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

    Developers must submit legible, 11 x 17” hard copies and PDF versions of the plans.

    All submissions and communication must go through the project’s assigned Planner. The planner will then refer it to the Landscape Architect. Do not send application material directly to the Landscape Architect.

    Plans must meet the requirements designated in each of the following categories:

    Must include:

    • A bar scale, north arrow, site address, Surrey project number, name of the Landscape Architecture firm, the Landscape Architect that prepared the plans, a stamp, and revision date.
    • All plans submitted to the City must be in metric. Imperial measures may be included in brackets.
    • 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.

      Must include:

      • 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 BC Landscape Standards latest edition.
      • The right plant for the right locations are to be proposed. This includes larger spreading canopies 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.
        • Trees symbols are to be sized for 15 years after planting with spacing to properly reflect this.
        • No more than a maximum of 20% of any given genus and 10% of any given specie should be provided per site proposal.
      • 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 Comfort Letter for installation of soil per plan requirements at the rough grading stage may be required.
      • Due to changing climatic conditions, we look 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.
      • Planting distance requirements must be maintained:
        • All measurements must include estimated mature trunk diameter as part of the distance.
        • Small trees = 2m, 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 high max 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 landscape contract. They should be omitted from the plans, or greyed out so that it’s clear they are not part of the 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 native and non-invasive 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

      Must include:

      • OCP island planter requirements are to include one (1) tree per parking island requirement.
      • In paved areas with confined islands, structural soil is required to provide a minimum of 10 cubic metres per tree. In areas with multiple trees, a continuous trench method is preferred over isolated pits when feasible. Structural soil should also be provided whenever trees are proposed within a meter of a sidewalk, patio or equivalent paved area.
        • Details, specifications, and a Comfort Letter from a qualified Landscape Architect or Arborist are required. See Comfort Letter Requirements below.
        • 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 unless otherwise noted. Small flowering or columnar form tree species will not be accepted.


      Planting Over Slabs and Green Roofs

      Must include:

      • 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; mounding within planting beds 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 BC Landscape Standards as needed.


      Planting at Townhouses

      • There is to be one tree per groundfloor townhouse unit.
      • Sufficient space is to be allocated for plants to be able to grow to their mature size. 
      • Medium to large shade tree species are to be provided where space permits, such as in amenity areas or buffers away from townhouse units. Small flowering species may be planted to within 2.2m of the townhouses. 

        Must include:

        • A band of contrasting paving (unit pavers or stamped concrete) is required at vehicular entrances (except for industrial sites with extensive truck traffic where sawcut concrete is acceptable).
        • 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 developments. They may be required in commercial and industrial developments depending on site drainage requirements.
          • Details, including subbase preparation, installation, drainage, etc. are required.
          • Field substitutions of permeable pavers are not permitted.
          • A Comfort 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

        Must include:

        • In cases when hardscape cannot be avoided inside the Tree Protection Zone,
          • If suspended slab is proposed, complete 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 Comfort Letter for sidewall preparation will be required.

          Features and Furnishings

          Must include:

          • 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 are required 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.
          • Artificial turf will not be accepted in any applications.


          Must include:

          • 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.
          • No thorny or poisonous plants are permitted in play areas.

            Must include:

            • Long fences along street frontages must be set back at least 0.5m inside the property line and articulated (jogged back and forth at logical places), 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 and the height of the wall.
            • Timber walls are not accepted.
            • Walls over 1.2m high 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 within drainage or sewer ROWs.

              Must include:

              • 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, either 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
              • Handicap Accessibility should be addressed for circulation patterns within site boundaries. Letdowns should be shown wherever access is necessary, such as all amenity areas, crosswalk connections, at handicap parking stalls, etc. Roll-over curbs will not be considered sufficient for handicap accessibility.

                Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

                Plans must be CPTED compliant, which means:

                • 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

                  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. See our Comfort Letter Template for Landscape Architects for more information.

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

                  A Follow-up Letter is required to be submitted and accepted by the City in order to receive release of securities. See requirements below.

                  See also Arborist Reports for Development for additional information.

                  Comfort Letters must include:

                  • Specifics about what services will be provided.
                  • Signature from both the professional contractor (e.g. Landscape Architect) and the applicant (e. g. owner/developer).

                  Follow-up Letters must include:

                  • Complete field review: include data supporting that the required elements in the plans, reports, specifications, etc. were properly installed. Stand-alone statements of proper installation will not suffice for release of securities.
                  • Photographs supporting the above information is required.
                  • Receipts, delivery confirmation, supplier product info, lab results of soil tests, etc. could be included as documentation of proper installation.

                  If Comfort Letter requirements cannot be determined to be correctly installed based on photographic or other documentation, this could result in a delay of the release, or permanent withholding, of securities, and the requirement for the product and all associated elements to be removed and reinstalled.

                  Changes to the Landscape Plan

                  Due to the collection of Landscape Securities, plans always require to be developed to the construction stage for Development Permits. No changes (other than minor plant substitutions or planting configurations) can be made after the development permit has been approved.

                  If changes are unavoidable, all changes must be submitted to area planning, with revision clouds, for approval prior to construction. A minor or major DP amendment may be required.

                  Failure to get changes approved by the City prior to construction can result in added cost to the developer and lengthy delays in the release of landscape securities.

                  Acronym Glossary


                  Development Permit


                  Building Permit


                  Comfort Letter


                  Former L3, also referred to as Schedule C-L, sign-off by a Landscape Architect that the Landscape is substantially complete, supplemented with field notes


                  Follow-up Letter, a letter submitted by the professional that provided a CL on-file for specific duty.

                  The letter is to state if all requirements were met to satisfaction or not. A passing FuL is required for securities to be released.

                  See Arborist Reports for Development for additional information.


                  Neighbourhood Concept Plan


                  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

                  Key Documents


                  For more information, call 604-591-4675 and leave a voicemail, or email TreeBylaw@surrey.ca. Please include your Surrey City Project number, site address and contact information with your question.