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.
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.