Tree Valuation - what is a tree worth?

There is considerable interest currently on how amenity trees can and should be valued. However there is some confusion and controversy on what methods to use and potential wide variation in figures produced. This can lead to experts providing poor quality advice to clients and to disputes being resolved on the basis of misleading advice.

Dr Jon Heuch provides training on tree valuation to arboricultural consultants and is a member of the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers UK Plant Appraisal Committee.

The need to value trees arises for several different reasons - damage by a third party, an insurance claim, development of public policy, justification of a council's budget to name the most likely ones. Arborists have no academic training on valuation matters and may attempt to provide valuation advice on the basis of a single day's training (or several of such training days). Valuation of amenity trees is a matter that can be addressed from the view of an accountant, a surveyor or an economist. It is a surprise to many arborists that different professions will come up with different valuation approaches and thus widely differing estimates of value. The results are not a suprise to those with any experience in valuation:

Bryant v Macklin [2005] EWCA Civ 762

available at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2005/762.html

provides some useful guidance on how a law court might deal with a compensation claim when mature trees are damaged by a neighbour, and also the pitfalls of providing expert advice.

Arborists have developed three different methods of considering value - Helliwell, CAVAT and CTLA. The Royal Institutions of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has recently reviewed 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. This can dramatically strengthen your hand in obtaining compensation.

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