BE6: Veteran tree surgery

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the veteran tree surgery option.

How much will be paid

£221 per tree.

Where to use this option

Available for 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

Use this option to reduce 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 have been 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 tree’s longevity


Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • carry out agreed tree surgery works within the agreed timetable and dates
  • remove secondary growth from around veteran trees
  • retain 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

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

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • photographs of each tree
  • written support from Natural England adviser

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the management undertaken for the final claim

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

These options, supplements and capital items can be located on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option:

Tree surgery must be identified in a report by a professionally qualified arboriculturalist. 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 etc. 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.

A tree in general decline should not be pruned any more than necessary to prevent catastrophic failure.

The importance of lower canopy branches increases as trees die back. Their removal should be avoided.

Epicormic shoots (small side shoots) should not be removed as they can take over if the main part of the stem is lost.

Dead and decaying branches, as well as any live material, removed from the tree should be retained 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.

Activities which damage and compact tree roots, including by stock, should be avoided.

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

Read more about useful tree management, safety information and felling licences from the Forestry Commission.

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

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 8 March 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated keeping records section for evidence required with claim.
  2. Updated for 2017 applications.
  3. Removed WD1 and WD2 from the list of related options.
  4. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  5. First published.