Veteran tree surveys are conducted by our experienced tree survey team in accordance with industry methods and legislation. Our team of experienced consultants at Wharton can provide veteran tree management advice.


An ancient tree is one that has passed beyond maturity and is old or aged, in comparison with other trees of the same species. Ancient trees tend to exhibit a small, retrenched canopy or will likely have a large diameter/girth stem relative to other trees of a similar species. They will also generally have a hollow main stem. However, ancient trees grow in so many different environments and have been influenced by so many factors over their long lives that they may not always have large girths.

The older the tree the more valuable it becomes. Dying ancient trees may endure for many decades and by still being present in the landscape continue the biological, historical, or cultural connection, as well as provide a very valuable habitat for wildlife.

A veteran tree is one that has survived various rigours of life and thus shows signs of ancientness, regardless of its age. Wounds, decay, tears, scars, and deadwood units are characteristics of veteran trees’ habitat. These characteristics have developed over time, not necessarily because of time, but because of environmental incidents. The terms “ancient” and “veteran” have been used interchangeably in the past, but it is important to understand the distinctions between them.

While an ancient tree is always a veteran, not all veteran trees are old enough to be ancient.

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Ancient and veteran trees are important from a number of aspects in terms of their cultural and historical heritage value, in which trees were historically pollarded, subject to “copparding” for producing firewood and fodder or are associated with historical events or characters like the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest and its association with Robin Hood.

Their ecological importance is particularly key in terms of providing habitats for rare fungi, invertebrates, lichens, birds, and bats. Their structural complexity provides many habitat niches that do not co-exist on younger trees. Many of the species that are reliant upon the niche habitats they provide are now recognised as endangered.

Particularly ancient trees are likely to be descendants of the natural wildwoods which once colonised Britain after the last ice age.


Currently, the standing advice for ancient and veteran trees in terms of construction, demolition, and development is published within the advice from Natural England and the Forestry Commission. In this, ancient and veteran trees are recognised as a material constraint when local authorities are determining planning applications when assessing the direct and indirect impacts on ancient and veteran trees.

In summary, this guidance advises on the use of semi-natural buffer zones as a means of protection with minimum distances identified as:


Fifteen metres between any development and ancient woodland.


Fifteen times the diameter of its stem or 5m from the edge of its canopy, if that’s greater, around any ancient or veteran tree.

The National Planning Policy (NPPF) 2021 affords protection to ancient and veteran trees. Paragraph 180(c) specifies that planning authorities should apply the following principles when development that results in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists.

When making planning decisions local authorities should consider:


At Wharton, we can help clients with a wide variety of surveys. From ancient and veteran trees to historic parkland from small to large estates with management plans; as well as planting schemes, aerial assessments, and tree decay detection.

We provide:


As part of the ageing process, ancient trees become smaller, due to gradual dieback and branch loss. This starts to occur after the tree has passed its peak of maturity and is a natural process in which the area of foliage and the root system is rebalanced with each other. This process is known as crown retrenchment and is sometimes also described as ‘growing downwards’.

Hollowing of the trunk as a tree ages is entirely normal and is not a sign of ill health. It is the heartwood in the centre of the tree that is slowly decayed by fungi which rarely colonise the living sapwood. The hollowing of the trunk (and the shedding and decay of dead branches associated with retrenchment) may help the tree to live for longer, by releasing minerals that were “locked up” in the wood so they are available for the tree to re-use, seen with the presence of aerial roots within the hollowing of the stem.

It may take several hundred years for this special habitat to be created and be suitable for many rare and specialised fungi and animals. The decaying wood of an ancient tree is one of the most important habitats that exist in Europe and therefore it is vital to conserve all our ancient trees.

Why Trust

Hire a Professional Ecological Consultant

Since 2008, we have established a team with extensive experience with all types of surveys, including BS5837 Tree Surveys for planning, Tree Surveys and Reports for risk management, Ecological Surveys including Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, Preliminary Roost Assessments, Protected Species Surveys, and Biodiversity Net Gain.

Our highly qualified and experienced team of ecological consultants and specialists has a proven track record of assisting our clients in identifying successful natural-infrastructure solutions and nature conservation for even the most complex projects. We strive to consistently deliver high-quality, practical and innovative ecological consultancy services on a consistent basis while adhering to environmental laws, wildlife legislation, industry legislation, policy, and best practices.

Our ecological consultant listens to our clients; collaboration is one of our four core values, and it shows in the success we’ve shared with them in maximising development opportunities, managing trees and woodlands or enhancing biodiversity and landscapes while delivering the best environmental solutions. Our certified and professional ecology consultants have solid experience in helping with environmental conservation problems like air quality, water quality, waste management and reclaiming contaminated land.

Simply put – we understand natural infrastructure. Trust us that our ecological consultants have the expertise and key skills to help you design and plan a successful development, mitigate and compensate for impacts, manage risks and keep your project moving forward.

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Personal Support

Now more than ever time is money. We guarantee our turnaround times to ensure you receive the right information at the right time to unlock the true value of your site.

We believe good communication lies at the heart of any successful ecological consultancy work. That’s why our recommendations whether on the phone in person or in a report are always easy to understand and use.

A Unique Approach

Whether you’re looking to plan, develop or manage your site, our ecologists provide the natural advice you need to successfully balance commercial, environmental and human needs, naturally increasing the true value of your land or property. By combining detailed research and data analysis of the existing trees and ecology, our arboricultural consultant will help turn any constraints into exciting opportunities to achieve planning success, improve quality of life, and allow nature to thrive.

After taking the time to research and understand your needs, our expert ecological consultants use the latest techniques to record and assess the trees and ecology on your site. Then, drawing on our in-depth experience, we help find the best way forward for you, your customers and the nature of your land and property. Ultimately, our ecological consultancy services will help increase the value of your site.

Quality Advice

Our commitment to providing honest advice that considers the wider context of your scheme enables us to secure a successful planning process and applications the first time and every time.

After a decade of success, we have developed strong relationships with planners and councils so that when a scheme does prove more challenging we can bring the right people together to find the best way forward.

Expert Analysis

Our highly qualified team of ecology consultants constantly review and update their knowledge and skills to ensure we are at the forefront of industry knowledge, environmental studies and best practice, especially in terms of environmental issues or ecological issues.

This forward-thinking approach enables Wharton environmental consultant to provide thought leadership across the whole natural-infrastructure sector driving innovation and excellence.

Commercially Minded

We understand the need to find a balance for each site between commercial environment and community requirements. So we focus on trees, ecology and habitats as assets rather than commercial development constraints.

Our approach to the environmental management of ecological constraints allows us to deliver practical and innovative services that ensure owners retain viable natural infrastructure and developers optimise their investment.

Time Conscious

For anyone in the planning sector, professional advice provided quickly and in an easily digestible format is vital to allow you to make decisions. We pride ourselves on delivering the highest and quickest level of ecological consultancy service to all clients from homeowners to those managing strategic land. 

Our team will ensure you know all critical dates either for planning matters, seasonal constraints or protected animal species activity seasons. Connect now with the right ecology consultant, we will ensure you don’t miss a thing.