ATO Directors

Peter Howson

Peter is the Principal Tree Officer at Liverpool City Council. After moving to Liverpool to study for his BEd in Craft Design & Technology he changed tact to study Arboriculture at Reasehealth Cheshire College of Agriculture where he gained his RFS and Technician Certificates in Arboriculture. With help from the Princes Trust he formed his own company of consulting arboricultural contractors operating around Merseyside before being teased into Local Authority. He joined Liverpool City Council in 1994 as one of three Forestry Officers, progressing to the Tree Woodland & Ranger Manager in 2000 and has been the Principal Tree Officer ever since. 

His role involves the maintenance of all council trees, their inspection regimes and the management of tree related risk. Currently formulating a tree strategy & policy for Liverpool he has found that much of the Council’s tree stock is not fit for purpose and so a strategy and design code for tree planting is being developed based on the right tree in the right place for the right reasons and implemented to the right specification.

Whilst most of his role is meant to be about trees, in reality, its as much about managing the people that live near them. Of course there are no rules or books on the subject so ATO wants to develop a library of standard letter templates and advisory notes for the benefit of Tree Officers nationally.

How many times have we heard “Don’t get me wrong I love trees but…”? 

Al Smith FICFor

Al started his arboricultural career in 1974, working in Greenwich Royal Park with the tree gang, which at that time, was mainly involving the control of Dutch elm disease. He joined the Greater London Council in 1975 working as an arborist Team Leader, before he started work at the LB Camden as a Tree Foreman in 1981. Al was subsequently promoted to Tree Manager in the late 1980s and retired from Camden in early 2018. Al continues to be involved in the industry by being an Honorary member of the LTOA Executive Committee, he is a Chartered Arboriculturist with Institute of Chartered Foresters and was an Assessors for the organisation’s Professional Management Entry examination from 2016 to 2020. Al is also a member of the annual National Tree Officers Conference steering group and coordinates the tree forum, which is made up of tree officer groups/forums across the UK. Al’s membership of the Arboricultural Association now spans nearly 40 years.


David Houghton

David started his career in trees in 2006 at the London Borough of Camden as an Assistant Arboricultural Support Officer and worked his way up to become a Tree Manager in 2019.  He has a number of academic qualifications including a degree in Biology, Level 6 diploma in Arboriculture and an ILM Level 4 certificate in Leadership & Management to name a few.  In addition to his academic achievements, he also sits on the London Forestry & Woodland Advisory Committee and the Urban Forestry & Woodland Advisory Committee for England, which provide advice to the Forestry Commission on a range of tree and woodland issues.  As part of the LTOA Canopy Cover Working Party he helped measure canopy cover for London. These experiences have led him to develop a holistic approach to tree and woodland management.


Barbara Milne

Barbara is Head of Arboricultural Services at Westminster City Council and has worked for Westminster since 2002.  She has more than 25 years experience as an arboriculturist and has a BSc honours degree in ecology, the RFS professional diploma in arboriculture, is a chartered town planner and is a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. She is an Executive member of the London Tree Officers Association.  During her time as an LTOA member she has been an active contributor to many working parties, publications and initiatives on behalf of the LTOA, in relation to various issues such as canopy cover, tree legislation and policy, planning and development and diversity and inclusion. 


Imogen Mole

Imogen has been an active member of NATO since 2005 and became a director in 2010. She is keen to see greater collaboration across the industry and has keen interest in urban greening, in particular successfully establishing trees in our historic towns and cities as well as influencing greener new developments.

Imogen started out in the arboricultural industry in 1999 carrying out practical tree work, she joined at Norwich City Council in 2005 after completed a FDSc in Arboriculture at Myerscough college. Starting as an Arboricultural technician progressing to Arboricultural officer and then Lead arboricultural officer in 2015. She now works across a large area in the county of Norfolk and the Norwich fringe delivering the arboricultural side of the planning function.


Richard Edwards

Richard has been a Trees and Woodlands Officer in Croydon since 1994, on leaving school he joined Croydon Councils tree gang working as a grounds man and progressing to a climber. He attended the Cumbrian College of Agriculture and Forestry in 1985 on the BTEC course spending a year working on the West Coast of Scotland in production Forestry realising that working in an outdoor cellulose factory was not for him he took a job back at Croydon Council as a Tree Planting Coordinator. He organised an extensive replanting programme after the 1987 “Hurricane”. Richard them moved on to being the tree officer for St Albans District Council in 1989 and stayed there for five years returning to Croydon in 1994. He gained his AA Tec Cert in 1994. Richard is keen on woodland management having been instrumental in Croydon Woodland management work he recognise the importance of Trees and Woodlands Officers role and that it is not all about the trees but about people too. He has been on the LTOA Executive Committee since 2007.


Ed Henderson

Ed is manager of the Isle of Anglesey County Councils (Ynys Môn) Ash Dieback (ADB) project working within the Highway, Property and Waste department. He has an educational background in Horticulture from the late-1980s, a BSc in Agroforestry from 1992 and an Urban and Rural Planning MSc from 2019 and is an Associate ICF member. Since the late 1980s Ed has worked in public parks and open spaces, horticulture, forestry and rural development in Ireland and Mozambique. From 2002 to 2022 he was the Planning Tree and Landscape Officer with the Isle of Anglesey County Council covering trees, hedges and landscape in a rural and town context. Anglesey is better known for its open coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty than its tree cover; however, ADB is having a substantial effect on landscapes at a time when net zero targets mean interest in tree establishment and management has never been higher. Consequently, in addition to addressing ADB his other priority is developing an appropriate local authority tree strategy as part of a coordinated asset management approach to trees on council land.

Ruthe Davies- Associate Director 

Ruthe started her arboricultural career working as a part-time arborist groundsman while studying the Arboriculture degree course at Myerscough. She graduated in 2013 and since then has been working as a tree officer for the City of Edinburgh Council, working with the Parks team for eight years during which time she acquired a post-graduate diploma in law. In 2021 she moved to the Planning team. She became a Chartered Arboriculturist in 2018 and is currently Scottish branch secretary for the Arboricultural Association as well as a contributor to the working group for the Scottish Tree Officer Group. Ruthe’s favourite tree species is currently the giant redwood and she likes to sleep underneath trees as frequently as she can.


ATO Co-ordinator 

Becky Porter

Becky has an MA in Conservation Policy and an Advanced Certificate in Public Relations from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. She has been the Executive Officer of the London Tree Officers Association since 1999 and so has first hand experience of co-ordinating a membership based tree officer organisation. She is looking forward to working with tree officers on a national level as the ATO National Co-ordinator.