A tree contractor may also be referred to as an arborist, an arboricultural contractor or tree surgeon.

They should be able to perform the following functions:

  • undertake a basic tree survey and inspection
  • act as your agent to find out if the trees have any form of statutory protection and, if required, apply to ourselves on your behalf to obtain permission to carry out the tree work
  • recognise defects and diseases and determine what type of pruning is required to maintain the health, safety and appearance of the trees
  • they should also have a feel for the shape and beauty of the tree and, where appropriate, leave it with a balanced natural form
  • carry out the full range of tree maintenance, ie pruning, bracing or feeding operations to the relevant British Standards and have a clear understanding of current tree pruning practices
  • tree felling, including removal of dangerous trees and those in confined spaces
  • stump grinding and safe disposal of debris
  • some contractors may also offer to plant and maintain new trees

Professional contractors

A competent contractor will have certificates to indicate that they have been trained and assessed and are qualified to use the necessary equipment. They often have academic qualifications in arboriculture and are members of professional bodies.

Reputable contractors will be willing to show you copies of their insurance, qualifications and professional memberships and will undertake to work in accordance with recognised standards. 

Anyone paid to work with chainsaws on trees who has not been trained to do so is breaking the law and if contractors are not properly trained or do not follow industry guidelines they may invalidate their insurance.

Questions to ask

Ask them to itemise precisely:

  • what work is going to be carried out
  • how long it will take
  • what safety precautions will be taken
  • how the debris will be disposed of
  • what condition the site will be left in


Ask to see copies of certificates in the use of chainsaws and related arboricultural activities such as tree climbing, pruning, felling and dismantling. 

It is compulsory for them to have the National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) certificate in chainsaw use.

Other recognised qualifications are:

  • City and Guilds (Arb)
  • National Certificate (Arb)
  • National Diploma (Arb)
  • Royal Forestry Society Technician's Certificate
  • Arboricultural Association Technician's Certificate
  • European Tree Worker Certificate approved by the European Arboricultural Council


Ask to see evidence of adequate insurance.  The recommended minimum Employers' and Public Liability cover is £5 million.

Contact Parks & Countryside Service

Level 3, West Wing
Moorfoot Building