Trees, hedges and woodland are key features of Devon’s landscape, yet are subject to constant pressures due to both natural and human influences. They provide significant aesthetic, amenity and ecology benefits, and help to contribute to a healthier environment and healthy population.
To find out more about Devon’s trees, hedges and woodland, please select the relevant link from the menu below:
Why Devon's trees, hedges and woodland are important
Trees, hedges and woodland are an integral part of Devon’s countryside and towns, and they provide multiple benefits to society, including filtering air pollution, reducing surface water runoff /contributing to sustainable drainage, providing wildlife habitats, improving water quality and the stabilising of soils and slopes.
Devon’s hedges are particularly special. They are of great historical importance, define the county’s beautiful farmed landscapes, and support an immense amount of wildlife. The Devon Hedge Group website provides information on Devon’s hedges are why they are so important for biodiversity and landscape.
Also of special value are Devon’s orchards, Ancient Woodland, veteran trees & ancient pasture woodland as they form part of its historic landscapes, including many historic parkland estates and deigned landscapes. Download the Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Guide which explains what ancient & veteran trees are and why they are important. Also visit the Ancient Tree Inventory, which allows users to search, submit and update records for ancient/veteran trees.
Trees, hedges and woodland are also key parts of our green infrastructure in and around cities and towns – visit the Devon County Council GI strategy
Guidance on establishing new trees and hedges
For guidance on establishing new trees, Devon County Council has recently produced a guidance document on ensuring the successful establishment of street trees, which provides a wealth of information on tree establishment and long term protection.
The Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) has also produced a number of useful documents on the establishment of trees within urban areas. One such document is the Tree Species Selection for Green Infrastructure: A Guide for Specifiers, which looks to improve species selection so that urban designers can provide our towns and cities with diverse and resilient palette of trees that are capable of thriving in challenging urban environments. Please also visit Trees in Townscapes: A Guide for Decision Makers and Trees in Hard Landscapes: A Guide for Delivery for further information.
The Forestry Commission has also produced a Tree Care Guide to help with the establishment and growth of planted trees. The Woodland Trust has also produced a wide range of helpful guidance in creating and establishing woodland.
The Forestry Commission has also produced an Urban Tree Manual that provides advice on selecting and procuring the right tree for the right place in urban areas. It also highlights long term issues of the threats to existing trees from pests, disease and climate change, and describes the benefits to the environment and for the wellbeing that urban trees can provide.
For guidance on establishing new hedges and hedgerow trees, please visit the Devon Hedge Group website.
Ash dieback and other threats to Devon's trees, hedges and woodland
Devon’s trees, hedges and woodland are subject to constant pressures arising from both natural and human sources. These include urban expansion, the effects of climate change, management neglect, alterations to agricultural practices, and risks posed by pests and diseases introduced from other parts of the world.
Future climate change could lead to a change in the frequency of extreme weather events, such as strong winds, winter storms and droughts. This will put significant stress on many of our native trees and hedge species that are not adapted to such extreme conditions.
The threat from introduced pests and diseases to our trees, hedges and woodlands has never been greater. You can reduce the risk of further contamination and spreading of harmful insects, bacterial and fungal organisms by employing good biosecurity measures. The Forestry Commission provide guidance on biosecurity and preventing the introduction and spread of harmful organisms – pests, pathogens or invasive species. For general guidance, DEFRA’s publication Tree Management Plan (April 2014) gives further information.
A current major threat to Devon’s trees, hedges and woodland is arising from the spread of ash dieback throughout the county. For more information, including a call for action now to combat this disease in Devon, please visit the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum website
Protection of Devon's trees, hedges and woodland
There are a number of ways that trees are protected by law within the UK. These include Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), Conservation Areas, the Felling Licence system, Restrictive Covenants, and planning conditions within the planning system. It is important to find out from your local council whether any legal restrictions apply before you undertake any work on trees as you may be liable to prosecution if permission is not first obtained – The Arboricultural Association has produced a useful guide to Trees and the Law.
Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) are orders made by the local district planning authority to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands in the interests of amenity. Please visit your local district council website to find out the location of TPO’s in your area. For further information, please visit the government advice pages on Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas.
Each of Devon’s city/district council TPO pages can be found below:
- East Devon District Council
- Exeter City Council
- Mid Devon District Council
- North Devon District Council
- Plymouth City Council
- South Hams District Council
- Teignbridge District Council
- Torbay Council
- Torridge District Council
- West Devon Borough Council
Hedges are protected under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 and removal of a hedgerow needs to be agreed with your local district planning authority first to make sure it’s legal to do so. For more information on the Hedgerow Regulations and your role and responsibilities, please visit the above link. More information about protection can again be found on the Devon Hedge Group website.
Trees, hedges and woodland can also be protected through the development and use of best practice guidelines such as the British Standard 8545:2014 (Trees: from nursery to independence in the landscape), British Standard 5837:2012 (Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction) and other useful guidance published by The Trees and Design Action Group.
Devon County Council's roles and responsibilities
Devon County Council, as the highway authority, recognises that trees can pose threats to health and safety – particularly along highways in where they are in close proximity to buildings. In order to manage this health and safety risk, trees experts regularly inspect trees on Devon County Council land.
Furthermore, many hedges and trees grow on the edge of the highway and mark its boundary with private property. In these cases, the adjacent landowner or occupier is responsible for maintaining them. To find out more about the maintenance of roadside hedgerows, please visit the Devon County Council hedge maintenance webpages.
To find out advice on dead/dangerous trees, and information on Devon County Council’s policy and guidance towards trees, please visit the Devon County Council tree maintenance webpages.
Devon County Council also plays an important role within its partnership working, such as with the Devon Ash Dieback Resilience Forum, the Devon Local Nature Partnership, the Devon Hedge Group and inputting into AONB and National Park Management Plans.
Current projects and grant schemes
Devon County Council and its partners are involved in a number of projects across the county which is looking at tree and woodland planting. One such project is the ‘Woods 4 Water’ project within the North Devon Biosphere, a project supporting landowners in the planting of woodland to improve water quality and reduce flooding.
Saving Devon’s Treescapes aims to provide hope and action in the face of the alarming changes that are already affecting Devon’s precious treescapes. This partnership project is led by Devon Wildlife Trust and will support local communities across the county to plant and nurture thousands of replacement trees.
There are a number of grants available to landowners for woodland planting including the Forestry Commissions English Woodland Grant Scheme, the Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant Scheme and Countryside Stewardship.
Devon Hedge Group
For information and advice on Devon’s wonderful hedges, and how to manage them, please visit the Devon Hedge Group website.