BS5837 Surveys are typically carried out by Arboricultural Consultants as part of the UK planning process. They will visit the site, carry out the inspections and record the results using the BS5837 Survey Android™ application (view screenshots), or the data can be noted down and later entered directly into the BS5837 pages on the OTISS website.


Viewing the BS5837 Data

The BS5837 button shows the trees as rows on a table/spreadsheet. Read more about how to sort and filter the data and edit the data. The spreadsheet can be used to select/filter trees, and then various reports can be created.

The survey form can be customised to suit your own working practice and for each individual client’s requirement – see below.

The table (at bottom of the page) lists the data that is recorded for each tree – it includes all the fields required for a complete BS5837:2012 survey and some additional fields.

BS5837 Spreadsheet

The web page presents the trees as rows on a table/spreadsheet. Read more about how to sort and filter the data and edit the data.

SpeciesTree Species 1

Use the Species fields to assign a genus/species by Common or Botanical name. The Variety field allows for further distinctions to be recorded (if required) – enter some text or select from the configurable dropdown list.

OTISS provides several regional lists of tree species (e.g. UK/Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc.). Each list contains 100s of native and common species for that region. These lists also include entries for the genus (e.g. Willow sp.) for when species level identification is not required. You select the regional list at registration and never need to worry about it again. You cannot add or change these lists – they are shared between all OTISS users.

For each estate, you can build up a list of Estate Tree Species to augment the common species. On the survey forms, the two sets are presented as a single list of species. Use the Estate-> Tree Species website page to configure the species list. New species can also be added when using the OTISS survey apps.

If you find a species that you think should be added to the shared, regional OTISS lists, then please email the details to

When you change the species, the Mature Height field on the More Data tab is updated to show the value suggested in NHBC Chapter 4.2 Building near Trees.

 Tree reference/tag numbers

It is important that the tree reference/tag numbers can be sorted in OTISS and also in Excel, Word and other data/GIS applications. Unfortunately, the ‘simple’ approach of using T1, T2, … T10, T11,. T20, T21, etc. does not allow for sensible sorting in Excel, Word, OTISS etc. Instead we must adopt an approach where the number of digits in each tag is the same for all the trees.

  •  When surveying up to 100 trees, the following set of tags is recommended: T01, T02, … T10, G11, … G20, T21, T99 etc. You will notice that there is always 2 digits in each tag – i.e. the numbers 1 to 9 must have a zero, T01… T09.
  •  When surveying between up to 1000 trees, the following set of tags is recommended: T001, T002, … T010, G011, … G020, T021, … T100, T101, … T999. etc. You will notice that there is always 3 digits in each tag – i.e. the numbers 1 to 99 must have leading zeros.


Measurements for height, crown spread and clearance are rounded to nearest 0.5m or 1m. Measurements for stem diameters are rounded to the nearest 10mm. The calculations for combined stem diameter and RPA are as specified in BS5837:2012. The RPA for a group of trees or a hedge is the same as the enclosed area.

BS5837 RPA

Enter negative numbers for estimated measurements – these will be shown as ‘nn#’ on reports.

Note, when the map is configured to show the ‘Actual Size’, it only shows a calculated average crown spread from the BS5837 north, south, east and west measurements. But the CAD/DXF download shows a more accurate drawing with the actual north, south, east and west measurements.

Stem Diameters

Multiple stem diameters can be entered as a list of numbers separated by commas. Measurements for stem diameters are rounded to the nearest 10mm – as specified in BS5837.

  1. Single stem tree. Enter Number of stems=1 and Stem Diam=X and leave the Multiple Stem Diams field blank.
  2. For a small number of stems where you can measure each one. Enter the Multiple Stem Diams=X,Y,Z – the app will update the Number of stems field. Leave the Stem Diam field blank.
  3. For coppiced/multi-stem trees where there are too many stems to measure, you must estimate a count and an average. Enter Number of stems=N, (ave)Stem diam=Y and leave the Multiple Stem Diams blank.

Survey Notes…

The Survey Notes, Recommendations and Comments fields allow for free text entry. But to speed up the survey process we provide a means of quickly entering your commonly used sentences and phrases. Below each field there is another button that allows you to select from a list of commonly used sentences and phrases, these are appended to the text field and can then be modified to suit this particular inspection. You can customise this list of commonly used sentences and phrases via the Customise Survey button on the BS5837 page – see below.





Trees, Groups and HedgesBS5837 plan

The Structure field is used to control how an item is displayed. Individual trees are shown as POINT icons. Groups, Hedges and Shrub areas are shown as POLYGON shapes. Simply select a structure and press Save – the location co-ordinates will be automatically converted to the required shape.

The location coordinates are shown in the standard Well Known Text (WKT) representation for GIS objects. We don’t expect that you will ever need to edit these coordinates directly. It is recommended to change the shape and location on the Map page. Valid WKT formats are as follows:-

  • POINT (x y)
  • POLYGON ((x1 y1, x2 y2, x3 y3, …, x1 y1)) – NB: the last set of coordinates must be the same as the first.

Customise the Survey Form

You can customise most of the fields on the survey form via the Customise Survey button on the BS5837 page – i.e. those field marked with a * in the table below.

  • The field’s name can be changed. A shorter name is suitable for columns in tables and spreadsheets, whereas a more informative name can be used on the survey forms.
  • A picklist of common values will speed up data entry on the mobile devices. This can be ‘suggestion’ list where you pick an item from the list but can also entry a value manually; or you can tick the “Value must be one of the list below” box, which means that you can only select from the list (i.e. manual entry is not allowed). It may be worthwhile adding ‘not applicable’ or ‘not recorded’ to the picklist for when an actual/sensible value is not appropriate.
  • Set some fields as mandatory so that you do not forget to provide a value when filling out the survey form.
  • Hide any unwanted fields to make the survey forms shorter and uncluttered.
  • You can configure minimum and maximum values for the numeric fields.

With the Survey Templates button, you can copy a survey that you setup for a different client or from one of your client templates. Use that as a starting point and then modify it further as required for this client.

Any suggestions?

OTISS is constantly developing to suit our users’ requirements. Please contact us if you have suggestions for features or options that you would like to see.

BS5837 Fields

Field Name Description
Survey & Site Each inspection is carried out within a Survey. The Survey dictates the site for this tree.
Location The location of the trees and the outline of the polygons are stored as longitude/latitude coordinates in the OTISS GIS database. But they are displayed as national grid references.
Reference A reference name or number. e.g. T01, G14.
TPO Reference* A TPO number, other reference(s) or tag number.
Species A species selected from a list of tree species. The Common Species and the Estate Species are are presented as a single list of species
Variety* A variety or cultivar (text).
Tree Structure* One of: Tree, Multi-stemmed tree, Group, Hedge, Stump, etc. This field determines whether the icon is a point or a polygon.
Age Class* One of: Newly Planted, Young, Early Mature, Mature, Over Mature, Veteran.
Life Expectancy* Estimate life expectancy or “remaining contribution” in years, e.g. 10+, 20+, etc.
Number of Stems* Number of stems in a multi-stemmed tree. Used for calculating the RPA.
Stem diameter(s)* The measured stem diameter. For multi-stemmed trees, the user can provide a list of stem diameters or an average stem diameter. Used for calculating the RPA.
RPA Area and Radius The RPA is calculated (as define din BS5837) from the number of stems and stem diameters. This field is read-only.
Height* Measured height of the tree.
Mature Height (NHBC) The NHBC estimate for the expected mature height of this species. This field is read-only.
Branch Spread: N/S/E/W* Measured branch spead for the four compass points.
Crown Clearance* Measured height of the crown canopy from ground level.
Lowest branch Height and Direction.* Measured height of the lowest branch from ground level, and the direction of growth – i.e. N/S/E/W.
Survey Notes* Detailed notes of what was seen during this inspection.
CustomText1* A configurable text field (max 50 letters).
CustomText2* A configurable text field (max 50 letters).
CustomText3* A configurable text field (max 50 letters).
CustomNum1* A configurable decimal number.
CustomNum2* A configurable decimal number.
CustomNum3* A configurable decimal number.
Retention Category* The BS5837 category: A, B, C, U and the sub categories ‘arboricultural’, ‘landscape’ and ‘cultural’.
Pre-construction recommendation* A set of pre-construction management recommendations.
Mid-construction recommendation* A set of mid-construction management recommendations.
Post-construction recommendation* A set of post-construction management recommendations.
Additional Comments* A set of additional comments about this tree and the proposed development.
Date Inspected The date on which the item was inspected.
User Name The name of the person who carried out the inspection.