Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees (CAVAT) written by Chris Neilan
CAVAT provides a method for managing trees as public assets rather than liabilities. It is designed not only to be a strategic tool and aid to decision-making in relation to the tree stock as a whole, but also to be applicable to individual cases, where the value of a single tree needs to be expressed in monetary terms.
Therefore there are two versions of the CAVAT method. The Full method is recommended for use in decisions concerning individual trees or groups, when precision is required and sufficient time is available for a full assessment. The Quick method is intended specifically as a strategic tool for management of the stock as a whole, as if it were a financial asset of the community.
Here is a brief summary of how the Islington tree officers have been using CAVAT to secure compensation from firms who have damaged their trees by Jim Chambers, Urban Forest Manager.
“Back in 2007 I was called out to deal with a tree that a skip lorry had destroyed. I managed to gather information on what happened and sent a bill to the skip company.
I charged them for all remedial tree surgery, costs to supply, plant and maintain (for three years) replacement trees, and 20% on top for admin. I explained that if they did not pay this bill, and the matter went to court, I reserved the right to claim the full CAVAT value of the tree which was about £15,000.
Nevertheless, they refused to pay, and there were a few letters back and forth, but I built a strong case by getting witness statements from residents, builders etc.
Eventually the legal department got involved from a non-payment perspective, and at the point where solicitors were being employed for court, the skip firm paid the bill.
Since then we have used the same procedure to claim funds from people who've damaged our trees where we have evidence of them doing so.
To summarise some of our cases from memory -
- We've claimed approx £1,500 from a large supermarket following a delivery van knocking over a tree, similar situations with two other major supermarkets too. Not to put too finer point on it, but every little helps…
- In numerous cases where van drivers have hit branches and caused damage, we've claimed the costs of remedial works and compensation for the loss in value to the tree involved.
- We claimed over £3000 from a construction firm who illegally sawed off one branch from a street tree adjacent to their development,
- We claimed £1000 from a company that cut down a sapling on the street to allow a long vehicle to access their site.
- We claimed over £9000 from a firm that undertook unauthorised work to a council tree adjacent to the work site, specifically for the loss of CAVAT value.
- We claimed over £7000 from Murphy's after a street tree was knocked down by a lorry.
- We've received over a £1000 from a scaffolding firm who hacked down a tree in a council house garden they were working in.
- We also took a building firm to court for non payment of approx £1000 bill we sent them for hacking off all the overhanging branches over their property, leaving the tree in need of further surgery and in our view dangerous, and we won. The judge agreed that their actions had gone far beyond any common law rights and awarded us victory, the bill has been paid
A couple of years ago LBI improved our Tree Policy;
'Policy 9: The council will seek compensation from any external organisation responsible for significant damage to or removal of any council owned tree(s) to the value as calculated by CAVAT.'
I would be very happy to discuss this further and to advise anyone on how we've dealt with these issues.
As responsible tree owners, we cannot allow people or firms to get away with damaging our trees, and CAVAT is an effective way to hit the culprits where it hurts and reduce the likelihood of them reoffending.