Learn the landscape plan requirements for developing a site in Surrey.

A landscape plan is required for the following sites:

  • Commercial
  • Multi-family
  • Industrial
  • Institutional
  • Farm protection
  • Heritage
  • Hazard
  • Sensitive ecosystems
  • Sites requiring landscape buffer

    Submitting your Application

    All submissions and communication must go through the project’s assigned Planner.

    Revisions and Changes to your Application

    Due to the collection of Landscape Securities, plans are required to be developed at the construction stage for Development Permits (DP).

    The following revisions may be considered after the DP has been approved:

    1. Minor plant substitutions
    2. Minor planting configuration changes

    The following applies to all other revisions and changes to your application:

    • Must be submitted to the assigned Planner
    • Revisions must be shown as 'revision clouds' on drawings
    • A minor or major DP may be required
    • Changes must be approved by the City before constructions starts
    • Failure to comply may result in added costs of delays in landscape security releases

    Landscaping Plan Requirements

    Plans must meet requirements outlined in all categories. There may be delays if the requirements are not met. 


    We require legible, 11 x 17" hard copies and PDF versions of the plans. 

    • A bar scale, north arrow, site address, Surrey project number, name of the Landscape Architecture firm and the Landscape Architect that prepared the plans, and revision date.
    • Any existing or proposed road around or within the development must be shown and labelled with the street names along with existing and proposed property lines and rights-of-way.
    • All existing features being retained (perimeter fences, shrub beds, etc.) must be called-up as such on the plans.
    • All hard and soft landscaping.
    • All surface materials and site furnishings must be called-up. Details and/or specifications are required.
    • If plans are to be phased, this must be established at the DP stage
      • All amenity area elements are to be included in Phase 1.
    • Underground and overhead structures, such as parking or balconies, are to be identified on the plans and considered in the design. The complete boundary of underground parking plus extent of excavation is to be clearly labeled on the plans.
    • A detailed planting plan and plant list.
      • The plant list must include all conventional categories, including quantity, botanical name, common name, planting size/condition and spacing where applicable.
      • All planting must comply with or exceed the Canadian Landscape Standard latest edition.

    • The right plants for the right locations are to be proposed, including larger spreading canopy trees where the space permits it and appropriate species for the moisture and light levels anticipated for the location.
    • A mix of small, medium, and large tree species are encouraged and creating space to support the variety will be considered during review.
    • Sod is known not to survive in shady, wet locations in this region.
      • Adjacent on- and off-site building height and tree canopy must be taken into consideration when proposing vegetation.
      • Sun studies are required upon request if the species proposed for a location is questioned.
      • Alternative shade tolerant species are promoted for shaded lawn locations. Artificial turf will not be accepted.
      • A Supervision Letter for installation of soil per plan requirements at the rough grading stage may be required. See Supervision Letter requirements below.
    • Due to changing climatic conditions, we will be looking for drought tolerant species and may require review of irrigation and water retention measures, particularly for roof deck gardens and planting on slab.
    • A minimum topsoil volume of 10 cubic metres to a depth of 0.6 metres is required for all proposed trees.  Any shortfall of topsoil, due to paving or structural containment, should be made up with soil cells or structural soil calculated at a 4:1 ratio.
    • Planting distance requirements must be maintained:
      • All measurements must include estimated mature trunk diameter as part of the distance.
      • Small trees = 2.5m, medium trees = 3m, large trees = 4m from a foundation wall, façade, or second floor balcony.
      • 1m from property lines, utilities, driveways, sidewalks, and other hardscape elements.
      • 10m from Skytrain structures
      • 3m max ht within transmission line buffer zones
      • All trees must be planted within reasonable distance to respect the mature canopy sizes of adjacent trees, including neighbouring site trees, and the impact their own mature canopy size on adjacent site features.
    • Unless otherwise specified, boulevard trees are planted by the City and are not a part of the onsite landscape contract. They should be omitted from the plans or greyed out so that it’s clear they are not part of the onsite landscape contract. Boulevard trees in the City Centre are an exception and are normally shown on the plan and become part of the landscape contract.
    • In multi-family residential developments, outdoor amenity areas should not overlap with retained tree protection zones (TPZs).
      • No retaining walls, footings, hardscape, fire access, plantings greater than #1 size pots, furniture, play equipment, decks, patios, etc. may be placed inside the TPZ of protected trees.
      • Retention of understory is encouraged and may be required, particularly among clusters of retained trees.
      • Surface grubbing within TPZs is not permitted.
    • Western redcedar (Thuja plicata) and its cultivars (such as T. plicata ‘Excelsa’) are not to be used as hedge material.
    • Parking stalls along street frontages require a planting screen with a double row of evergreen shrubs and a minimum height of 1m for at least one of the species.
    • All landscape beds must have 5cm bark mulch.

    Planting in Paved Areas

    • In paved areas with confined islands, either soil cells or structural soil (SS), at a 4:1 ratio (i.e. 4m3 SS = 1m3 growing medium), is required to make up any shortfall in provision of minimum of 10 cubic metres per tree.  In areas with multiple trees, a continuous trench method is preferred over isolated pits when feasible.
      • Details, specifications, and a Supervision Letter from a qualified Landscape Architect or Arborist are required. 
      • Soil cell and structural soil proposals are to be coordinated with Engineering and shown on their plans for installation.
      • Medium to large shade tree species with broad spreading form are required in paved areas, to help combat the Urban Heat Island Effect. Small flowering or columnar form tree species will not be accepted, unless a wide canopy impedes certain access requirements.

    Planting over Slabs and Green Roofs

    • All planting over slab is required to be coordinated with the Architect.
      • Minimum soil volumes must meet or exceed BC Landscape Standards and meet or exceed the following:
        • Min. 1m depth for trees (unless Engineering requirements are greater to meet NCP requirements).
        • Min. 0.5m depth for shrubs and ground covers/flowers (unless Engineering requirements are greater to meet NCP requirements).
        • Min. 10 cubic metres per tree.
      • Soil is to be recessed; excessive mounding within planting beds, except for drainage, will not be permitted. If minimum soil depths cannot be obtained, the roof of parking below will need to be lowered rather than mounding up.
    • Roof decks are typically extreme micro-climates for vegetation to grow in (extreme winds, sun, etc.) and are completely fabricated environments, therefore proper maintenance is required to ensure survival of the planted vegetation.
      • Review of short- and long-term maintenance requirements may be required upon request. Reference may be made to Canadian Landscape Standard as needed.
    • A band of contrasting paving (unit pavers or scored/stamped concrete) is required at vehicular entrances (scored concrete is the preferred option at industrial sites with extensive truck traffic).
    • Parking stalls are to be set back so that car overhangs will not encroach within the planting beds.
    • Permeable pavers are required in all visitor parking stalls in residential townhouse developments. They may be required in commercial and industrial developments depending on site drainage requirements.
      • Local permeable paver types include ‘Aquapave,’ ‘SF Rima,’ and ‘PaveDrain.’ Other types may be acceptable.
      • Details, including subbase preparation, installation, drainage, etc. are required.
      • Field substitutions of permeable pavers are not permitted.
      • A Supervision Letter for subgrade preparation, drainage, and installation requirements per plans may be required. 
    • Sidewalks are to be located away from curbs to provide planting buffers.

    Hardscape within or near Tree Protection Zones 

    • In cases when hardscape cannot be avoided inside the Tree Protection Zone,
      • If suspended slab is proposed, coordination between the Arborist, Civil, and Geotechnical Engineer is required before plans may be approved.
    • In cases when the maximum grading slope of 3:1 cannot be maintained, such as excavation of parking garages, etc., shoring or shotcrete solutions will have to be coordinated with the Arborist and Architect and Engineers before plans can be approved and all tree protection measure requirements must be referenced on related plans. A Supervision Letter for sidewall preparation will be required.
    Features & Furnishings
    • Handicap accessibility must be reasonably provided and clearly marked throughout the site.
      • Site grading and all amenity access is to be considered.
      • Accessibility is to meet minimum standards of BC Building Code/BC Access Handbook.
    • Construction details or product specifications for all garbage enclosures, fences, trellises, arbours, gazebos, fountains, bike racks, benches, picnic tables, kiosks, signage, mail. etc.
    • Hydro kiosks and any other service kiosks must be shown and screened from view and meet BC Hydro’s latest requirements.
    • Drawings and specifications for children’s play area equipment and installation must comply with Canadian Playground Safety Institute standards.
    • 1.8m non-encroachment safety buffers around each piece of equipment must be drawn on the plans. Buffers between equipment may overlap.
    • Provision of shade.
    • Provision of adequate fencing, depending on the situation, with self-closing gates.
    • No thorny or poisonous plants are permitted in play areas.
    Fences, Gates, & Walls
    • Fences along street frontages must be set back at least 0.5m inside the property line (outside the SRW) and low shrubs provided on both sides of the fence.
    • Fences are to step down to 1.2m height at street frontages (front of building face)
    • Any existing retaining walls must be shown, and any proposed retaining walls have to be shown along with a section indicating the material used, finish and the height of the wall.
      • Timber walls are not accepted.
      • Walls over 1.2m ht require a permit and Engineering plans.
        • On street frontage, walls should be of Architectural concrete finish.
        • No retaining walls are permitted along property lines or within ROWs.
      • No retaining walls are permitted along property lines or within drainage or sewer ROWs.
    • If there are major grade changes (especially near areas where trees are being retained) then sections through those areas need to be provided.
    • Max. slopes permitted in landscaped areas = 3:1.
      • Max. grade leading to root balls of planted trees is 3:1. If existing slope is greater, the grading or planting must be modified to fall within the limit.
    • Guardrails or railings are required for any grade changes greater than 0.6m
    Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
    • Plans must be CPTED compliant.
      • Trees are to be pruned up to 1.8m
      • Shrubs are to be pruned down to 1.0m
      • Frontage fencing to be low and transparent (e.g. open picket)
    Riparian Zones
    • Plans are to be compliant with the September 12, 2016 amendment to the Official Community Plan adopting the Sensitive Ecosystem Development Permit Area (SEDP) and zoning bylaw amendments on the same date.
    Supervision Letter Requirements

    Supervision Letters will be required upon request for installation of sub-grade materials. 

    • Specifics about what services will be provided.
    • Contact information and signature from both the applicant and the owner.
    • Follow-up reports must provide photo-documented evidence of the supervised work.

    Glossary of Acronyms


    Development Permit


    Building Permit


    (formerly Schedule L3) sign-off by a Landscape Architect that the Landscape is substantially complete, supplemented with photo-documented field notes.

    Note: a Schedule L must be submitted at BP in order for a Schedule C-L to be accepted. 


    Follow-up Letter: a photo-documentary report submitted by the Professional that provided the SL on file for specific duty. The report is to show and state if all requirements were met to satisfaction or note. A passing FuL is required for securities to be released. 


    Neighbourhood Concept Plan
    OCP Official Community Plan
    SL Supervision Letter: a letter submitted by a Professional specifying work that will be overseen and/or directed in the field. The letter may be required for Landscape Plans to be approved or Tree Cutting Permit to be issued.


    Tree Cutting Permit
    TPZ Tree Protection Zone


    Critical Root Zone: area of highest risk for compromising the health and safety of a tree if damaged. 


    Right of Way