has undertaken training from RICS on valuation methods.

He has also been involved with several Regulation 24 compensation claims arising from Tree Preservation Order tree work decisions (sometimes referred to as section 202E of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990).

Telephone 01233 713 657 to receive a preliminary confidential review of your case.