Our Street Trees ARE NOT Your Highway Trees

The long awaited Draft Sheffield Tree and Woodland Strategy is open for consultation until the 1st December.

This 14 year plan could so easily have been something special – progressing the management of all trees in England. Instead it is largely a pooling of sound bites from recent years from a variety of sources together with some slightly tenuous examples of initiatives, I accept this is a document for the public and every and any opportunity to ‘spread the word’, but….

Street trees are predominantly dealt with in 3.11, which in my opinion deserves a complete re-write. Not least because they are termed Highway Trees.

‘Street Trees’ in this document are not clearly defined and the value of all the trees in the care of Sheffield City Council have been lumped together, more than hinting towards easily allowing ‘offsetting’ as and when SCC feel like it, which should not be allowed.

Planting a plethora of saplings in the corner of a field does not, can not replace a mature street tree.

There are some worrying statements within the text, which make this neither a progressive strategy or indeed regressive – but sets a new, very low, benchmark, which should be of huge concern to all in the tree care industry. The text more than hints at what is a hard ‘top up’ approach, particularly in regards the community interaction and the consultation processes. It is, very regrettably, another example of the new and disturbing politics of present day Europe and the UK in particular. However, I do understand this is a first draft and sincerely hope this ignorance of modern consultation and community engagement can be rectified.

The lack of any budget or indeed any economics is a glaring omission. As the Sheffield Street Tree situation has highlighted so many flaws with the management of ‘Street Trees’, I, again as many others, thought the opportunity for Sheffield, with its exceptional stock of trees, would and with ease aim towards a platform which would allow Sheffield to become the exemplar. Statements such as “The tree is self set – in an inappropriate location and is likely to cause problems in the near future” are spurious at the very least. Leading to too many questions such as ‘Why is any individual tree in an inappropriate location?’ ‘Who decides this?’ How long is the near future, given the lifespan of a tree?’ etc., etc.

The missed opportunity to install a standardised ‘individual tree report’, understandable to all and registering the qualification of those inspecting the trees, is sad.

Sheffield has highlighted how using the public’s concern about trees could have been of financial reward rather than added costs to taxpayers because of invoking protest.

It is therefore disingenuous to refer to the Independent Panel on Forestry, whose work was based on listening to protest from the professional community as well as local protesters towards their final report. Sheffield have shown little willing in engaging with protesters and indeed the many international tree experts who have commented and even travelled to Sheffield to assist.

I fear this draft comes too late for the ‘Street Trees’ of Sheffield, which regularly published research is showing are of increasing value and importance. And deliberately glosses over the problems a PFI contract is for Street Trees, which will inevitably set a precedent costing everyone even more money as the axiom that ‘trees are the largest natural feature in a landscape and landscapes belong to all – therefore protest is inevitable’ continues to be ignored.

stremy

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7 Comments

Filed under Trees and Woodlands

7 responses to “Our Street Trees ARE NOT Your Highway Trees

  1. To discover more about the matters raised in Sheffield (UK), please visit Stocksbridge Community Forum (online):

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/published-after-wait-14-months-sheffields-first-draught-tree-strategy-available-public-comment

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/sheffield-city-council-scc-upper-don-flood-consultation

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/contribute-website

    Also…

    ACT NOW

    If you disagree with Sheffield City Council’s reckless, negligent, unsustainable approach to tree population management, please sign the following petition, as Councillors understand voter numbers better than anything else (to the exclusion of almost everything else, in Sheffield):

    https://www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-streetsahead-sheffield-gov-uk-save-the-12-trees-on-rustlings-road-sheffield

    Growing numbers indicate growing, continued support and indicate the reach of media attention and wider support. One thing that Councillors really can’t stand is negative publicity. So, the more they get, the greater the likelihood of positive change and a strategic approach that will help initiate, encourage and support responsible, sustainable management that accords with current, nationally recognised and widely accepted good practice.

    The online SORT petition went live on 25th May, 2015. At 12:30am, on 1st July, 2015, the online petition had 4,693 signatures and was supplemented by >5,307 on paper. At the end of 2015, it had 6,047 signatures (supplemented by ~8,800 on paper). Currently, the petition has over 16,000 signatures.

    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-trees-we-will-carry-on-our-fight-campaigners-vow-after-no-action-taken-on-10-000-strong-petition-1-7337321

    ******************************

    SCC & AMEY: IGNORANCE

    The Council and Amey have been ignoring people for well over a year: since at least May, 2015! (follow the link):

    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/save-our-trees-have-your-say-1-7292659

  2. THE UN SUPPORT URBAN FORESTRY IN SHEFFIELD

    “Guidelines on Urban and Peri-urban Forestry explains how cities can maximize the contribution of urban forests to addressing local and global sustainable development challenges, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, food security, and human health and well-being.”
    […]

    ‘City planners and other urban decision-makers are often unaware of the crucial economic, social and environmental benefits that urban forests can provide, which means they are spending their budgets elsewhere,’ said FAO Forestry Officer Simone Borelli, one of the authors of the book. ‘In this publication we show them why MAKING URBAN FORESTS A PRIORITY AND “TURNING GREY TO GREEN” IS A WISE INVESTMENT THAT WILL IMPROVE MANY ASPECTS OF CITIZENS’ LIVES.’
    […]

    “WHAT IS AN URBAN FOREST?

    […]
    URBAN FORESTS CAN BE DEFINED AS NETWORKS OR SYSTEMS COMPRISING ALL WOODLANDS, GROUPS OF TREES, AND INDIVIDUAL TREES LOCATED IN URBAN AND PERI-URBAN AREAS; THEY INCLUDE, therefore, forests, STREET TREES, trees in parks and gardens, and trees in derelict corners. URBAN FORESTS ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE, bridging rural and urban areas and ameliorating a city’s environmental footprint.
    […]

    Urban and peri-urban forestry (UPF) is THE PRACTICE OF MANAGING URBAN FORESTS TO ENSURE THEIR OPTIMAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PHYSIOLOGICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC WELL-BEING OF URBAN SOCIETIES.
    UPF IS AN INTEGRATED, INTERDISCIPLINARY, PARTICIPATORY AND STRATEGIC APPROACH TO PLANNING AND MANAGING FORESTS AND TREES IN AND AROUND CITIES.
    It involves the assessment, planning, planting, maintenance, PRESERVATION and monitoring of urban forests, and it can operate AT SCALES RANGING FROM SINGLE TREES TO LANDSCAPES.
    […]

    At the community scale, UPF EMPHASIZES THE ENGAGEMENT OF URBAN CITIZENS IN THE STEWARDSHIP OF PRIVATE AND PUBLIC TREES, INCLUDING BY EDUCATING THEM on the value and benefits of trees and forests AND SUPPORTING their full ownership and responsibility for the environment around them.

    WHY URBAN FORESTS?

    Forests in and around cities face many threats, such as those posed by unregulated urban development and a LACK OF INVESTMENT AND MANAGEMENT. Although it has been demonstrated that coherent investment in the establishment, protection and restoration of URBAN FORESTS CAN HELP CREATE A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT, such forests are often appreciated more for their aesthetic value than for their ecosystem functions.

    Mayors, planners and other urban DECISION-MAKERS ARE OFTEN UNAWARE OF THE CRUCIAL ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS THAT URBAN FORESTS CAN PROVIDE.”
    (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Salbitano, F. et al., 2016, p. 2)

    Reference:
    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016. FAO Forestry Paper 178: Guidelines on urban and peri-urban forestry. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
    Available online at:
    http://www.fao.org/forestry/news/92439/en/

  3. GUIDANCE FROM THE LANDSCAPE INSTITUTE

    “Green Infrastructure An integrated approach to land use: Landscape Institute Position Statement”

    Extracts detailing the importance of the urban forest, including its STREET TREES, to green infrastructure.

    “Trees in the Townscape: A Guide for Decision Makers

    Trees in the Townscape: A Guide for Decision Makers, produced by the Trees and Design Action Group, sets out 12 action-orientated principles for the 21st century URBAN FOREST. Trees are increasingly viewed as essential alleviators of many of the adverse effects of urbanisation.

    STORM-WATER MANAGEMENT, urban cooling and microclimate control, air-quality improvement, visual amenity and carbon sequestration can all be addressed through better management of existing trees and the promotion of new planting.

    The guide is aimed at all those whose actions and decisions may affect, both directly and indirectly, the management and planting of urban trees. It provides examples of good practice, explanations of delivery mechanisms and links to further references. It sets out the importance of having a comprehensive tree strategy and understanding the tree resource of a particular area and how MULTIPLE BENEFITS ARE DERIVED FROM TREES.

    This publication is particularly relevant for the management of trees in existing urban areas. Where space is at a premium and the built environment is dominant, trees provide SIGNIFICANT NATURAL ASSETS that can be retrofitted into streets and other available spaces with relatively little disturbance to surrounding activities.

    In addition, the ECOSYSTEM SERVICES THAT THESE TREES PROVIDE WILL INCREASE AS THEY GROW. Urban tree planting therefore provides a significant opportunity to incorporate green infrastructure benefits into both existing and new built up areas.”

    SOURCE:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/sites/default/files/files/Landscape%20Institute_Green%20Infrastructure%20Position%20Statement_2013_0.pdf

    *****

    In a letter to a lead Save Our Roadside Trees (SORT) campaigner, dated 23rd March 2015, David Wain – leader of SCC’s Environmental Maintenance Technical Team – stated:

    http://www.tdag.org.uk is a useful resource for learning more about sustainable and sensible tree design and planting selection, and one of the arboriculturalists [sic] working on the Sheffield Streets Ahead project was actually involved in authoring much of the content, so WE DO AGREE STRONGLY WITH THE PRINCIPLES OUTLINED WITHIN THE DOCUMENTATION.’ ”

    SOURCE:

    The SORT letter dated 29th January, 2016* 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 – to encourage informed “debate” at the meeting of full Council, on 3rd February, 2016 (about responsible, SUSTAINABLE tree population management).

    *The SORT Letters can be accessed via the following link:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/published-after-wait-14-months-sheffields-first-draught-tree-strategy-available-public-comment

  4. OPINION ON THE SHEFFIELD’s ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE

    A LETTER TO THE STAR (a Sheffield newspaper)

    At the start of the week, on Tuesday 22nd November, 2016, the following letter arrived in my inbox. The author has given permission for me to post it here, in its entirety, for your benefit.

    ***

    ‘Following the 5:00am raid on 17th November 2016, to fell healthy, structurally sound, mature street trees on Rustlings Road, households on streets in many parts of the city have received a letter from Sheffield City Council (SCC) inviting a household representative to complete an online survey to indicate whether or not the household agrees to tree felling proposals for their street. The letter presents a number of assertions, each of which are intended to foster support for felling. In this letter, I will briefly tackle the matter of sustainable management, with the intention of enabling households to develop a more informed opinion.

    THE COLLECTIVE TREE AND WOODLAND COVER OF THE CITY REPRESENTS AN URBAN FOREST, as defined by “The UK Forestry Standard: The governments’ approach to sustainable forest management” (UKFS) and the UNITED NATIONS (FAO Forestry Paper 178). The latter clearly states that STREET TREES ARE PART OF THE URBAN FOREST. It states: “URBAN FORESTS ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE”. The UKFS defines a sustainable approach as:

    “The stewardship and use of forests and forest lands
    In a way, and at a rate, that MAINTAINS… their
    potential to fulfil, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE,
    relevant ECOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL FUNCTIONS,
    at local, national, and global levels..”

    THE URBAN FOREST IS DEFINED BY AREA OF CANOPY COVER and trees outside woodland contribute the most to that, as they have larger crowns. According to SCC guesstimates, trees outside woodland account for about 56% of Sheffield’s trees. THE MAGNITUDE AND VALUE OF ECO-SYSTEM SERVICE BENEFITS (e.g. grams of nitrogen dioxide captured per year*) that trees afford to the environment and communities, associated with functions (e.g. filtration of airborne pollutants), IS DEPENDENT ON THE SHAPE SIZE AND DISTRIBUTION OF CANOPY COVER. This is why the felling of so many thousands of healthy, structurally sound, mature trees is so controversial. MASS FELLING DIMINISHES CANOPY COVER. It does not maintain it. I have met with SCC’s CABINET MEMBER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (Cllr BRYAN LODGE) and Amey’s Operations Director (Darren Butt: responsible for all highway maintenance until 2037). Neither recognise nor accept that STREET TREES ARE PART OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST. This is why they have wrongly set their own definition of sustainable tree population management: “one-for-one replacement”. It takes no account of the impact of proposals on canopy cover.

    According to the Chairman of the Arboricultural Association (Keith Sacre: Chartered Arboriculturist), 60 TREES WOULD NEED TO BE PLANTED TO REPLACE THE LEAVES LOST BY FELLING JUST ONE MATURE LONDON PLANE TREE. Furthermore, neither SCC nor Amey (the contractor for the £2.2bn, city-wide highway maintenance project) have valued Sheffield’s highway trees, or any of the range of benefits they afford to neighbourhoods and communities. THE MEAN CAPITAL ASSET VALUE FOR AMENITY TREES (CAVAT) FOR THE EIGHT TREES FELLED ON RUSTLINGS ROAD WAS £19,933, as assessed by the inventor of the nationally recognised and accepted CAVAT method: Mr Christopher Neilan (Landscape Officer & Arboriculturist).

    When I met Cllr Lodge, on 1st August, 2016, and complained about the APPARENT DISREGARD FOR COMPLIANCE WITH CURRENT GOOD PRACTICE, BY THE STREETS AHEAD TEAM (SCC & AMEY), when undertaking works in close proximity to highway trees, and an apparent absence of adequate supervision, monitoring, auditing and enforcement, Cllr LODGE responded:

    “We’re having to shave back on where we’re monitoring. So, the money for the maintenance side is in there, but the monitoring – the client management side – is not part of that, and that’s where we’re having to make funding cuts… THE MONEY THAT WE NEED TO MONITOR THAT CONTRACT IS NOT THERE, because we try to make savings and…where people have left, we haven’t replaced. We’ve done vacancy management, so WE HAVEN’T GOT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THAT CLIENT MANAGEMENT TEAM WHICH WE OUGHT TO HAVE.”

    Cllr LODGE INFORMED THAT SCC HAD FINED AMEY OVER £2m DURING 2015, for neglect to meet agreed standards. He added that SCC were “just in the process of taking some action against Amey”, for the same reason. If felling is genuinely a “last resort”, all but one of the trees felled on Rustlings Road should have been retained. Cllr LODGE LED ME TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE £2m COULD BE USED TO RETAIN TREES ON RUSTLINGS ROAD, SPECIFICALLY. In October 2015, Amey’s Operations Manager (JEREMY WILLIS: responsible for highway trees), stated:

    “Firstly, I would like to stress that we are not removing any trees unless it is absolutely necessary.
    …there is no financial gain for Amey to remove trees. In fact the opposite is true, as IT IS MORE COSTLY TO FELL AND REPLACE A TREE THAN MAINTAIN IT IN THE CURRENT POSITION.”

    THE TREES ON RUSTLINGS ROAD WERE FELLED BECAUSE, LIKE MOST MATURE HIGHWAY TREES IN SHEFFIELD, THEY WERE ASSOCIATED WITH DAMAGE TO THE FOOTWAY AND KERB. With regard to such damage, at the second (most recent) meeting of the “bi-monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum (2nd Sept, 2015), SCC’s Head of Highway Maintenance (STEVE ROBINSON) promised: “…if an engineering solution can be applied, then it will be applied. …a tree is removed as a last resort”. He added: “THE COUNCIL HAS A DEFENCE UNDER THE HIGHWAYS ACT – SECTION 58 DEFENCE UNDER THE HIGHWAYS ACT – OF NOT HAVING SUFFICIENT FUNDING TO DEAL WITH ALL THOSE DEFECTS.”

    Previously, I have criticised SCC and Amey: “BOTH AMEY AND SCC HAVE NEGLECTED TO COMMISSION OR DRAUGHT ANY ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS FOR CONSIDERATION FOR USE AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO FELLING”. This is supported by the conclusions of an investigation by the Information Commissioner, published in February 2016. On 5th October, 2016, SCC’s DIRECTOR OF PLACE (SIMON GREEN: responsible for HIGHWAYS and PLANNING) responded: “The Council has not needed to commission any alternative engineering solutions”. On 1st August, 2016, Cllr LODGE INFORMED ME THAT USE OF ALTERNATIVE SPECIFICATIONS WOULD REPRESENT A “DEVIATION” FROM THE AMEY CONTRACT AND THAT THEIR USE HAD NOT BEEN BUDGETED FOR. He asserted that the use of such specifications was unaffordable and therefore not a reasonably practicable option. THIS IS CONTRARY TO THE RANGE OF “NATIONAL BEST PRACTICE” THAT SCC & AMEY CLAIM TO COMPLY WITH AND AIM TO “BUILD ON”.

    In December 2015, communicating on behalf of Mr Green, SCC’s Director of Development Services stated: “I can advise that the scope of the UKFS and Guidelines does not extend to the management of individual trees (arboriculture)”. In October 2016, the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership (SYFP: the partnership responsible for the South Yorkshire Community Forest) finally closed, when SCC withdrew support. The FYFP Director (Johanna Mawson) commented:

    “Also for SYFP ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES HAS BEEN THE LACK OF ANY STRATEGIC WORKING CONTEXT FROM WITHIN COUNCIL, IN OUR CASE THE PLACE DIRECTORATE, AND SPECIFICALLY IN RESPECT TO THE KEY CHALLENGES FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING AND PROJECTS. …There is also no committed resource for the Green Commission and no delivery strategy in place. All capacity for developing environmental sustainability for Sheffield has been eroded at an alarming rate”.

    SCC’s Green Commission was a group set up “to recommend how to make the city sustainable” and develop a twenty-year plan for SCC’s approach to policies for and management of green infrastructure (Cllr Lodge is co-Chair). A final report was published in February 2016; it includes a Venn diagram that presents economic, health/social and environmental benefits as a “triple bottom line”, with SUSTAINABILITY at the core.

    The UK Government has existing international and European commitments to apply the precautionary principle:

    “WHERE THERE ARE THREATS OF SERIOUS OR IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE, LACK OF FULL SCIENTIFIC CERTAINTY SHALL NOT BE USED AS A REASON FOR POSTPONING COST-EFFECTIVE MEASURES TO PREVENT ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION.”

    To quote the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (“the public body that advises the UK Government and devolved administrations”):

    “THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IS ONE OF THE KEY ELEMENTS FOR POLICY DECISIONS CONCERNING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT. IT IS APPLIED IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THERE ARE REASONABLE GROUNDS FOR CONCERN THAT AN ACTIVITY IS, OR COULD, CAUSE HARM BUT WHERE THERE IS UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE PROBABILITY OF THE RISK AND THE DEGREE OF HARM.”

    However, in September 2015, the STREETS AHEAD team asserted:
    “Government summit commitments of this kind (i.e. Rio Earth Summit 1992) are not binding on local authorities unless and until they are incorporated into legislation.”

    In December 2015, COMMUNICATING ON BEHALF OF MR GREEN, this opinion was supported by SCC’s Director of Development Services. He stated:
    “agreements in EU conventions are not binding upon Local Authorities unless written into statute.”

    The Director was responding to the following criticism:
    “The Council have failed to comply with both the Arhus Convention and European Directive 2001/42/EC”.

    THE DIRECTIVE REQUIRES APPLICATION OF THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE.

    UNLESS THERE IS A CHANGE IN THE ATTITUDE OF DECISION-MAKERS, SHEFFIELD STANDS TO LOSE ALMOST ALL ITS 25,877 MATURE HIGHWAY TREES as a result of disregard for current good practice when undertaking works in close proximity to trees. Firm Government guidance and adequate legislation is urgently required and long overdue.

    * NO2: a pollutant associated with road transport, resulting in increased heart and respiratory problems, and increased mortality rates.

    Source:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/698#comment-698

  5. AFTER NINETEEN MONTHS OF HARD WORK BY THE CITIZENS OF SHEFFIELD, THE ACADEMICS FINALLY GET BEHIND THE CAMPAIGN FOR RESPONSIBLE, SUSTAINABLE STEWARDSHIP AND CARE OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST (INCLUDING ITS STREET TREES)…

    *****

    A STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD (UK)

    ******

    “STATEMENT ON SHEFFIELD’S TREES FROM STAFF AT THE DEPARTMENT OF LANDSCAPE

    In November of 2016, Sheffield City Council undertook a consultation process for its draft Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030. Staff in the DEPARTMENT OF LANDSCAPE made responses to specific points within the strategy, and to the strategy overall. These were all collated into a single, collective Department of Landscape entry into the consultation. In this blog entry, which is SUBMITTED AND ENDORSED BY THE SIGNATORIES BELOW (comprising ALL THE ACADEMIC AND TEACHING STAFF IN THE DEPARTMENT OF LANDSCAPE), we are publishing the accompanying statement to that submission.

    We welcome Sheffield City Council’s consultation process for the Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030. THE PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT OF THE URBAN FOREST IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TOPIC, WITH HUGELY SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS FOR HUMAN HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, BIODIVERSITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

    As a Department comprised OF RESEARCHERS AND EDUCATORS AND PRACTITIONERS IN LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY, LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, LANDSCAPE PLANNING AND LANDSCAPE MANAGEMENT, we would like to contribute in a constructive way to the HOLISTIC AND PROGRESSIVE development of a comprehensive urban tree management strategy, ESPECIALLY in the light of the on-going felling of urban street trees under the Streets Ahead Five Year Tree Management Strategy.

    WE STRONGLY BELIEVE IN THE CONCEPT OF AN URBAN FOREST and we fully support initiatives such as The Outdoor City that fundamentally depend on Sheffield’s richly treed urban environment.

    ***** THE EXTENT OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST IS IMPRESSIVE. IN MANY WAYS, IT IS THE PREMIER EXAMPLE OF AN URBAN FOREST IN THE UK.*****

    This is the result of forward-looking city plans from the early 20th Century that anticipate the modern concept of ‘GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE’, and from intensive street tree planting from the middle of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th Century. This has resulted in an unrivalled legacy to current and future generations.

    ***** THE MAINTENANCE OF THIS RESOURCE, AND ITS ON-GOING VALUE, DEPENDS ON COMPREHENSIVE DESIGN, PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES.*****

    The Sheffield Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030 offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate innovation in how the city measures and values the benefits of its trees, that go well beyond short-term economic considerations.

    ***** OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUSTAINABLE, INTEGRATIVE, URBAN TREE MANAGEMENT THAT ACTIVELY ADDRESS THE CONTRIBUTION THAT TREES MAKE TO THE CULTURAL AND ECOLOGICAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE CITY MUST BE SEIZED.*****

    On-going research in the Department supports the valuable contribution that trees and woodland can make to human health and well-being, cooling the city, attenuating flood waters and providing habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna. Student design and planning projects throughout all student cohorts in the Department serve as testing grounds for innovative uses for trees across a wide range of real sites in the city. And PhD and Masters theses explore the extent and breadth of ECOSYSTEM BENEFITS that trees bring to the city, and to the tangible and intangible cultural benefits. This research shows that Sheffield residents VALUE STREET TREES highly.

    More tellingly, the felling of STREET TREES as part of the on-going Streets Ahead Tree Management Plan has provoked strong and passionate responses from the public. The current management approach to the removal of street trees has resulted in public animosity and potentially high legal and administrative costs brought about by these legal challenges, Freedom of Information costs, and the decision to employ security at the Rustlings Road site.

    We believe that a stronger urban tree strategy for Sheffield can be developed organically with the good will of Sheffield residents when it is accompanied by a WELL-ROUNDED AND OPEN ASSESSMENT OF THE BENEFITS AND DISADVANTAGES OF URBAN TREES AND SUPPORTED BY THE LATEST RESEARCH IN URBAN FORESTRY AND LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE.

    WE CAN ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST THROUGH research and teaching projects, conferences, innovative case studies, the development of tree-planting prototypes and MANAGEMENT AND MAINTENANCE SPECIFICATIONS PARTICULARLY SUITED TO SHEFFIELD. We hope that our collective contribution will help CREATE A WELL-INFORMED AND MORE TRANSPARENT DECISION-MAKING PROCESS FOR SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL, with specific reference to the draft Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030 and the Streets Ahead Tree Five Year Management Strategy.

    WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM THE COUNCIL in response to our comments and are happy to elaborate on further points.

    Mel Burton, Ross Cameron, Andy Clayden, Catherine Dee, Nicola Dempsey, NIGEL DUNNETT, Kamni Gill, James Hitchmough, Anna Jorgensen, Eckart Lange, Sally O’Halloran, Laurence Pattacini, Clare Rishbeth, Olaf Schroth, Kevin Thwaites, Thom White, Helen Woolley, JAN WOUDSTRA”

    Source:

    Sheffield Landscape BLOG. December 21, 2016.

    https://sola-blog.com/2016/12/21/statement-on-sheffields-trees-from-staff-at-the-department-of-landscape/

    • A LETTER TO THE STAR (newspaper)

      A week ago, on Monday 19th December, 2016, the following letter arrived in my inbox. The author has given permission for me to post it here, in its entirety, for your benefit.

      To date (26th December 2016), the letter has not been published.

      *****

      COUNCIL INCOMPETENCE

      In his letter – “Council’s performance” – Mr Hanson commented that criticism of Sheffield City Council (SCC), in The Star, seems “to be motivated by a generalised dislike of the Labour Party” and that the causes of damage to “fabric of civilised life” are “the agents of a ruthless market fundamentalism”. With regard to the gross mismanagement of the highway tree population, and the city-wide felling programme that threatens to fell most mature street trees (which accounted for 73.8% of street trees in 2007), I’m afraid the truth is much more scary.

      Ultimately, SCC is directly responsible for all acts and omissions that affect street trees. This has been clearly and bluntly stated, time and again, by SCC and Amey – the contractor for the £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance PFI project. Both have repeatedly asserted (falsely) that felling is a “last resort”. Both claim that they are “looking at improving… processes and building on industry good practise”, and that they comply with a range of “National Good Practice”, including the guidance cited in my previous letter (“City Tree Destruction”). THERE DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE ANY EVIDENCE OF COMPLIANCE. If they genuinely did comply with the range of good practice guidance and recommendations that they claim to, felling genuinely would be a last resort. In fact, it is not.

      It is both prudent and reasonable for citizens to expect that, in fulfilment of duties imposed by various legislation, representatives of SCC and all statutory undertakers – including Amey – ensure that their acts and omissions represent the level of care expected of reasonably skilled members of their respective professions. In practice, this requires matching the level of care of current good practice. From what I have witnessed of the replacement of street lighting and road resurfacing works, this is not happening. The Save our Roadside Trees (SORT) Sheffield Tree Action Group have alerted SCC and Amey to all errors multiple times since May 2015, particularly in the SORT letter dated 29/1/2016: distributed to every Councillor, as part of the hand-out for the petition with over 6,295 signatures that the Nether Edge tree group presented to SCC on 3/2/2016. The letter is online, at the Stocksbridge Community Forum website.

      In a witness statement to The High Court of Justice, SCC’s Director of Development Services – “responsible for highway related-matters” (since gone) – stated that the “purpose” of transferring the majority of the operational, legal and financial risks to Amey was “to incentivise best practice from Amey”.

      When I met Cllr Lodge (SCC’s Cabinet member for Environment), on 1st August, 2016, and complained about the apparent disregard for compliance with current good practice, by the Streets Ahead team (SCC & Amey), when undertaking works in close proximity to highway trees, and the apparent absence of adequate supervision, monitoring, auditing and enforcement, Cllr LODGE responded:

      “We’re having to shave back on where we’re monitoring. So, the money for the maintenance side is in there, but the monitoring – the client management side – is not part of that, and that’s where we’re having to make funding cuts… THE MONEY THAT WE NEED TO MONITOR THAT CONTRACT IS NOT THERE, because we try to make savings and…where people have left, we haven’t replaced. We’ve done vacancy management, so WE HAVEN’T GOT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THAT CLIENT MANAGEMENT TEAM WHICH WE OUGHT TO HAVE.”

      However, Cllr Lodge did add that SCC HAD FINED AMEY OVER £2 MILLION during 2015, for neglect to meet agreed standards. He added that SCC were “just in the process of taking some action against Amey”, for the same reason. I was led to understand that the fine money was available and could be used specifically to retain trees. UNLESS THERE IS A CHANGE IN THE ATTITUDE OF DECISION-MAKERS, SHEFFIELD STANDS TO LOSE ALMOST ALL ITS MATURE STREET TREES.

      D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.

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