Information about how to Select an Arboricultural Contractor

An Arboricultural contractor, sometimes described as an 'Arboriculturist', 'Arborist' or 'Tree Surgeon', will undertake tree work to a specification. You should always contact the Planning Authority to find out if your trees are covered by a Tree Preservation Order, Planning Condition, Legal Agreement (S.106), or are within a Conservation Area. This can be done by telephoning the Customer Services Centre on telephone: 01628 683810. If your trees are protected, you will need written consent or to have served notice to carry out the work. The Borough's Arboricultural Officers can provide professional tree management advice and guidance on protected trees.

Before employing a tree contractor get at least two written quotes and be aware that the lowest quote may not be the best one. Contractors may say they are members of a trade association. Check the validity of any such claim. The Arboricultural Association produce a list of approved contractors which can be viewed on their website.

Avoid contractors who use the words 'Lopping' and 'Topping'. Ask the contractor if they work to a British Standard and which one (BS 3998:2010 'Tree work - Recommendations'). Many reputable contractors cover large areas of the country, but you should generally avoid 'door knockers'. The contractor should provide proof of at least £2 million Public Liability Insurance. At least £10 million is required for works on or adjacent to the public highway.

Reputable contractors will be happy to answer all your questions, as they have got nothing to hide. Once you have selected a contractor, ensure that the work to be carried out for the agreed sum is in writing, there is reference to BS 3998:2010 and that it includes the removal of all arisings.

Remember tree work can be dangerous and all contractors must be trained and qualified to carry out tree work.

There is a legal requirement under Health and Safety Regulations that anyone using a chain saw at work must have received adequate training and be competent to operate a chain saw safely.

Any Tree Contractor you employ should be able to produce a certificate of competence or national competence award. The National Proficiency Test Council (NPTC) is the most usual certificate. Most contractors holding this certificate will have an identity card, which has a photograph and a list of the units of, competence passed. Arborists as well as having practical qualifications will often have academic qualifications in Arboriculture - ask what they are?

In addition to the certificate bear in mind the following:

  • Insurance and risk assessment: all contractors should have public Liability insurance cover for the works that they undertake and the risks involved. Before the tree contractor starts ask if they have carried out a risk assessment.
  • Personal and protective equipment: all contractors operating tree work machinery must use the appropriate safety clothing and equipment.
  • Free climbing: no contractors working in a tree can do so without being securely anchored into the tree by means of a rope and harness, unless working from a hydraulic platform or ladder.
  • Lone workers: no tree contractor should be allowed to work on his/her own where tree climbing is involved.               
  • Roads: contractors working on trees that are adjacent to the public highway, must comply with the requirements of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. This requires use of appropriate warning signs, cones and barriers.

Tree team : Contact details

For further assistance or information please contact us at:

Tree team - Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
Town Hall, St Ives Road
Maidenhead SL6 1RF
Telephone: 01628 683800