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The LTOA - Caring for the Capital's Trees

Welcome to the LTOA website. The London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) constitutes the professional & technical voice for London's trees & woodlands. Its aim is to enhance the management of the Capital's trees. We hope that you find the LTOA website both interesting & informative. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Brighton Elm Study Day

Craig Ruddick, Arboricultural Manager, LB Richmond

Brighton Elm Study Day by Craig Ruddick, Arboricultural Manager, LB Richmond

In July over sixty delegates from both the London Tree Officer Association (LTOA) and Arboricultural Association took the trip to Brighton to take part in an elmstudy day.  The day provided a fantastic opportunity to not only see the prized National Elm Collection but to also hear from the people who were responsible for safeguarding Brighton’s elms and from those that are continuing to do so. The event was sponsored by David Archer Associates.

The morning session was opened by Rob Walker, Brighton & Hove Parks Manager.  This session contained a series of presentations, the first by Rob Greenland, former Arboricultural Manager at Brighton & Hove.  Rob gave a history of elm in Brighton, explaining they were selected by the Victorians due to tolerance of salty winds and ability to thrive in chalky soils.  Rob spoke of his experience of managing Dutch elm disease (DED) since the 1970s and how Brighton’s geographical positioning on the south coast created an environment where it was possible (with the cooperation of neighbouring land managers) to create an effective buffer and implement a programme of sanitation tree works including tree pruning, removal and root severance of DED-affected trees to prevent the devastation that was seen throughout the rest of the country.

Alistair Peters has worked to manage DED in both public and private properties and his presentation focused on the fundamental reasons that the city was successful in protecting its elm trees. Alastair spoke of the critical involvement of Ray Evison (former Parks Director) and the importance of community involvement in forming the ‘save the elms’ campaign.  This presentation included the important message that education, community involvement and action at Council level can bring about ownership amongst the public, forming a grass roots action group that achieved remarkable success in protecting the elms. A resounding quote from this presentation was that during the era of ‘save the elms’ the average eight year old was able to talk confidently about DED.

Peter Bourne, who works with the City Council to catalogue the elm collection, gave a detailed and comprehensive presentation which highlighted the many species and cultivar of elm that are present within Brighton and Hove.  Peter spoke about methods of identifying elm from visual signs through to genetic analysis and demonstrated a detailed inventory.

The final presentation saw Jim Hillier of Hillier Nurseries talk about the merits of planting the DED-resistant Ulmus ‘New Horizon’ and  highlighted several urban planting schemes where ‘New Horizon’ had been used to good effect.

In the afternoon the group headed to Preston Park to take part in a walk that was led by Rob Greenland, firstly to see the magnificent Preston Park Twins, two elms that are thought to be the oldest and largest in Europe.  The tour of the park allowed the group to view various different elm species and included the opportunity to see DED management in action where a mature specimen had been ring barked to prevent the spread of the disease through root passage. This management also included trenching to sever links with adjacent trees to further minimise the chance of spread.

The elm study day was enjoyed by all who attended and we would like to thank the people that presented; they shared experience and management practices that are entirely relevant in an era where the arrival of new tree pests and diseases is exponential.


Arb Magazine article | Autumn 2016

Arb Magazine article | Autumn 2016

John Parker, Chair

London Tree Officers Association

Tree officers and those managing the urban forest often have quite a tough time of things. They’re on the front line of arboriculture when the complaints come in, fending off the classic “I love trees, but..” correspondence and patiently explaining that there really is no council conspiracy to remove/retain a healthy/dangerous tree (delete as applicable). Like all public servants in the current political and financial climate they live under the threat of cuts and redundancies, efficiencies and streamlining of services. Too often they face criticism from those in their own industry, with some quick to suggest that tree officers should be doing more, or doing it differently, or comparing their work unfavourably to some arboricultural utopia overseas. Apparently the trees, as well as the grass, are always greener on the other side.

And yet.. tree officers persist. They don’t do it for the glamour or for the gold (although obviously there is loads of both); they do it for the trees, and for the environmental, economic and social benefits they bring. They are local authority employees, working to maximise the ecosystem services that the urban forest delivers to their communities. They are so often the first point of contact between the general public and the industry. They develop, implement and monitor best practice. They are ideally-placed to be the first to spot new, or spreading, pests and diseases. They do a great job under circumstances that are far from ideal, and they deserve more respect, support and acknowledgement than they often receive. Like trees themselves, the value of tree officers is disproportionate to their cost.

Many organisations promote the importance of the urban forest. Whilst the LTOA obviously agrees with this, we differ slightly in that we believe that a healthy population of trees requires a healthy population of tree officers. We seek to help achieve this by promoting the work of our Members, by supporting them when needed and by developing their knowledge and skills through information sharing, quarterly seminars and high-quality industry publications. Perhaps even more importantly we provide a forum – whether in a council chamber or lecture theatre, on a field trip or in a pub – where our Members can share ideas and exchange information and experiences. We also work closely with our strong network of Associate Members who do so much to support the work of the LTOA. Collaboration and communication are key, and having strength in numbers doesn’t do any harm either.

A huge amount of work has been done by a lot of people over the past thirty years to make the LTOA what it is today, and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to help continue that work through my election as Chair of the organisation in June 2016. Vice Chair Barbara Milne, Executive Officer Becky Porter the rest of the dedicated Executive Committee and I will continue to develop the LTOA, working to influence policy, promote best practice and strengthen our links with fellow professionals outside of London, across the whole of the UK and beyond. We have much to share with our international friends and colleagues, particularly those in Europe. Never has it been so important to demonstrate how successful and rewarding it can be engage with those beyond our borders, and as an industry I believe we have the opportunity to lead by example in doing just that.

We have an exciting year ahead. The LTOA have already coordinated a successful trip to Malmo, Sweden, and have presented our work surveying for Ceratocystis platani (plane wilt) at a tree and plant health conference at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and at the European Forum on Urban Forestry in Ljubljana, Slovenia. We attended a brilliant seminar in Padua, Italy, arranged by Treework Environmental Practice, and with the AA South East branch coordinated a study day to see the elms in Brighton. November will see the first National Tree Officer Conference, organised by the LTOA and our colleagues in the Municipal Tree Officers Association and facilitated by the Institute of Chartered Foresters. The common link through these few examples – and there are plenty more – is collaboration. All over the UK tree officers are facing the same difficulties; our best chance of overcoming these challenges is surely by recognising that we are stronger when we work together.

John Parker - July 2016

This article first appeared in the Autumn edition of the ARB Magazine, produced by the Arboricultural Association www.trees.org.uk



LTOA update on Ceratocystis platani and reporting process

LTOA update on Ceratocystis platani and reporting process

August 1st 2016

Ceratocystis platani (plane wilt) is a fungal disease affecting plane trees in some parts of the European mainland including France, Italy and Greece. It only affects plane trees, compromising the vascular system and ultimately leading to the death of the infected tree. It spreads via spores, typically transported from one tree to another by infected equipment such as chainsaws. The disease is not known to be present in the UK. In order to minimise the risk of it entering the country the UK has been designated Protected Zone Status (PZS) by the EU, placing restrictions on imports of plane saplings.

To maintain PZS the UK must demonstrate that we are actively looking for plane wilt and that we have not yet found it. The LTOA have been leading on this project, working for the Forestry Commission to undertake PZS surveys and producing reports in 2014 and 2015. We are currently in the process of undertaking the 2016 survey, due for completion at the end of September. The LTOA are considered to be one of the organisations with the most expertise about the disease, and have presented our results at plant health and urban forestry conferences as well as travelling to Italy to see the pathogen in the field and learn how it is managed.

Reporting mechanisms exist for those who believe that they may have spotted this disease – below is a link to an identification sheet which might assist with this process, however it is important to note that further investigation by a professional will be required in order to confirm the diagnosis. Perhaps the most obvious symptom is significant sections of canopy in the tree where the leaves have become completely desiccated but have been retained on the tree (see photos). It should be further noted that this disease affects only plane trees and will not be found on any species which is not plane.

  • For additional information about plane wilt and other pests and diseases of concern please consult the Observatree website at http://www.observatree.org.uk/
  • If you suspect a case of plane wilt then in the first instance it may be advisable for you to contact the LTOA at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • To formally report a suspected sighting of plane wilt then please use the FC TreeAlert service at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/treealert

A full summary of the LTOA’s work with regard to plane wilt PZS surveys will be presented at the forthcoming National Tree Officer Conference in Telford on November 9th and will form the basis of a publication later in 2016.

For further information please contact John Parker at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Download the Ceratocystis Platani Symptoms sheet


First LTOA field trip to Europe

Malmo, Sweden hosted LTOA's first overseas field trip in June. Made up of 15 delegates a mix of both Tree Officers and Associate members.

The first day of the trip was to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Alnarp, led by Henrik Sjoman, lecturer at SLU and Scientific Curator at Gothenburg Botanic Garden, a man of huge enthusiasm and passion.

The day started with an indoor session where Henrik explained his works followed by a tour of the grounds of the University. The Alnarp landscape laboratory is a site where trees and theories are tested on a 1:1 scale. Trees cannot be considered as just green ‘fluff, we have known for years that trees offer the best eco-system services. We now need further research as to which tree species offer the best eco-system services.

Tree selection is the most important factor above design. If we continue to plant the wrong trees the importance of trees will lose focus. We need carry out research so that we have the confidence to use unfamiliar tree species in our street tree planting rather than sticking with the traditional favourites.

Some of Henrik’s research work has been looking at the tolerance of tree species to drought which he amusingly entitles “shut-up & die”. Along with other research “pimp my woodlands, bling my backyard” looking at the sustainability of woodlands using non-native species. Henrik is firmly of the opinion that in order for woodlands to be sustainable in the future, we need to introduce exotic species, however, before doing so we need to know how they will grow and interact with the woodland.

The afternoon session was a visit to the Chinese Forest and Magnolia Forest planted in the grounds and looking his research plants, grown with support from the Swedish nursery industry looking at species for future planting.

Day two was hosted by Tim Delshammar, Landscape Manager for Malmö City Council, and began with Al Smith, Camden Council Arboricultural Manager delivering a presentation to 30 of Tim’s colleagues from Malmö City Council on policies relating to trees in London and the London Borough of Camden’s Tree Policy. This was followed by Tim outlining the process they are undertaking to introduce a tree policy for Malmö City. It was not surprising to see the similarity between the issues faced in both Sweden and the UK.

The LTOA delegates then took to bikes, thankfully led and flanked by Tim and his colleagues, looking at sites which included the protection of a large beech tree whilst the water table was lowered during the construction of an underground railway station. Planting and re-landscaping of the borders of King’s Park and a major landscaping project at Live Malmö.

Comments from delegates such as “Really informative, interesting and enjoyable” the LTOA are looking to run a similar event next year.


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National Tree Officers Conference

Booking has opened for the 2016 National Tree Officers Conference, which takes place on 9 November in Telford. This is the first event organised by the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA), the Municipal Tree Officers Association (MTOA), and facilitated by the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF). The conference offers a unique knowledge-sharing forum on all areas of local authority arboricultural work.

Click here to read more

Sponsored by Barcham Trees

Barcham - The Tree Specialists

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Members can attend, for free, the the LTOA meetings which are held four times a year and cover a wide range of tree related matters. Click here to find out how to become an associate member


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