TE13: Creation of dead wood habitat on trees

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the creation of dead wood habitat on trees item.

How much will be paid

£175 per tree.

Where to use this item

Available for Higher Tier

Only be used when the following conditions are met:

  • on trees that are located on or adjacent to sites with existing populations of veteran trees
  • where the land around the trees being treated is managed by cutting or extensive grazing
  • where tree cover across the area where they are located does not exceed 25%
  • on trees that will not impede or be impeded by the crown or canopy of existing veteran trees
  • on trees that are of the same native species and genetic origin as existing native veteran trees in the same area

How this item will benefit the environment

It promotes continuity in the provision of dead wood habitat to benefit rare or specialised wildlife where there is a generational gap between existing veteran trees and their successors.

If successful there will be deliberate ‘damage’ or ageing of younger trees in association with veteran trees where there is a generation gap in the recruitment of future veterans. This will mimic the natural damage caused for example by lightning strikes, branch failure and woodpecker holes, speeding up of the process of producing valuable wood decay habitats otherwise only found in very old trees.


Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • remove any existing scrub around the selected trees
  • carry out the work as set out in an approved specification or implementation plan -conduct the work between 1 September and 1 March, using skilled labour
  • cut trees at sufficient height to prevent grazing of re-growth
  • enable monitoring of the trees’ response to cutting, by tagging each tree and taking and retaining before and after photographs and making them available to Natural England on request
  • leave all mature and veteran standing trees and all standing and fallen deadwood
  • keep the deadwood of any tree that dies following veteranisation work and plant a replacement tree of the same native species and genetic origin

Do not:

  • use this item for work required for health and safety purposes

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • any consents or permissions connected with the work
  • receipted invoices, or bank statements where a receipted invoice is unavailable
  • photographs of the trees before works start
  • records required of the work undertaken and details of the persons undertaking it and their qualifications
  • please see the record keeping and inspection requirements as set out in the Higher Tier manual for more detail

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them with the claim:

  • photographs of the completed work

Applicants will need to send the following with their application:

  • a map showing the location of mature and veteran standing trees and standing and fallen deadwood

Applicants must provide a written assessment and advice on the work required from a qualified arboricultural expert. This assessment must:

  • lay out the intended outcome of the work
  • explain how the long term health and viability of the trees to be cut will be maintained
  • explain the requirements for subsequent management

The detailed requirements for this item will be tailored to the Higher Tier site. Higher Tier applicants should discuss and agree these requirements with their adviser

This item can be used on the same area as the following options and items:  

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this item

The following section gives advice on carrying out this item successfully but does not from part of the requirements for this item.

Picking the right trees

‘Veteranisation’ or the creation of dead wood habitat on trees could shorten the tree’s life. It should be attempted only where there are enough trees to be left without such treatment and no late-mature trees to provide successors to any veterans. This method should never be used on trees which may already be developing wood decay habitat, trees that already have important habitat, nor trees where damage may become a safety issue such as in parks or towns. Any intervention still needs to be sufficiently small so that it does not pose an immediate threat to the tree, allowing it to survive for many years.


A number of methods can be used to encourage veteran features on younger trees. Advice must be sought from a suitably qualified arboriculturalist before carrying out any work. These methods include:

  • cutting the tops of trees that are likely to respond to pollarding
  • making holes in live standing trees to initiate rot
  • deliberately damaging the bark to induce decay or simulate sap runs
  • break branches, rather than saw them off flush, or create ‘coronet’ ends
  • increase water retention in forks and crowns of trees by drilling holes

For more detailed advice on suitable techniques applicants should speak to their adviser.

Planting new trees

In the event that a tree dies following this work it must be replaced with a tree of the same species and genetic origin. Any replacement tree needs to be planted where there is enough room to grow an open crown.

Consents and permissions

Be aware that a number of consents and permissions may apply:

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

Read more about useful tree management and safety information from the Forestry Commission (FC).

Follow the advice on the VETree website for creating veteran features.

Further information

Read these useful guidance booklets for more information on managing ancient or veteran trees:

See the Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.
  2. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  3. First published.