The State of European Trees: What happens next in Sheffield must happen everywhere.

The dismissal of the judicial review bid for Sheffield’s trees was somewhat surprising, particularly in my opinion with regards the consultation issues, but the full text of the judgement is essential reading for many of us in the industry and further, across the whole of Europe.

Praise must be given to David Dilner and the rest of the Sheffield tree protesters who brought this to the high court. Not least because it allows valuable insight into the minds of many of whom we in the industry and others who care about trees rarely get to talk with, as well as the legal framework as it is. The final sentence is very pertinent and more than hints at the fact that we who campaign for trees, both in and outwith the industry have to re-evaluate how we sell trees, all trees for all benefits and for all values towards statutory law rather than common law.

“It may be that those who will be disappointed by the terms of this Judgement will want to see a different legislative regime in place. That is a matter for parliament, and not for this Court”.

So what next?

Obviously there will be more coming from Sheffield as an appeal is likely and ongoing support is very much needed. You can help by visiting this site: www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/sheffield-trees

But no matter what the final outcome we clearly have our work cut out if we are to 1) Ensure a healthy proportion of trees available in everyday landscapes for the benefit of all. 2) Ensure secure and vibrant arboricultural / horticultural / landscaping industries, with a principal charge of retaining trees as much as possible.

Joesgrove

In the first instance we have to tackle the frankly ludicrous notion that re-planting, be it as much as 10 for 1, works. It just doesn’t. As the above Judgement highlights all too well there are a myriad of issues surrounding the largest natural element in our unnatural landscapes which only complicates things during discussion. To throw in the habitual and heavily ‘green washed’ PR about re-planting for future generations sake is all too easily soaked up. So we’ve felled everything for our own cost savings or profits but can rest easy about the legacy we have left for our children? This is spurious nonsense that has to stop.

We need to accept a tree for the trees sake. It is the surface area of a tree that counts – the greater the surface area, both above and below ground, the more beneficial it is socially, environmentally and economically.

We need to be better at using valuation systems, regularly. A lot of work has been done re this but the industry as a whole is tiny – so we all need to be getting our heads around this and whilst a standardised system encompassing all the values is difficult to install across the board it is still well worth setting values as and when we can (this can only but help re-establish the professionalism of the industry that has for far too long been the last child to be picked for the school team).

We need to get better at selling arboreal engineering, innovative but particularly traditional techniques; the use of roots to help strengthen retaining walls or banks etc., techniques which worked for centuries, indeed millennia before we got concrete fixation.

We need to promote what we don’t know as much as what we do. There is so much yet to discover that the gloves are off in many regards – surely this is more tantalising to promote to get new generations of arboriculturalists, silviculturalists and others?

We need to get to grips with soil. The survival rate of young trees in everyday landscapes is shocking, yet easily avoidable. Budget cuts and downgrading of the professionalism of tree planting is a considerable factor towards this high mortality rate – easily well over 50%.

The above list is far from exhaustive.

The industry across Europe and maybe further needs to look towards a standardised method of presenting the information to the public and policy makers. This is surely the first hurdle towards a consultation process that is quick, cheap and effective. If the public are more aware of the importance of a tree beyond sharing the many memes and blogs listing ’10 great things trees do for us’ blurb then we start to win over those we need to truly listen and the rights of all trees, everywhere, for their unique list of benefits for any particular locations slowly but surely becomes a given and therefore the money will slowly flow back in.

Sheffield is famous for it’s trees, but not how it once was – however ‘out of the ashes’ comes an opportunity for Sheffield to become the much needed ‘epiphany’ for all those involved with trees across Europe.

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4 responses to “The State of European Trees: What happens next in Sheffield must happen everywhere.

  1. LEARNING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

    There is much more to this than was presented in Court. In many ways, Mr Dillner’s legal team failed to maximise their opportunities. The Save Our Roadside Trees group (SORT: formerly Save Our Rustlings Trees) – the first of the Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) – had previously published detailed documents (the SORT letters) that provided arguments, supported by sound reasoning and detail of current good practice (including the “best practice” that the Council claim to comply with, but do not) – that could and should have been used in court Unfortunately, everything was a bit rushed, so the legal team didn’t have time to read through the SORT documents prior to forming a case. Arguably, that was their biggest mistake, in my opinion.

    Prior to the court case, two petitions had been presented before the council by different groups:

    SAVE OUR ROADSIDE TREES (SORT):
    https://www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-streetsahead-sheffield-gov-uk-save-the-12-trees-on-rustlings-road-sheffield

    NETHER EDGE:
    https://www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-amey-councillor-fox-streetsahead-sheffield-gov-uk-save-the-netheredge-trees

    There are two key SORT letters: the first is dated 14th July, 2015; the second is dated 3rd February, 2016. Both were addressed to the City’s Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox). Much of the content of the former was used by SORT as a petition hand-out. The latter was used as the Nether Edge petition hand-out. Local Authority protocol permits a hand-out to be distributed to every Councillor in the city, prior to a meeting of full Council at which a petition is to be presented (in just two three minute slots). The Local Authority is responsible for distribution. The SORT & Nether Edge hand-outs were distributed via e-mail, by Sheffield City Council’s “Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources” department, to EVERY Councillor in the city.

    You can access the SORT letters (the hand-outs) using the following links:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/street-trees-3-month-ban-all-tree-felling-city

    http://www.savesheffieldtrees.org.uk/resources-and-links/

    It is STRONGLY advised that anybody else in the UK deciding to take their Local Authority to court read BOTH documents before making a case (especially the legal people).

    THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE ON 1st JULY 2015 can be accessed at the following link, under the sub-heading “Minutes of Previous Council Meeting”:
    http://sheffielddemocracy.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=154&MId=6016

    Questions about trees are on pages 8 & 9 of the PDF; a redacted version of the petition, followed by the Council’s response, can be found on pages 9 to 16.

    THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE ON 3rd FEBRUARY, 2016 can be accessed at the following link, under the sub-heading “Minutes of Previous Council Meetings”:
    http://sheffielddemocracy.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=154&MId=6022

    Questions about trees are on pages 6 & 7 of the PDF. A redacted version of the petition, followed by the Council’s response, can be found on pages 18 to 24.

    Video: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10153196636870146&id=584285145

    “At the conclusion of the debate it was moved by Councillor Terry Fox, seconded by Councillor Julie Dore, that this Council:-
    […]
    d) COMMITS TO BEING OPEN AND TRANSPARENT WITH THE SHEFFIELD PUBLIC ENSURING ALL RELEVANT INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.”

    Citizens have yet to see Sheffield City Council make any attempt to honour that commitment. To date, there has been no change.

    It was at this meeting (3rd February) that the Leader of the Council (Cllr Julie Dore: Labour) stated that the Council was entitled to treat any question they receive as a Freedom of Information (FOI) request and then send it to the Information Management Officer to be dealt with (under Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act [2000]). See:
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/full_work_contact_details_for_sc#incoming-801540

    Good luck to Mr Dillner (a man that truly deserves an OBE for services to the community) and everyone that campaigns for ADEQUATE, BALANCED ASSESSMENTS; SUSTAINABLE tree population management, and EVIDENCE-BASED policy and decision making.

    Many thanks to Dr Deepa Shetty (SORT); Ms Louise Wilcockson (SORT) & Mrs Carly Mountain (Nether Edge).

  2. SHEFFIELD’s HIGHWAY TREES: THE LEGAL BATTLE CONTINUES

    Last week, on 27th April, 2016, a high court judge ruled that Sheffield’s Streets Ahead project could continue, without amendment to policy, strategy, management or practice [1]. The city-wide felling of Sheffield’s mature highway trees is therefore legally allowed to continue, without constraint.

    At the start of the Streets Ahead project, in August 2012, Sheffield’s mature highway trees numbered 27,000 and accounted for 75% of the tree population in the highways land use category [2].

    ALL DEAD, DYING and DANGEROUS highway trees WERE FELLED BEFORE AUGUST 2015.

    At the inaugural meeting of the “bi monthly” Highway Trees Advisory Forum (which has not met since 2nd September, 2015), on 23rd July, 2015, Steve Robinson (SCC HEAD OF HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE) commented:

    “So, why the 6D’s then? … our underinvestment and underfunding left us with a number of DEAD, DYING AND DANGEROUS trees. Some of you would be surprised that there were 1,200 trees* that were within that category. So, AMEY IDENTIFIED THOSE TREES AND ADDRESSED THOSE FIRST.”

    “So, just to give you a summary of where we are today, there’s been 2,563 highway trees removed because they met one of the 6Ds and there was NO OTHER RECTIFICATION that we could carry out.”

    “Our next priority is to improve the condition of our roads and pavements. So, in other words, deal with the DAMAGING trees – those trees that are damaging kerbs, pavements and drains.”

    “So, we’re now looking to deal with DISCRIMINATORY trees, which is the final 6th D, and those are trees that block the pavements, affecting those people that have mobility issues.” [2]

    To 5th February, 2016, when the High Court prevented the unnecessary felling of highway trees [3], 3,670 mature highway trees felled so far as part of the £2.2bn, city-wide, “transformational” Streets Ahead “improvement” project that claims to deliver BETTER management [2].

    Thanks to an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (case FS50596905, dealing with FOI 422), we now know that even though the Streets Ahead project is over three years in to a five year programme of highway resurfacing, lighting and felling, neither Amey or the Streets Ahead team have ever commissioned or draughted any ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS FOR FOOTWAY (PAVEMENTS), EDGING (KERB) OR DRAIN CONSTRUCTION that could enable the safe long-term retention of mature highway trees, without unacceptable compromise to tree health or structural integrity [4]. This is shocking, as most of the mature highway trees are likely to be associated with some level of DAMAGE to footways or edging.

    On 23rd July, 2015, at the inaugural meeting of the Highway Trees Advisory Forum (HTAF), Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) commented:

    “So, just because a tree is diseased doesn’t mean to say that that tree needs to be replaced. …IF AN ENGINEERING SOLUTION CAN BE APPLIED, THEN IT WILL BE APPLIED. Err, there was a lots of comment made earlier on about whether a tree is removed as a last resort; and A TREE IS REMOVED AS A LAST RESORT.”

    During the initial five year period of the project – the Core Investment Programme – about 70% of the City’s footways will be resurfaced: 1,435 miles. By December 2015, approximately 790 miles had been done [2]. Citizens have noted that until May last year, Amey concentrated on roads on the outskirts of the city where there were fewer parked cars, less street furniture, fewer residential properties, and very few trees in footways or in close proximity to the carriageway. This enabled them to hit Key Performance Indicator “milestones” relatively quickly and achieve bonus payments [2]. It meant they could claim to have done an impressive mileage of resurfacing and provided great PR opportunities.

    This is a good point to highlight the content from an interview with SCC Head of Highway Maintenance (Steve Robinson), reported in Transportation Professional, in 2011 [5]:

    “Under the Streets Ahead contract Amey is paid a fixed fee by the council but has 753 KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS TO HIT, some measured monthly, some annually. If the KPIs are missed there are penalties in the form of “service deductions”, ie Amey doesn’t get part of its fee. “We only pay for what we get,” Mr Robinson says.

    There are also milestones THE ACHIEVEMENT OF WHICH GENERATES A NEW TRANCHE OF FEE from the council. And if new works are accrued into the project THERE IS A MECHANISM TO CHANGE THE SCOPE OF WORK.”

    Now they are in the city proper, in densely populated residential areas, where there are many problems, including highway trees, it will not be so easy to hit KPI targets and there WILL be greater incidence of conflict. Therefore, A MASSIVE STEP CHANGE IN THE RATE OF FELLING CAN BE EXPECTED and that is, indeed, what we have seen. The numbers felled since July 2015 evidence that this IS the case.

    Both the Council and Amey claim to comply with “best practice”. However, the Streets Ahead team have justified felling healthy, mature highway trees that are structurally sound, on the basis that the machine that is used to remove tarmac during pavement resurfacing works may damage roots, thereby increasing the likelihood of disease and trees subsequently becoming unsafe and dangerous. Streets Ahead have even prescribed felling on the basis that mowers or excavations by Streets Ahead operatives could damage roots and lead to the same consequences [2].

    However, if Amey really did comply with guidance of the National Joint Utilities Group (which they claim to comply with, but do not), trenching and tarmac lifting machinery would NOT be used within a radius from the tree trunk equal to 4x stem circumference – measured at 1.5m above ground (the NJUG “Protection Zone”) [6]. Alternatively, if they complied with British Standard 5837: 2012 (which they claim to comply with, but do not), then MACHINERY WOULD NOT BE USED FOR EXCAVATION (SUCH AS DIGGING TRENCHES OR HOLES) IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO TREES: not within the drip-line of the crown, or a distance from the stem equal to 12x the stem diameter at 1.5m above ground, whichever distance is greater [7].

    CONTENT OF THE LATEST JUDGEMENT STATES:

    “Stephen George Eccleston, who is Assistant Director of Legal Services for SCC, gave
    evidence explaining the governance at SCC. Inevitably, part of it included accounts of
    the legal framework.

    The evidence of Mr Eccleston is that THE FULL COUNCIL HAS NO POWER TO DECIDE THAT FELLING SHOULD CEASE, NOR HOW THE PROGRAMME OF WORKS TO HIGHWAYS SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT.

    He points out also that as the work is being done under a contract, a change in the contract to require the cessation of tree felling would have costly consequences.

    The risk for highway claims currently falls on Amey under the contract. IF TASKS NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE PROPER REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE COULD NOT BE UNDERTAKEN, THEN THE RISKS WOULD BE PASSED BACK ON TO THE COUNCIL, WITH SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES FOR ITS BUDGET.

    Mr Eccleston contends that THE FULL COUNCIL DOES HAVE THE POWER TO REFER A MATTER TO THE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE, OR IT CAN REFER THE MATTER TO THE CABINET OR TO THE MEMBER OF THE CABINET CONCERNED.” [1]

    It should be noted that, as SAVE OUR ROADSIDE TREES (SORT) campaigners have always, rightly, pointed out:

    ALL STATUTORY DUTIES CAN BE ADEQUATELY FULFILLED, AND MATURE TREES SAFELY RETAINED, LONG-TERM, BY HAVING APPROPRIATE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS, AND BY COMPLIANCE WITH CURRENT ARBORICULTURAL GOOD PRACTICE. [8 & 2]

    Mr Eccleston’s comment that: “THE FULL COUNCIL HAS NO POWER TO DECIDE…HOW THE PROGRAMME OF WORKS TO HIGHWAYS SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT” [1] appears to contradict Steve Robinson’s previous comment:

    “And if new works are accrued into the project THERE IS A MECHANISM TO CHANGE THE SCOPE OF WORK.” [5]

    However, it is of the utmost importance to remember Mr Eccleston’s assertion that:

    “THE FULL COUNCIL DOES HAVE THE POWER TO REFER A MATTER TO THE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE, OR IT CAN REFER THE MATTER TO THE CABINET OR TO THE MEMBER OF THE CABINET CONCERNED.” [1]

    At the most recent “bi-monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum meeting (HTAF), on 2nd September, 2015, the Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport – Cllr Terry Fox (self-appointed Chair of the “bi-monthly”) stated that the Council was not prepared to make any amendment to the Amey PFI contract for the Streets Ahead project because:

    “We’ve got a Core Investment Period that we’re going through. Yes, there is a CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION. Of course there is; we’ve entered in to a contractual obligation; an obligation that says that they are [sic] PAYMENTS made, each monthly, and we, err, run through that, err, contract. We also have the contract and a [sic] agreement with DfT that we have to, err, adhere to, to inform them; because, obviously, they are the BACKERS of, of part of this. We’ve got the MONEY LENDERS and the – the, the, the, the, the, the – PARTNERS in, in the, err, CONTRACTORS to deal with.”

    Prior to that, in an e-mail dated 28th August, 2015 [2], Cllr Julie Dore (Leader of the Labour Council) informed that Cllr Fox had advised her about the request for a moratorium on felling. She quoted Cllr Fox, as follows:

    “The request for a moratorium in the works will have a major impact on the scheme especially with the risk to zonal works and confidence from the lenders.

    THE KEY POINTS OF THE MORATORIUM:

    • This has to be by agreement with lenders – which we are extremely unlikely to get – and if we did it would take 12 months stalling the whole of the ‘Streets Ahead’ programme.

    • Sign off is required from DfT and Treasury

    • During this process we are legally bound to maintain payment within the contract, with costs to the council that in the current Government public spending cuts are virtually impossible to find

    • We would need to obtain insurance at major cost

    • The moratorium would affect all core works – footways, lighting and carriageways

    • The approach to lenders, DfT and Treasury would put at risk the financing of the project”. [2]

    Commenting on Cllr Fox’s decision not to have a moratorium on felling (prior to the High Court injunction [3]), the Streets Ahead team stated:

    “I want to be clear that FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS HAVE NO BEARING ON THIS PARTICULAR DECISION, for the reasons Councillor Fox outlined in the last tree forum.”

    It is worth remembering the words of Graeme Symonds (Amey’s Core Investment Programme Director, responsible for all lighting and resurfacing works during the Core Investment Programme of the Streets Ahead project: also an “expert” on the HTAF on panel):

    “If there was a moratorium, it would. If Terry came to me and said: ‘don’t fell any more trees, err, until, erm, for, for a month’, or whatever, the knock-on effect of that on the rest of the service that we’re delivering and the residents.”

    Those words were spoken at the second HTAF meeting, before the injunction. Rather unsurprisingly, the assertions made by Amey’s CIP Director did not prove to be valid. It is worth noting that on 9th December, 2015, citizens were told that the HTAF meetings are “LED BY THE STREETS AHEAD TEAM”. That helps explain why there has not been a third meeting.

    However, regardless of all this comment about lenders and financing, the Council had been meeting with lenders to refinance the Streets Ahead project, for other reasons, so it would appear that the Amey PFI contract for the Streets Ahead project can be amended and that neither that or refinancing is not as problematic as the Council and Amey have made out [9].

    The campaign for SUSTAINABLE tree population management, ADEQUATE, BALANCED ASSESSMENTS, and EVIDENCE-BASED policy and decision making – in compliance with current arboricultural and urban forestry good practice – continues [10].

    Please feel free to get involved and help shape policy and decision making that affects your city, including your neighbourhood and your health & wellbeing [2].

    REFERENCES:

    1)
    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-tree-campaigners-lose-legal-battle-in-the-high-court-1-7879297

    Dillner, R (On the Application Of) v Sheffield City Council [2016] EWHC 945 (Admin) (27 April 2016):

    https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/dillner-v-scc-judgment.pdf

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2016/945.html

    2)
    SORT LETTER TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND TRANSPORT (dated 29th January, 2016).

    The letter also formed part of the Nether Edge petition hand-out that was DISTRIBUTED TO EVERY COUNCILLOR in the city, by SCC’s John Turner (Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources, on 1st February, 2016, at 3:17pm), to encourage informed “debate” at the meeting of full Council, on 3rd February, 2016:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/street-trees-3-month-ban-all-tree-felling-city

    http://www.savesheffieldtrees.org.uk/resources-and-links/

    3)
    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/high-court-pauses-sheffield-tree-felling-for-three-months-1-7722542

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/08/drone-fighting-eagles?CMP=share_btn_tw

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3439673/Chainsaw-massacre-Residents-fury-council-fells-3-000-trees-Sheffield-bid-save-money-fear-thousands-risk.html

    http://www.hortweek.com/three-month-reprieve-sheffields-street-trees/arboriculture/article/1382765

    4)
    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/full_work_contact_details_for_sc?nocache=incoming-787219#incoming-787219

    5)
    The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation, 2012. Transportation Professional. [Online] Available at: http://www.ciht.org.uk/download.cfm/docid/EAFEC96C-F341-455B-B811F1C627AC75AD [Accessed 15 October 2015].

    6)
    National Joint Utilities Group, 2007a. Volume 4: NJUG Guidelines For The Planning, Installation And Maintenance Of Utility Apparatus In Proximity To Trees (Issue 2). [Online] Available at: http://www.njug.org.uk/publications/ [Accessed 20 March 2014].

    National Joint Utilities Group, 2007b. Volume 4: NJUG Guidelines For The Planning, Installation And Maintenance Of Utility Apparatus In Proximity To Trees (Issue 2) – Operatives Handbook. [Online] Available at: http://www.njug.org.uk/publications/ [Accessed 20 March 2014].

    7)
    The British Standards Institution, 2012. British Standard 5837:2012 Trees in Relation to Design, Demolition and Construction – Recommendations”. London: BSI Standards Ltd.

    8)
    “SORT Letter To The Cabinet Member For Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox), dated 14th July, 2015” – accessible via the following links:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/street-trees-3-month-ban-all-tree-felling-city

    http://www.savesheffieldtrees.org.uk/resources-and-links/

    Much of the content of the letter was used by SORT as a petition hand-out. You can access a shortened version of it here:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/streets-ahead-stocksbridge-trees

    The hand-out was distributed, via e-mail, by Sheffield City Council’s “Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources” department, to EVERY COUNCILLOR in the city, prior to the meeting of full council that took place on 1st July, 2015.

    9)
    http://sheffielddemocracy.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=123&MId=5947

    Scroll down to item 8: a Cabinet Report – “Streets Ahead – Refinance” – dated 11th November, 2015, authored by Jayne Clarke and Steve Robinson (the latter is SCC Head of Highway Maintenance & an “expert” on the HTAF on panel).

    Also: “Sheffield Streets Ahead roads deal to be refinanced to save up to £14 million”: http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-streets-ahead-roads-deal-to-be-refinanced-to-save-up-to-14-million-1-7562561

    10)
    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-campaigner-plans-to-appeal-high-court-tree-ruling-1-7880226

    https://www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/sheffield-trees/

  3. SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH

    “The letter below – “Trees & Hazard Management” – arrived in my inbox on 10th August 2017. The author sent it to The Star and the Yorkshire Post newspapers the same day. Also the same day, an earlier version was published by the Sheffield Telegraph newspaper (on sale for seven days), on page 8, under the title: “Safe long-term retention of existing trees”. Notation and references have been added to support the content.

    *****
    TREES & HAZARD MANAGEMENT

    Dear Editor,

    With regard to city-wide destruction of Sheffield’s street trees, Sheffield City Council (SCC) frequently justify felling mature street trees on the basis that damage to footways and kerbs hinders or prevents accessibility and mobility, and represents a danger to people or vehicles [2]. Fortunately, there are a range of alternative resurfacing products, methods and techniques that can be used for reconstruction or repair – reasonable maintenance options. Their use would enable the safe long-term retention of existing trees, as well as achieve a smooth surface of adequate regularity [1]. It is not necessary for SCC or Amey to fell all trees associated with damage to the built environment in order to fulfil their statutory duties [2]. The £2.2bn highway maintenance PFI contract commits the service provider – Amey – to maximise canopy cover and apply an holistic, innovative, sustainable approach to stewardship of the highway tree population [3]. Neglect to take adequate steps to ensure fulfilment of these commitments stems from the fact that, contrary to all current good practice guidance and recommendations, SCC has yet to honour its 7yo policy commitment to have a tree strategy [4], to guide and inform policy and decisions, and help ensure a planned, systematic, consistent, integrated, balanced approach.

    With regard to city-wide destruction of Sheffield’s street trees, Sheffield City Council (SCC) frequently state that damage associated with mature street trees has resulted in uneven, pavements, that hinder or prevent accessibility and mobility, as well as represent a “dangerous” trip hazard. Fortunately, there are a range of alternative resurfacing products, methods and techniques that can be used when resurfacing footways. Their use would enable the safe long-term retention of existing trees, as well as achieve a smooth surface of adequate regularity [1]. It is not necessary for SCC or Amey to fell all trees associated with damage to the built environment in order to fulfil their statutory duties [2]. Reconstruction or repair are reasonable maintenance options. The £2.2bn highway maintenance PFI contract commits the service provider – Amey – to maximise canopy cover and apply an holistic, innovative, sustainable approach to stewardship of the highway tree population [3]. Neglect to take adequate steps to ensure fulfilment of these commitments stems from the fact that, contrary to all current good practice guidance and recommendations, SCC has yet to honour its 7yo policy commitment to have a tree strategy [4], to guide and inform policy and decisions, and help ensure a planned, systematic, consistent, integrated, balanced approach.

    On 2nd September, 2015, Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) publicly presented a list of 25 ideas – “engineering solutions” – that could be used to retain mature street trees when resurfacing. The list included: excavation; “flexible paving/surfacing solution”; ramping/re-profiling; use of thinner kerbs; removal of displaced kerbs; pruning (including pollarding); “creation of larger tree pits” [3]. He informed:

    “The engineering and tree-based solutions come at no extra cost to the council. So, the tax-payer does not pay if an engineering solution or a tree-based solution can be applied, and the reason for that is that the Streets Ahead project is a highway maintenance project and engineering and tree-based solutions are highway maintenance solutions. [5]”

    SCC regularly assert that felling is a “last resort” [6]. But, since 2015, the Information Commissioner [7] and John Mothersole (SCC Chief Executive) [8] have confirmed that no alternative highway engineering specifications have been commissioned or drafted for consideration for use as an alternative to felling.

    D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.”

    Source:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/796#comment-796

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