Amenity Tree Valuation
What is a tree worth?
There are a variety of views on how amenity trees can and should be valued and thus answers to the question "What is a tree worth?" can be predicted to cover a range often with no consistency. In professional circles this is not surprising as there is relatively little professional guidance resulting in confusion and possible controversy over what methods to use. This can lead to experts providing poor quality advice to clients and to disputes being resolved on the basis of misleading advice. Getting the best advice early on in any dispute can be valuable.
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 and is a member of the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers UK Plant Appraisal Committee. 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.
The need to value trees typically arises for one of several different reasons - damage by a third party leading to a civil claim (potentially & ultimately) in court but more often than not settled out-of-court, an insurance claim, development of public policy, justification of a council's budget to name only the most likely ones.
Estimates of value can only really come from arborists as they are the only professionals able to estimate the life expectancy and current condition of a tree. However, arboricultural courses (including degrees) have only a limited covering of valuation practices and virtually no education on valuation principles including matters of accountancy, economics, surveying and the law. This can lead to problems as arborists attempt to provide "expert" advice. Some may have been on single day trainings (or several of such training days) including the course I run over two days.
Because of the small value of most tree value compensation claims they rarely make it to court and even more infrequently make it to the appeal court. Thus we are dependent on only two recent Court of Appeal cases that give us guidance on what how a law court might judge such claims
1) Scutt v Lomax (2000) - a transcript of the case is available but otherwise only available via law reports.
2) Bryant v Macklin  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.
Arborists have developed four groups of methods of 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".
If your vegetation has been damaged by a third party, by an accident or storm it is worthwhile having a professional valuation undertaken in order to inform any resulting action whether it be a civil or insurance claim. This can dramatically strengthen your hand in obtaining compensation. Occasionally, the police may be involved in pursuing a criminal damage prosecution and the value of the damage will determine whether the prosecution is heard by magistrates or is transferred to the Crown Court.
Dr Jon Heuch has appeared as an amenity tree valuation expert in the Crown Court. He has dealt with 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 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).
One particular type of claim that arises is when a tree owned by a local authority/council is damaged. Tree officers employed by councils may encourage the value of such loss to be determined by their CAVAT valuation system. This is well known to over-value large trees and may lead to claims for damages that would not be supported by the courts, if the claim ever progressed that far. As most claims are relatively small (<£5,000) lawyers may encourage a negotiated settlement but based on the inflated claim from the Council. Dr Jon Heuch has experience of providing valuation advice to courts as an expert witness.
Telephone 01233 713 657 to receive a preliminary confidential review of your case.