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.