Introduction: learning about planning applications affecting trees

We should like to start you off with helping you to decide if you want to do this, and then progress, if you want to, towards navigating your way around the Council’s Planning Portal website. That is the place where you can save trees from being felled, and maybe make sure that replacements are planted!

These are the Training Modules.


You are under no obligation to do this task, but please read on before you decide.

  • It looks daunting, but by following a few easy steps you can achieve most things you might need to. You can comment on each Application yourselves or spot a problem in your area and alert one of us “old hands” to the situation, or both.
  • There is, on our website, a general guide to help you find your way around the Council’s Planning Portal. Its called Guidance – Planning and Trees. It looks daunting but isn’t really, and is a good general introduction.
  • We also have our own mini Planning Portal on our website, but that is for another time. It does not tell you how to read Planning Applications and comment upon them, but is handy for looking at live and previous applications affecting trees.
  • To start off you need to get yourselves on the Council’s (BCC) list to receive their weekly list of Planning Applications. To get your free Planning List copy, email development.management@bristol.gov.uk and ask to be included in the list of recipients. Remember to tell them in the email that you represent us as Tree Champion and are a member. It also helps to tell your local Councillors that you have adopted the role.
  • The list is sent out most weeks. The day of the week it is sent varies, and there may sometime be long gaps, but all new applications will be listed. The date it is sent to you is not the date of the planning application – this is because applications get sent away for “Validation”, so by the time it reaches you the comment clock is already ticking.
  • It can take a short while to achieve this. It is a good idea to get yourself “signed in” so that you can make comments without always having to repeat your name, address etc. The instructions for doing this are in one of the Modules.
  • We’ll tell you how to find your way around the whole list “How to make comments” will follow later.
  • You are under no obligation to check Planning Applications in your area, but our experience has been that, if timely comments are not made, then the opportunity to save a tree can be lost or lead to late and hasty interventions which are often too late. So a timely comment is best.
  • If you take this on and find that there is an issue that you do not know how to handle then we will deal with it if we can.  Our recent drive for Tree Champions across the City was not just to get Planning Applications tidily dealt with so we do not need to bother with them ourselves ( although that would be nice), but also to get some watchers out there who can alert us to impending disasters and infringements.
  • If you make a comment then please let us about it so we have a record and can add it to to our mini Planning Portal if we want to make it public or make sure it is not forgotten if another or a similar application is made in the future – but that is further down the learning line. Sometimes we get to hear of things very late. “If only…” does not save trees, or get them replaced, sadly.
  • The planning Tree Officers look at every application and make most of the decisions using their delegated powers. Once they are made it is final and we cannot argue. Sometimes local matters can also be brought to their attention which can “help” them make the “right” decision, or give them added support in a marginal case where a local response can make a difference.
  • Some of you may want to know the system – but not actually look at the Lists. If that is you then you are welcome to stay on board as a Tree Champion because there is no compulsion. When we hold meetings Tree Champions will be invited, and you may not always want to be asking “How did they find out about that?”
  • A Committee member and another local activist marshalled 114 comments on one Application in October 2020 that finally earned a new Tree Protection Order on a whole row of threatened Willow trees at Sea Mills Harbour – a local beauty spot.  So, the effort can pay off.

If you get the bug, it can bring big rewards for you and your area – though many planning applicants might not think so.