Trees in the Townscape – A Guide for Decision Makers

Tree and Design Action Group – The group shares the collective vision that the location of trees, and all the benefits they bring, can be secured for future generations by influencing the planning, design, construction and management of our urban infrastructure and spaces.

“Trees make places work, look and feel better.  As well as playing a role in climate proofing our neighbourhoods and supporting human health and environmental well-being, trees can also help to create conditions for economic success.  This guide takes a 21st century approach to urban trees, providing decision makers with the principles and references they need to fully realise this potential.

This is an approach to trees that keeps pace with and responds to the challenges of our times.  Trees in the Townscape offers a comprehensive set of 12 action-oriented principles which can be adapted to the unique context of your own town or city to provide a roadmap for trees in a 21st century context. Each principle is fully supported by explanations of delivery mechanisms, examples of the principle in practice and links to further references.  Trees in the Townscape focuses on individual trees in the urban forest, whether highway trees, trees in public open spaces and housing land or private trees. It does not cover urban woodland management.”


Source: Trees in the Townscape A Guide for Decision Makers Report

Who should use the 12 principles?
The 12 principles in Trees in the Townscape are for everyone involved in making or influencing decisions that shape the spaces and places in which we live. It will be particularly relevant to local elected members, policy makers and community groups together with large land estate owners, such as registered social landlords. It will also be useful to those professionals who bring their technical expertise to facilitate delivery, such as engineers, architects, landscape architects or urban designers.

How were the 12 principles developed?
This guide was developed by the Trees and Design Action Group based on over 40 interviews and wide consultation with key knowledge holders in the built environment sector including civil engineers, insurers, developers, designers, planners, tree officers, sustainability specialists, arboriculturists, tree nursery managers, ecologists, academics, and not-for-profit organisations specialising in community engagement and trees.


  1. Know Your Tree Resource
    Create and maintain easy-to-use records of the existing canopy cover and the nature and condition of the tree population.
  2. Have a Comprehensive Tree Strategy
    Produce, adopt and implement a collaborative strategy for protecting, developing and managing a thriving, benefit-generating urban forest which is in tune with local needs and aspirations.
  3. Embed Trees into Policy and Other Plans
    Adopt clear standards for the protection, care and planting of trees in the local plan and key corporate policy and investment documents.


  1. Make Tree-friendly Places
    Create places where tree species can thrive and deliver their full range of benefits without causing harmful nuisance.
  2. Pick the Right Trees
    Select and use trees appropriate to the context.
  3. Seek Multiple Benefits
    Harvest the full range of benefits trees can deliver as part of a local green infrastructure system, focusing on key local aspirations.


  1. Procure a Healthy Tree
    Plant healthy, vigorous trees that have been adequately conditioned to thrive in the environment in which they are destined to live.
  2. Provide Soil, Air and Water 
    Ensure trees have access to the nutrients, oxygen and water they need to fulfill their genetic potential for growth and longevity.
  3. Create Stakeholders
    Work with local political, professional and community stakeholders to champion the value of trees in the townscape.


  1. Take an Asset Management Approach
    Inform all planning, management and investment decisions with a robust understanding of both the costs and the value trees deliver.
  2. Be Risk Aware (Rather than Risk Averse)
    Take a balanced and proportionate approach to tree safety management.
  3. Adjust Management to Needs
    Conduct proactive and tailored tree maintenance to ensure optimum benefits in response to local needs.

To read the full report:



  1. landscapeiskingston

    Further information from the The Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) website:
    Lord Framlingham made a strong case for urban trees at the House of Lords on Thursday 15 January 2015 during a Natural Environment debate initiated by Lady Bakewell. Lord Framlingham called for a nationally coordinated approach to enhance the integration of trees in the design and management of hard landscapes. We were also very please that he commended TDAG’s latest two publications and urged Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to “lend his weight to the distribution of these guides, or more particularly their contents, so as to co-ordinate and encourage the most enlightened and best practice everywhere”.

    Less satisfactory was the lack of clear answer to Lord Framlingham’s question on who has responsibility for urban trees at a governmental level. It would appear that, despite the interest and good intentions towards urban trees demonstrated during the debate, the central question as to who is actually responsible for ensuring the urban forest and all the benefits it bestows is managed in the present and is sustained and developed into the future, remains unanswered. 

  2. Pingback: CAll TO CHAMPION URBAN TREES AT UK HOUSE OF LORDS | Landscape Interface Studio
  3. landscapeiskingston

    An excellent resource from Forest Research – The Right Trees for Changing Climate Database

    This website helps you decide what trees are suitable to plant in urban areas in face of a changing climate. It’s intended for use by planners, landscape designers, developers, ecologists and other professionals, but should always be used in conjunction with sound advice from a qualified arboriculturist. If you are an amateur gardener or an interested member of the general public
    Register for free, then start your search for the right trees.

  4. Pingback: árboles ciudades | Virando a verde
  5. Pingback: Trees in Hard Landscapes: A Guide for Delivery | Landscape Interface Studio

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