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Tree planting on school sites

Last updated on 29 November 2021

Guidance note to schools – 15th October 2021

Issued by Hertfordshire County Council Property (Estates)


There are currently a number of charities, companies and organisations providing individual trees and tree packs to schools for planting.

Planting packs available through the Woodland Trust are generally multiples of 30 or 100 saplings and therefore can take up a significant area of land. The packs are made up of a mixture of saplings and therefore you are unlikely to be able to specify which species of trees to have. (You may wish to consider sharing tree packs with other local schools and community groups).

The aim of the projects is to highlight the part trees play in achieving the UK goal of becoming carbon net-zero by 2050. Hertfordshire County Council supports the initiatives and in particular the Queen’s Green Canopy, to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

Particular care needs to be taken when planting trees in school sites, as the permanent nature of trees and their roots, may limit future use of the existing site or expansion potential and be a maintenance burden for years to come. The cost of future tree inspections and any works required will need to be met from the schools’ delegated budgets.

Trees planted at schools should provide education and discussion for children, provide biodiversity and help meet carbon net-zero targets.

Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC)

The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) is a unique, UK-wide tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, by inviting people to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee.” With a focus on planting sustainably, the QGC will encourage the planting of trees to create a legacy in honour of The Queen’s leadership of the Nation, which will benefit future generations.

The Queen’s Green Canopy team at HCC are able to provide 1 or 2 free trees which can be planted in your school grounds whilst following the planting guidance produced. If you would like your school to get involved in this fantastic project, please do let us know by emailing  with your school name, address, how many trees you would like and any preferred species. HCC can then work with you in order to get the planting dedicated to the QGC initiative and registered on the QGC website.

Queen's Green Canopy

The QGC initiative recommends planting during the official planting season, October to March, to optimise the chance of trees surviving and flourishing. There will be two planting seasons for this project Oct-March 2021-22 and Oct – March 2022-23.

Aftercare of the planting is essential, please do ensure that any planting is included in your ground maintenance plan with watering and weeding each month for at least 3 years.

We are aware that finding land to plant on can be a difficulty so please do be aware that even small areas housing only one tree is a worthwhile contribution.

Planning where to plant the trees

Prior to applying for a tree or tree pack, it is important to establish the available space within the school grounds and what impact trees in that location may have. Consideration needs to be given to the full-grown height and breadth of the tree not the size on planting.

There are certain areas to avoid such as close to buildings or utility routes, buried or overhead. It is also wise to avoid planting adjacent to the boundary with neighbours due to increased maintenance liability and potential disputes.

It is also important to choose trees suited to the local conditions, such as soil type, aspect and space available.

The Woodland Trust provide a useful interactive site which can assist designing a planting scheme based on your specific site.

Tree Tools for Schools

In addition to the physical attributes of the proposed tree planting site, it is important to consider any local restrictions such as Scheduled Ancient Monuments or protected species within the locality. Additional guidance is available on the Woodland Trust and Queen’s Green Canopy websites, amongst others.

Protecting outdoor school facilities

It is important to consider the protection of all school facilities. Protecting school facilities relates to both buildings and external areas, in line with the recommended site areas in Building Bulletins BB103 and BB104. In particular, trees should not be planted on or close to external physical education areas, for example pitches, running tracks or courts.

External school areas combine:

  • net site area, which is the usable site area available to pupils, and is also known as the ‘playing field area’. This is a combination of land in the open air which is provided for the purposes of physical education or recreation.
  • non-net site area, which supports the functioning of the site and includes the footprint of buildings and access areas such as paths, roads and parking.

Gov.UK: Notes on area guidelines for mainstream schools

Gov.UK: Notes on area guidelines for SEND and alternative provision

Landowners consent

As part of the application process to obtain trees from one of the schemes, it is often asked if the landowner has given consent to trees being planted on their land. Where Hertfordshire County Council is the landowner of the proposed site, consent will be implied in this case and no formal approval is required. The school in addition to the obligations within the scheme will be responsible for the landowner’s obligations and conditions. It will be assumed that the school has carried out all necessary checks on the planting area, will continue to comply with DFE area guidance for outdoor space and will undertake all future maintenance of the trees. Schools where the Council are not the landowner will need to contact their landlord for guidance.

Planting and future maintenance

Tree packs will come with planting instructions and guidance is available on websites listed at the end of this guidance. The type of soil in the area will also have a bearing on the types of trees to plant and the proximity to nearby buildings. For the first few years the trees will need specific maintenance including weeding and protection from pests and diseases. It will be important to discuss the trees with the school’s maintenance contractors as damage from mowing or strimming may be irreversible. Similarly, deer, squirrels, rabbits and hares can eat young saplings without the proper protection.

As trees mature it is important to monitor the structural integrity and health of the trees for specific pests or diseases. Regular tree inspection surveys are recommended on school grounds by a qualified arborist and remedial works carried out as recommended. Not only should the health of the tree be considered, but also the possibility of the tree causing damage to adjacent property (for example subsidence or falling branches). It is important to note that Conservation Areas and evidence of bird or bat roosting will require additional licences to carry out works and some inspections.

The costs of tree works can be expensive and quite often are required urgently or in an emergency. The removal of trees can be required to abate a nuisance to adjacent property and the school would be required to appoint contractors to carry out that work. Oak processionary moths are increasingly becoming established in Hertfordshire. The nests are a high risk to humans and require immediate action by specialist contractors.


Should you have any specific questions regarding the proposed location of the trees, you are asked to contact Hertfordshire County Council’s retained Property Managing agents, Carter Jonas:

Useful links regarding tree planting

Woodland Trust

Queen’s Green Canopy

Tree Tools for Schools 

First published 20 October 2021 - Last updated on 29 November 2021