BE6: Veteran tree surgery

Natural England

May 22
13:04 2024

How much will be paid

488 for each veteran tree, contained within the agreement management plan, that receives veteran tree surgery in the claim year.

Where to use this option

It is available for Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier:

  • on veteran open grown trees and trees in open canopy woodlands
  • where specialist tree surgery is agreed by Natural England

Where this option cannot be used

On the same trees as the following capital items or supplements:

How this option will benefit the environment

It reduces the rate of loss of veteran trees by carrying out specialist tree surgery to extend their lifespan.

If successful, veteran trees at risk of collapse will be stabilised, resulting in the continuation of:

  • living trees with standing deadwood
  • trees forming distinctive features in the landscape
  • trees providing valuable habitat
  • areas under tree canopies free from scrub, soil compaction, or anything which threatens the trees longevity


You must:

  • carry out agreed tree surgery works within the agreed timetable and dates
  • remove secondary growth from around veteran trees
  • keep all material close to the tree (not stacked against the veteran tree) and leave undisturbed

Stack cut material in a shaded location. Do not cut it up any more than is necessary to allow safe movement. Do not burn cut material.

Keeping records

You must keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • photographs of each tree
  • photographs of the completed work

You can locate these options, supplements and capital items on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following advice is helpful, but they are not requirements for this item.

Tree surgery must be identified in a report by a professionally qualified arboriculturalist. An appropriately qualified arboricultural expert can be defined as:

  1. An individual who has achieved an RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework) Level 4 qualification or higher in Arboriculture. This means at least the Level 4 Award in Arboriculture or its predecessor the Level 3 Technicians Certificate in Arboriculture.

  2. Is a member of the Arboricultural Association at Technician level or higher.

For use of this item in Woodland Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier Forestry Commission woodland officers can provide support for the use of this option as an alternative to a report from a professionally qualified arboriculturalist. Forestry Commission Woodland officers can seek advice from arboricultural experts where necessary.

Individual plans for each tree may be required. The timing of work should take account of the impact on the tree, bird breeding season, presence of European Protected Species and so on. Permissions may be required.

Many veteran trees have only grown so old through active management, mostly long abandoned. Reinstating management would pose great risk but they can be at significant risk of catastrophic failure due to crown weight.

Do not prune a tree in general decline any more than necessary to prevent catastrophic failure.

As trees die back, the importance of lower canopy branches increases so avoid removing them.

Do not remove epicormic shoots (small side shoots) as they can take over if the main part of the stem is lost.

Keep dead and decaying branches, as well as any live material, you remove from the tree close to the source without cutting it up.

Previously open grown trees now surrounded by others may require opening up. Avoid sudden exposure of trees shaded for many years. Clear around the tree at least a year before any tree surgery, possibly in stages over a few years. Make sure any species of interest such as lichens, fungi and invertebrates, as well as hole-nesting birds and roosting bats, are known and the impact of any work assessed.

Burning damages dead wood and soil structure, killing living organisms and harming trees if too close.

Avoid activities which damage and compact tree roots, including those by stock.

Be aware that various consents and permissions may apply:

  • the Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and Conservation Orders may apply to the trees on site
  • veteran trees often host European Protected Species, such as bats

You can read more about tree management, safety information and felling licences on the Forestry Commission website.

Fruit trees in traditional orchards are not normally eligible. See instead BE7 - Supplement for restorative pruning of fruit trees.

Further information

You can find more information on managing ancient or veteran trees in the following guidance booklets:

Read Countryside Stewardship: get funding to protect and improve the land you manage to find out more information about Higher Tier including how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 22 May 2024 +show all updates
  1. Additional text added to the advice section.

  2. Update to How Much Is Paid

  3. Extra information added to the advice and suggestions section.

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