What an addictive story the Irton Beech tree case is to an arboricultural or forestry practitioner.
Public interest in the story is daily adding value to the tree itself. A tree that is likely to become if not already the most expensive tree in the UK or even Europe.
What is instantly apparent and is why the story is so fascinating well beyond England’s boundaries is the use of practitioner reports to feed a legal battle at a time when public consciousness of trees has never been higher, combined with a time when the financial situation of Local Authorities are under heavy scrutiny.
At virtually every international and national conference with regards tree and forest policy we are hearing about the necessity of communicating forestry to the public.
Academic papers have been shouting the need for knowledge transfer with regards forestry and arboricultural policy for many years now.
The UK government itself has, via the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman, recognised tree values and their contribution to society.
And yet when the crunch comes, a judges’ decision can set a precedent that simply washes away any progress, whether the decision had been to keep the tree, or not as the case is. The attempts to hide information from the public was a feeble attempt to reduce the risk of a protest action (as eventually happened when Mr Snow climbed into the tree) and thus proved there was a knowledge of genuine local community and public opinion, which was blithely ignored.
Can the relationship between practitioners and the public progress now in understanding the intricacies at play with regards a single tree within its geographical position? It would appear doubtful in England and the mist created by an over dominant legal framework is ultimately responsible.
Is there not a clearer illustration of the barriers involved in empowering English communities. Will the practitioner ever be allowed the respect due, when both their voice and the public’s voice are simply removed from, or even worse manipulated, in decision making.
There are many ‘dodgy’ facts being quoted in the media but the wider discussions surrounding the tree and its situation on industry forums is eye opening.
Whilst it is good to see tree values are being discussed in the mainstream media, it is unfortunate to see Helliwell’s Amenity Value set against CAVAT, which is of course a false reckoning of what these values actually are. A clear example of misusing practitioner information, there should have been one reason why that value was required and the choice of valuation is dependent on that. Now there is confusion as to which value is actually applicable. The insurance and legal professions have surely kept confusion alive to suit their own pockets.
The value of the publicity combined with the legal fees is directly attributable to this single tree and thus a price tag certainly well over £300,000 and growing. An amount that could easily buy a decent sized woodland and maintain it for several years ( for a cynic it will be interesting to see which NGOs join in the battle ‘to save the Irton Beech’).
Is this not the value that should be attributed to the tree now?
As the most recognisable name associated with trees in the UK public is ‘Swampy’, surely Mr Snow is now a personality who can go on to become the figurehead of what is surely a time when the perception of trees and their role in society is capable of finally being recognised in the mainstream.
I hope this is the case, his climb into the Irton Beech was more than the stoic stance usually adopted by English protesters who are fighting similar battles. It is not a case of becoming a bit ‘American’ it is simply displaying a real frustration with regards policy towards trees and landscapes in the UK and the fault is surely that of government’s growing list of threatening policies against the natural heritage of England and the over dominance of a middle tier legal profession who are happy to waste money, which is what the NPPF is likely to further achieve if established as well as an illustration of the problems of the current system.