Update on Sheffield Street Tree Issues
This is the latest information update from the street trees campaign. Please note and circulate widely.
Fox_FAO Cllr Fox 14 July 2015_v4c_IR
DG, I’ve just seen your pictures of the poplars on Cherry Tree Road that were felled. I suspect they were infected with Polyporus squamosus (Dryad’s saddle fungi), if peoples observations are correct. The stunning hulks that lined the edge of Coronation Park, in Oughtibridge, beside the road, had the same problem. A number have been felled. A few remain, on their last legs. Now is a good time to see them and observe the symptoms of advanced stages of infection for yourself (no fungi visible at present).
Some variegated tulip trees were planted as replacements, but vandals snapped them and there has been no attempt at replacement since. There was no consultation on choice of replacement species either. 😦
PHOTOGRAPH YOUR STREET
People should photograph their streets before trees are felled, so that there is a photographic record of what is achievable and of the contribution that species that develop larger crowns can make to the built environment. Sheffield is not likely to have any chance of looking anything like it does now for at least another 150 years, assuming that the Council continue with their policy of felling all trees that dislodge Kerb stones or disturb the pavement, and assuming that the smaller tree species being planted are felled and are then replaced with trees that achieve greater dimensions.
The majority of trees scheduled to be felled by Amey, during the initial five year core investment phase of the PFI contract are not be dead, dying, diseased or dangerous. Rather, they are the ones classed as causing an obstruction to users of the highway – AKA “discriminatory”, to use Councillor Terry Fox’s freshly coined term (that is NOT a term applied to trees and used by relevant legislation, arboriculturists or urban foresters).
PLANNING: THE REQUIREMENT FOR CONSULTATION AND PUBLICITY IN RELATION TO DEVELOPMENT BY STATUTORY UNDERTAKERS
Planning Practice Guidance Suite:
Somewhere in there must be the code of practice on the need for consultation and publicity to be undertaken on a non-statutory basis by planning authorities in relation to development by statutory undertakers, formerly contained within Appendix B to Department of the Environment Circular 9/95 (superseded by Planning Practice Guidance).
TREES IN TOWNS 2: A NEW SURVEY OF URBAN TREES IN ENGLAND AND THEIR CONDITION AND MANAGEMENT.
NOW AVAILABLE AS A FREE DOWNLOAD IN PDF FORMAT (worth £55), ONLINE, AT:
This lengthy, comprehensive report was commissioned, under the Labour government, by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to:
“help shape central and local government policy on urban trees” (Britt, et al., 2008, p. 477) and:
“encourage the LAs [Local Authorities] to develop higher standards of management in order to deliver a more efficient and effective tree programme for their communities” (Britt, et al., 2008, p. 406): the Trees in Towns ll report (TT2).
One of the primary authors was the UK’s leading authority on urban forest management, the Chartered Arboriculturist Dr Johnston MBE.
Click to access 31MarkJohnston.pdf
Click to access 31MarkJohnston.pdf
The report is particularly relevant to the management of Sheffield’s urban forest as it highlights the importance of and necessity for a tree strategy to help guide and inform management decisions and to help ensure a consistent, transparent and defendable approach to tree management – one that has a community strategy at its heart, enabling public engagement through a programme of education, consultation & participation.
Click to access ladder-of-citizen-participation_en.pdf
…”Even the existence of a specific tree strategy does not always imply that this is an appropriate document to drive the LA’s tree programme. HOW THE STRATEGY WAS DEVELOPED AND what DETAILED POLICIES AND PLANS it contains will determine this.”
(Britt, et al., 2008, p. 192)
“Any increase in funding for the tree programme has to be viewed in the context of its contribution to a range of service areas. This not only requires a strategic approach to budgeting and planning, it also requires recognition that the urban forest has a key contribution to make in achieving a range of strategic policy objectives, for example, in Community Strategic Guidelines (CSG) and neighbourhood and city agendas.”
(Britt, et al., 2008, p. 400)
TRANSCRIPT FROM THE MEETING OF FULL COUNCIL ON 1st July 2015:
Cllr Fox’s Speech (Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport – Labour)
Councillor Fox was given five minutes to respond to a three minute speech given by the Save Our Rustlings Trees (SORT) campaign (which actually took 3 minutes and forty-four seconds). Cllr Fox took 12 minutes and eleven seconds to deliver his 5 minute speech.
Where a word was uttered in an unclear manner, it has been omitted from this transcript and replaced by four x marks: “xxxx”.
“Thank you Lord Mayor, I think five minutes is going to be quite a – quite a – challenge to get a lot in today – very, very challenging and very deep subject as I found in the thirty-odd days that I’ve been in the portfolio. First, can I applaud – and I mean that, can I applaud the residents and campaigners for getting a) the names to Council to get this debate, and it has been a long time coming from when I’ve met some of you, err, within the Town Hall, err, Alan and Louise, and, err, Dr Shetty; err, Nikki; I’ve seen Nikki knocking about. It would be remiss of me not to thank Nikki for the, err, cups of tea on Wayland Road, it was much appreciated at the time. And it’s also welcoming, Lord Mayor, that, as decision-makers in this Town Hall, we have our policies and procedures to scrutinise not by only by us in this place but scrutinised by the public, also; and so, why I understand this call to scrutiny, and you’ve heard, today, that my colleagues – Councillor Ben Curran and, err, the fellow Councillors in Walkley have called in to scrutiny about one issue; other politicians could have called this in at any time. It has been to scrutiny three times in the last, since 2012, and it’s also been, err, been a thorough looking at.
Lord Mayor, I’d like to start first of all from where we did actually come from. For generations, Lord Mayor, the people of Sheffield have demanded that this Council do something about the roads and paths of our great city. For generations, they sat in that balcony and raised questions at this Council and demanded that we took some action to bring our highways, footpaths, street-lighting and highway trees to a first class standard for all residents. But doing this hasn’t come without its challenges – the logistics of delivering the largest project in this country, whilst dealing with the balance of keeping the city moving, but also the challenges of taking the residents and citizens of our city along with us. But you’re right, we do – we do – have to abide by the Law, and as the competent highway Authority we have to work in a strict, statutory Laws by the Highway Act; the Equality Act; Health and Safety Act, and many more. But, most of all, Lord Mayor, most of all, we have to work for all citizens in the inclusive mobility around our cities.
We had an independent survey done in 2006-2007 which helps us inform our priorities for the formation of the contract which, not only did this administration see, but other administrations saw, and they had the opportunity to change the policy at that time, but had been cross-party support, Lord Mayor, which, I understand that the weather is to be warm, but the flip-flops that are going on with the other party is unbelievable, Lord Mayor. Not only can that be seen by the MP who, on one hand, wants to protect the trees at Rustlings Road, but at the other side of the constituency wants a tree out for a driveway putting in.
The survey noted that 74% of our mature tree stock with very few young trees has given this combination the rate of decline evidence by the number of trees needing treatment. Lord Mayor, and David xxxx, thank you for some of that insight that we raised on the street. I have to say that by Forestry Commission, and David Kelly as well, also, we have looked at that and we have looked at the Forestry Commission’s own stance on mature trees versing new trees performance in this area, which is as follows: young trees absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing, but as a tree ages, a steady state is eventually reached. At this point, the amount of carbon absorbed through photosynthesis is equal to that lost through respiration and decay, and if I could, too, agree, I would say that was very much xxxx. Lord Mayor, where are we now? Well my predecessors – Councillor Stock and Councillor Dunn – have overseen a great leap forward in our city and a replacement of over 2,000 highway trees, which have been challenged along the way by residents, by community groups, by Councillors who sit on scrutiny board; we also have a project of good public scrutiny and we have been out and had roadshows. I will come on to that later, Lord Mayor, if I may.
We are about half way through the first five years of the project and today we have removed, as I say, over 2,000 trees and replanted over 2,019 trees. The City Council, in just this year alone, which we manage over 2m trees, Lord Mayor, have planted 50,000 new trees, creating seventeen new woodlands. Lord Mayor, we, like every other citizen in this city, cherish our trees. Since 2012, Lord Mayor, we have re-surfaced over 300 miles and also 500 miles of pavements. We are half way through the five year project and whilst I say we have re-planted over 2,019 trees. Lord Mayor, the decision-making process which we have been looked at to be scrutinised by xxxx be scrutinised by methods but challenged by public, of which I welcome; but I also welcome that within my own family – my brother in-law is up there – welcome Ben! – and I’m sure we’ll carry on having this debate. The process is that Amey make recommendations to Council about which trees, in their expert opinion, should be removed by the highway, and in which categories. The Council will then assess each individual tree for themselves and then make a decision about whether that tree should be felled or not.
Lord Mayor, when we set off on this project, we had cross-party support because we needed to get the roads and paths, as I say, suitable for inclusive mobility. Unfortunately, Lord Mayor, one of the risks of that are that some trees – highway trees – would be vulnerable. Before a tree is even considered for felling, we have twenty – twenty – sensitive engineering options, Lord Mayor, applied throughout. Before a tree is felled, it is checked to see if any wildlife is living there. If we have evidence that birds, bats or any other wildlife, the trees are then further assessed every three to five years to establish the health and condition.
Lord Mayor, sometimes when we plant and plane the tops, we identify that we have root problems or not, is if we have not then we obviously do not take that tree. Taking the tree is the last resort, Lord Mayor. The tree Strategy, Lord Mayor, that at any time – any time – could have been called in by the opposition parties and could have been challenged whenever they were in administration, Lord Mayor. The Sheffield Highway Tree Strategy consists of the six D’s: dangerous; dead, dying, diseased, damaging and discriminatory. To ensure we are able to bring the standard of the city’s roads, pavements, and in some cases we do have to fell the trees. After completion of the Core Investment Programme, Lord Mayor, from 2018, we will also have to continue, as I say, doing inspections. The inspections are done as per Law; as per industry standards, Lord Mayor.
Communications, Lord Mayor, has been raised; I will try and touch on this as quickly as I possibly can, Lord Mayor, and obviously, if I get chance in the other debate, we will probably have a more in-depth debate with Councillor Davison. We provide details to all ward councillors well in advance of the trees being felled as part of our core works. This information includes details of individual trees to be felled in the streets; the reasons for the fell, and what it is to be replaced with. All residents receive, in advance of work, a start leaflet to tell them the works is happening in their area. This also includes information to say the trees will be removed. Meetings are held in community groups, to inform them of the tree felling in their area, to gather views. If requested by the community groups, ward Councillors, interested residents, we hold tree-walks to provide more details and what we will be replaced with. Details of all these trees will be felled and are particular and are available at the roadshows, Lord Mayor. Trees notices are placed on the trees that have been identified to be removed.
By incident, Lord Mayor, if I may, on to Rustlings Road. There are over thirty trees on Rustlings Road. Eleven have been identified to be felled and nineteen have been retained by sensitive engineering solutions. Out of the eleven that have been identified to be felled, three have been noticed, and that once we dig up the pavement, as I say, once we take that planing off, if they can be retained, they will. We’re also planning to an additional nine trees to be that were removed many years ago, that we will replace, so this will increase the trees on Rustlings Road from thirty to thirty-nine, Lord Mayor.
Lord Mayor, we are half way through the Core-Investment Project. As I said, we have done over 300 miles of road; 500 miles of footpaths. Well, obviously, after meeting campaigners and the local residents of Rustlings Road and Wayland and Bowood, I have decided that I did decide to pause the work ‘til we had this debate. I felt it was only right that we had this debate, because as we all know that the trees are a xxxx issue for some people, Lord Mayor, and to here. But let me be clear, Lord Mayor, for the avoidance of doubt, we do not pay a single penny more to Amey, whether they take out a hundred trees or no trees. I have said on numerous occasions that once Amey designate the trees they want to fell, the Council go and do their independent checks. Lord Mayor, any felling of a tree is a last resort.
We, the taxpayers of Sheffield, pay the wages of our tree experts; we train them, we educate them – the skills they develop – because they’re the ones that look – duly look – after our two million trees on behalf of our citizens of Sheffield and having to work within the confines of Law. I also agree that the experts in the field will always have disrefutes, dependent on what they are side they’re on. Lord Mayor, I understand that we have to work within a statutory framework and some independent experts do not. But I am – I am – concerned, Lord Mayor, that this should be – this should be – a good luck story from Sheffield. Other, not only cities in England, in Britain, but in Europe are watching how we manage this, Lord Mayor, and I’ve to do that; we have to take everybody with us. As I say, I believe, Lord Mayor, because this is such a delicate and in-depth debate, I’ve suggested the Council will endorse an Highways Tree Forum, where, as we have already heard, so many big issues need to be talked through and, also, we are we are not – we are not – able to drive, forget the pun. Our policy is still that we want to cross-check them, not only with methods in this place, but with local residents and local conservation groups. Lord Mayor, I’d like to congratulate these, err, campaigners, residents and people who feel very strongly about our city, because without them, Lord Mayor, we would not be able to deliver our projects together. Thank you Lord Mayor.”
The next Councillor to speak was introduced by the Mayor, but as the Mayor (Talib Hussain) has a rather thick foreign accent, I couldn’t understand the Councillor’s name. The councillor was introduced as the Shadow Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport. I believe the Councillor was Joe Otten (Lib Dem).
AN ARBORICULTURIST’S RESPONSE TO COUNCILLOR FOX’S SPEECH AT THE MEETING OF FULL COUNCIL ON 1st July 2015
This communication was brought to my attention about a week after the Council meeting.
Due to blog restrictions, the content of this response will be provided in sequential parts, posted below…
Sent to Cllr Fox on 6 Jul 2015
Dear Councillor Fox,
With regard to the comments you made, as Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, during the meeting of full Council on 1st July, 2015, please find my constructive feedback below…
You were right at the meeting of full Council to describe the subject of highway tree management as “very, very challenging and very deep”. Of course, “the thirty-odd days” that you’ve “been in the portfolio” is not sufficient for you to gain any significant level of competence, especially considering that for twelve of those days you were away on annual leave (11th to 23rd June, 2015). By that, I mean you have not had time or opportunity to gain training and experience relevant to the matter being addressed, or to gain an understanding of the requirements of the particular tasks being approached. Without relevant education, training and experience, you will continue to fail in your duty of care to show the level of care expected of a reasonably skilled member of your profession. I strongly advise and urge that you seek helpful advice and assistance from competent professional arboriculturists, with expertise in the field of trees in relation to construction, and also from competent highway engineers. This would help minimise the likelihood of you making reckless or negligent acts or omissions, for which the Council, and possibly you, would be liable.
You acknowledged that you are a decision-maker in the Town Hall. You acknowledged and claimed to welcome that your policies and procedures are scrutinised by both Councillors and the public. In my opinion, as a competent arboriculturist – with much local authority experience, particularly with regard to Sheffield’s highway trees – your scrutiny procedures are inappropriate and inadequate. Scrutiny needs to be done by competent people. By that, I mean those people NEED to have gained relevant education, training and experience, relevant to the matter being addressed and they NEED to have an understanding of the requirements of the particular tasks being approached. This, really, just represents a common-sense approach to scrutiny.
You were right to acknowledge and emphasise that you do have to abide by the Law, as the competent highway Authority. However, it is apparent that you are unaware of the international and European legislation that requires you to apply the Precautionary Principle. It is apparent that that you are unaware of the requirements of the UK Forestry Standard, that also places duties on you and exists to implement international forest principles and criteria, as well as legislation, for the responsible, sustainable management of the urban forest. Furthermore, you do not appear to realise that in fulfilment of your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act; the Highways Act; the Equalities Act, and the Occupiers’ Liability Acts, what is required is only for you to do that which is REASONABLE, nothing more! That requires BALANCED assessment that considers all the costs and benefits, followed by a PROPORTIONATE response. See the Save Our Rustlings Trees (SORT) hand-out for detail (distributed to every Councillor on 26th June, 2015, by the SCC Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources department).
The “independent survey”, done in 2006-2007, which you said helped inform the Council’s priorities for the formation of the PFI contract with Amey may well have been seen by all administrations and have received cross-party support. However, Councillors are not competent arboriculturists or competent highway engineers. Neglect to employ competent consultants to scrutinise the contract, in order to determine whether it is adequate and fit for purpose, as far as tree management and works to and around trees is concerned, represents a reckless approach to the use of public resources and a case of maladministration.
You stated: “The survey noted that 74% of our mature tree stock with very few young trees has given this combination the rate of decline evidence by the number of trees needing treatment.”
From your comment, it is difficult to ascertain precisely what you were trying to say. Presumably, you were trying to make a point that 74% of Sheffield’s street trees fall within just one age class and are of advanced years. You then appear to have implied a significant positive correlation between that and the number of trees identified as needing treatment. Furthermore, you have assumed that the 74% of trees mentioned are in decline, implying that they have reached the end of their safe and useful life expectancy. Actually, trees require treatment for many reasons and out of those trees requiring treatment, only a very small percentage will require treatment because they are in decline. By decline, I mean they are slowly dying back, as evidenced by signs and symptoms observed over several successive growing seasons (years). When you speak of the rate of decline, the implication is that you have collected data over successive years. It would be prudent of you to publish the data and detail of methods used to collect and analyse it, in order to give your claims credibility, permit review and enable proper, adequate scrutiny.
It is wrong to assume that all or much of the tree stock in the advanced age class has reached the end of its safe and useful life expectancy. From an urban forestry and arboricultural perspective, such an assumption cannot be justified without firm evidence. Trees in the more advanced age classes deliver the most to the environment and its inhabitants (including people), by way of a range of ecosystem services. In cities where these services have been valued, they are worth millions of pounds each year. These are the trees that are of greatest benefit to people’s health (mental and physical) and well-being. The SORT hand-out and the online SORT petition both provided a broad range of references where you can learn more about these things.
I accept your claim that trees in the most advanced age classes will not continue to sequester as much carbon as trees in lesser age classes. However, such trees can be regarded as carbon storage facilities, which can be valued. Also, in addition to carbon storage, they contribute most in terms of magnitude and value of a range of ecosystem services, as previously mentioned. Carbon sequestration is only one such service afforded by trees.
The opposition and frustration that both you and your predecessor – Cllr Dunn – have encountered with residents, community groups, and Councillors who sit on scrutiny board, really results from the absence of a strategic approach to tree management and works to and around trees. An adequate tree strategy, draughted in accordance with current arboricultural and urban forestry advice, guidance and recommendations (see the SORT hand-out for detail) would help ensure a planned, systematic and integrated approach to ALL aspects of management and practice, including public involvement, tree inspection and hazard and risk assessment and management. In short, a tree strategy would help guide and inform management and practice and help ensure a responsible and sustainable approach to management of the urban forest – a key component of green infrastructure. The adoption and adequate implementation of an adequate tree strategy, adopted as Council Policy, would be a strong indicator of accordance with current arboriculture and urban forestry best practice. It would also serve as a powerful marker to indicate you have done all that is reasonably practicable to ensure your acts and omissions are those of a reasonably skilled member, in fulfilment of the duty of care placed upon you by Law.
You claim to have replaced over 2,019 trees. Presumably these are street trees? You claimed that the City Council have planted 50,000 new trees this year, creating seventeen new woodlands. Those 50,000 trees will be saplings planted at <3m spacings, generally as groups of trees, in parks and woodlands. Unless many of those are felled over the next 50 years, they will NEVER develop large crowns like street trees do. Even if they do, they will be no compensation for the city-wide loss of many street trees with medium and large crowns, because, by felling such trees, you significantly alter the shape, size and distribution of canopy cover, which negatively affects the magnitude and value of ecosystem services afforded by trees to the built environment and all its inhabitants (air and water flows do not respect constituency boundaries). Please see the SORT hand-out for further detail.
When the Council set off on this PFI Streets Ahead project, you probably had cross-party support because all councillors had blind faith in those people responsible for the project, trusting that they would act in the manner expected of reasonably skilled professionals, in accordance with the duty of care. The same display of blind faith was evident, again, at the meeting of full Council on 1st July, 2015, when SORT campaigners presented their petition before full Council and ALL Labour Councillors chose to ignore both the petition and campaigners, and did not even bother to look at the 29 page hand-out that campaigners had had carefully and painstakingly prepared for councillors, to inform “debate”. The purpose of the hand-out was to help ensure that comment during debate would be informed & based on fact, as opposed to faith.
You stated that: “Before a tree is even considered for felling, we have twenty – twenty – sensitive engineering options, Lord Mayor, applied throughout.” Later at the meeting you listed twenty things which you believed to be sensitive engineering solutions. Amongst them were: GeoGrid; Root barriers; Growth retardants; Root pruning. The list carried on in that manner. As a competent arboriculturist, I now inform you that none of the twenty items in your list represent an engineering solution for dealing with the re-surfacing of footways (pavements) where roots have raised the existing surface, locally, and have dislodged kerb stones. To give you some idea of what engineering solutions actually are, and which may be of use, the 29 page SORT hand-out provided useful references to inspire your arboriculturists and highway engineers. However, as the SORT hand –out pointed out, GeoGrid is no longer considered fit for purpose around trees by competent arboriculturists (alternatives are available).
You stated that: “Taking the tree is the last resort”. To date, campaigners have repeatedly requested evidence that you have more than one set of highway engineering specifications for footways (pavements) on tree lined streets. You have repeatedly ignored all such requests. There is no evidence that more than one set of engineering specifications exists. If your interpretation of what constitutes an engineering solution is anything to go by, it is reasonable for people to assume that only one set of engineering specifications exist – the same set used regardless of whether or not trees are present. YOU NEED TO ENSURE THAT YOU ARE USING COMPETENT ARBORICULTURISTS AND COMPETENT HIGHWAY ENGINEERS to draught specifications and supervise implementation, and that they are working together. You could always hire competent consultants, as was done with the High Speed 2 relocation proposal.
You stated that “the tree strategy could have been called in by the opposition parties and could have been challenged whenever they were in administration” and in the next breath said “The Sheffield Highway Tree Strategy consists of the six D’s: dangerous; dead, dying, diseased, damaging and discriminatory.”
Your comments highlight your ignorance and lack of understanding of what a tree strategy is, what it is for and how it should be used. The 29 page SORT hand-out provided a range of quotes from current national arboricultural best practice guidance and recommendations to detail precisely what a tree strategy should be. The documents referenced in respect of these quotes, and their content, have the support of the Institute of Chartered Foresters, the Arboricultural Association, the Forestry Commission, and many other bodies that represent the people which you refer to as “experts” (although relatively few members are actually members of the Expert Witness Institute). Many cities have a tree strategy, so you can go online and get an idea of what one could look like. There is no standard template. However, as stated in the SORT hand-out, the ODPM’s Trees in Towns II report gave guidance. By the way, if you provided a definition for each of the “six Ds”, people would be more likely to understand your reasons for assigning a specific treatment, such as pruning or felling.
You stated that: “inspections are done as per Law; as per industry standards”. That may, or may not be so, but there has been no evidence that hazard and risk assessment and analysis are “as per Law; as per industry standards”. The SORT hand-out provides referenced quotes from current best practice documents to help you with this. Please do take the time to read the hand-out in its entirety. Certainly, overall management of Sheffield’s urban forest – the city-wide tree population – is NOT in accordance with current legislation or policy commitments, whether local, national, European or international (see the SORT hand-out for detail). The current approach is not planned (failure to look at what you want and need to achieve), systematic (failure to assess how to do what is required and what is necessary) and integrated (failure to ensure a strategic approach is linked to other strategies and policies and that all stakeholders are involved, by way of education, consultation and participation), as recommended by the ODPM’s Trees in Towns II report (current best practice) and Forestry Commission guidance. An adequate tree strategy, draughted and implemented in accordance with current best practice guidance and recommendations would address all these deficits (see the SORT hand-out for detail); it would support, encourage and help ensure a responsible, sustainable approach to management, and minimise the likelihood of reckless or negligent acts or omissions. Producing literature and holding meetings to tell people what will happen to their neighbourhood does not constitute adequate or proper education and does not represent consultation or participation. To date, you have ignored the views of communities and have complained that they have failed to commission their own competent arboricultural consultants and highway engineers to produce highway engineering specifications for the Council. I am not aware of any Local Authority in the UK that expects so much of its citizens. Even Prime Minister David Cameron would not expect so much! Such work is the DUTY of the Local Authority, not citizens!
You stated “We, the taxpayers of Sheffield, pay the wages of our tree experts; we train them, we educate them – the skills they develop…”. Actually, as a former highway arboriculturist, employed by Sheffield City Council, I have first-hand experience of what actually happens. The Council view arboricultural education as an unaffordable and unnecessary luxury and do not provide any financial support or educational materials for academic study. When I worked for the Council, none of the people in highways management had any formal academic achievement in arboriculture whatsoever. That had been the case for decades! Training was regarded as a luxury and was generally not made available to those who needed it. Managers and supervisors responsible for the supervision of works and enforcement of standards did not meet the definition of “competent”, or “arboriculturist” as defined within the British Standards (3998 & 5837), so skills were sub-standard in many respects, but not all. To date, you have not provided any evidence that things have changed. Indeed, your own definition of a tree strategy and examples of engineering solutions indicates the same problems remain.
You mentioned that the Council’s “tree experts” have “to work within the confines of Law”, then stated: “I also agree that the experts in the field will always have disrefutes, dependent on what they are side they’re on”. One thing that all competent arboriculturists – including Chartered arboriculturists and Arboricultural Consultants registered with the Arboricultural Association – can agree on is that their acts and omissions must, by law, be those of reasonably skilled members of their profession. In practice, this means that to fulfil their duty of care, they are required to ensure that their acts and omissions are in accordance with current legislation and best practice. In summary, whether employed by the Local Authority or within the private sector, all arboriculturists are liable for their acts and omissions and are duty bound to act in accordance with common best practice. Whether the arboriculturist is employed within the public or private sector is irrelevant. By the way, you are bound by the same duty of care. The SORT hand-out largely consisted of a multitude of quotes from various legislation and best practice documents, so blanket dismissal of the whole SORT document cannot be justified and would be both reckless and negligent.
You mentioned that other cities in Europe are watching how you manage the Streets Ahead project. Let me tell you, a number of European countries are decades ahead of us in terms of urban forest management, as they have been practicing and experimenting for decades. You can read all about their achievements in the academic journals referenced in the online SORT petition (and references therein) that was submitted to Council. In comparison, the Streets Ahead approach to tree management is very much retrograde! This is evidenced by acts and omissions on the ground and by your comments and those of arboricultural managers employed by both the Council and Amey. It is apparent and evident that there is a lack of knowledge of current best practice. With regard to tree management, Europe has nothing to learn from Sheffield. Sheffield’s errors are likely to be reported in the international journals. There is so much out there to help you do the right thing that making massive mistakes in this day and age is going to be very difficult to explain to observers, particularly when they realise you have been provided with a copy of the SORT hand-out, given its content.
You have made it clear that you desire to have the support of everyone. You stated:
“Because this is such a delicate and in-depth debate, I’ve suggested the Council will endorse an Highways Tree Forum, where, as we have already heard, so many big issues need to be talked through”
This is not a bad idea, provided people have the opportunity to influence decisions and affect change. If it is just a forum for the Council to serve notification and appear to be involving communities, as opposed to using the forum as a platform for education, consultation and participation, then the forum will represent a spectacular waste of public resources, including money. If you do actually go ahead with the forum idea, I suggest you use it to get feedback on a proposed tree strategy document, if not for the entire urban forest (as guided and recommended by current arboriculture and urban forestry best practice), then for highway trees, as they are currently managed in an irresponsible and unsustainable manner, as evidenced by recent and current acts and omissions (including your comments at full Council, and in the media). See the SORT hand-out for detail.
However, if you still expect citizens find and fund their own consultants to produce the sensitive, flexible highways engineering specifications that they have requested you commission and adopt (to ensure that the Council’s green infrastructure is managed in a responsible and sustainable manner, in compliance with current best practice, national and international policies, commitments and legislation), to quote from the SORT hand-out: “…it is wholly unacceptable and inappropriate…” “Many citizens of Sheffield lack the time, money or opportunity to launch campaigns to encourage the adoption of sound policies, specifications and practices for the responsible and sustainable management of the urban forest resource.”
“…over 30% of Sheffield’s population live in areas that fall within 20% most deprived in the country…”
(Sheffield City Council: Development and Regeneration Services, 2014, pp. 1-2).
I can’t even believe a Labour representative is even suggesting such a thing! Your acts and omissions will hit the poorest in society the hardest!
You mentioned that it was taking over a month for people to get any response from the Council to their enquiries because of cut-backs and staff shortages. However, campaigners have noted that enquiries are not being dealt with in sequence: some enquiries are receiving responses much sooner than enquiries that were submitted over a week, three weeks, or more, earlier. There is no evidence of a consistent and transparent approach.
You mentioned that any delay to the Streets Ahead programme would result in investors losing confidence in the programme and that they would be likely to pull out; meaning roads would not get fixed. However, I’m confident that you could just re-schedule the programme and complete it at a later date. Investors would have no choice to understand, if you explained that it was necessary in fulfilment of your statutory duties. See the SORT hand-out for detail of your duties.
Finally, if you had actually bothered to read the SORT hand-out that was produced to inform the “debate” that was supposed to take place at the meeting of full Council, you could have avoided embarrassing yourself, the Labour party and the Council.
“Better information cannot guarantee improved decisions, but it is a prerequisite for sound decision-making”
(Alcamo, et al., 2003, p. 1).
Alcamo, J., Ash, N., Butler, C. & Callicott, J., 2003. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystems And Human Well-being: A Framework For Assessment, London: Island Press.
Sheffield City Council: Development and Regeneration Services, 2014. Statement of Community Involvement. [Online] Available at: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/planning-and-city-development/planning-documents/local-plan/statement-of-community-involvement.html
[Accessed 27 March 2015].
Sheffield City Council: Development and Regeneration Services, 2014. Statement of Community Involvement. [Online] Available at: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/planning-and-city-development/planning-documents/local-plan/statement-of-community-involvement.html
[Accessed 27 March 2015].
CLLR FOX’S TREE FORUM
Here are extracts from Councillor Fox’s invitation to people that he would like to join his panel of “experts”…
Reference: Highway Tree Advisory Forum Meeting
As you may be aware at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 1 July I promised to set up the Highway Tree Advisory Forum…
The aim of these meetings is to enable a meaningful discussion and to promote a debate about the Councils approach to managing it’s highway tree stock. This will be a public meeting and members of the public will be able to ask their questions during the first hour of the meeting.
…Below you will find Terms of Reference for these meetings and the agenda for the first meeting as well as the date for any future meetings.
I do hope you are able to help by bringing your expertise on what is clearly a subject of interest across Sheffield and look forward to hearing who your representative will be.
Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport
Terms of Reference
The purpose of the Tree advisory forum is to offer an opportunity for all the experts in their respective fields to debate issues relating to highway trees. These include:
• The city wide approach and adoption of the 6 ds
• The sensitive engineering solutions that are considered before any trees are noticed for felling
• The Streets Ahead approach to communications
• Replanting species catalogue
• Sharing industry best practice and innovation
These meetings will be held bi-monthly in the Town Hall between 5pm and 7pm.
The meetings will be chaired by the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport
Minutes of the meeting will be taken and once agreed by the Chair will be emailed to all those who have attended
Agenda – 23rd July 2015
• Welcome and introductions by the Chair
• Details of how the meeting will be run
• Confirm Terms of Reference
• Public questions (3 minutes to speak) – (1 hour)
• Experts Discussion about the 6 Ds
• Advice offered
• Date of next meeting
*SHAM TREE FORUM* …Fetch the hounds!
The content of an e-mail communication to Cllr Fox has been brought to my attention, dated 20 Jul 2015. An edited version is produced below, for your benefit (with the author’s permission)…
“…you have sent out a number of invitations to various people, inviting them to be members of a panel of “experts” at the tree forum you have named the “Highway Tree Advisory Forum”. Oddly enough, you failed to organise a panel prior to setting and announcing the date of the first meeting of the forum. This appears to be just one of a number of serious errors. I wish to bring to your attention a few others, just to ensure that you are aware of them:
1) A proposed forum constitution should have been draughted and put out to the representatives of key stakeholders for consultation, feedback and amendment, prior to being confirmed and adopted.
2) The Chair of the forum should be appointed by majority vote, by the representatives of key stakeholders: either you, or the Labour Council have elected yourself.
3) The Chair should not be a person with vested interests or bias with regard to the matters being approached: you are known to have strong vested interests and biased, uninformed opinions, as evidenced by your acts and omissions and those of others whom you have supported and defended, in public.
4) Without an agreed and widely accepted constitution, the forum is extremely vulnerable to abuse and misuse, with significant, strong likelihood of misuse and abuse: there is no indication that an appropriate system with adequate protocols is in place to prevent these serious errors. If you have one, please send me a copy by e-mail.
5) The forum should serve as an arena for the exchange of opinions and ideas between the representatives of key stakeholders: at present, it is set to be a question and response session between citizens and “experts” on the panel, with a discussion between unannounced “experts”: “experts” chosen by the Labour Council, without consultation with or approval of the representatives of key stakeholders.
To quote my previous words to you regarding the idea of a forum:
“This is not a bad idea, provided people have the opportunity to influence decisions and affect change. If it is just a forum for the Council to serve notification and appear to be involving communities, as opposed to using the forum as a platform for education, consultation and participation, then the forum will represent a spectacular waste of public resources, including money.”
Given your track record to date – your acts and omissions, and those of the political party to which you belong – I believe you, as Chair, will abuse the forum and use it as a platform to peddle your own misinformed, misleading rhetoric.
I strongly request that you urgently work to correct the errors I’ve brought to your attention, AND that you postpone the initial meeting of the forum until you have addressed the errors in an appropriate and adequate manner. Also, I wish this communication to be treated as a personal communication to you, as the current Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, and as a list of official complaints.
COUNCILLOR FOX’S RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE COMPLAINTS AND REQUEST, DATED 20 July 2015:
“Many thanks for your e mail, Full Council resolved that I the Cabinet Member would have an Highway Tree Advisory Forum. This Forum is voluntary and has such any attendees have the right to attend or not.
The Highway Advisory Tree Forum, is a body to provide advice to the decision maker.
For me to collate that advice I need the said ToR to structure the Forum.
I reiterate if you feel distressed or distraught about the ToR then you have the right to attend or not.
Councillor for Manor Castle Ward
Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport
Office 0114 273 5161”
As stated in The Star newspaper, those interested in attending the forum were invited to register their desire to attend by e-mailing email@example.com (tough if you are not online!)
Those that have used the e-mail address receive a response from:
PA to Steve Robinson
Head of Highway Maintenance
5th Floor (South)
Tel +44 (0) 114 2053590
(Monday to Wednesday)
Amanda has provided the following information, although there does not appear to have been any attempt to publicise it:
“The advisory panel will consist of representatives from the following groups:
o Chair – Terry Fox
o Deputy Chair – Tony Downing
o Councillors from all political parties
o Streets Ahead Technical staff
o Amey arboricultural experts
o Amey highways
o SCC Parks
o Streets Ahead Communications staff
o SCC Conservation / Planning Officer
o Amey ecologist
o SCC legal advisor
o SCC Highway maintenance expert
o Sheffield Bird Study Group
o Wildlife Trust
o Tinsley Tree Project
o Access Liaison Group
o Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind
o Woodland Trust
o Over 50’s
o Reporters from Star Radio Sheffield and Telegraph”
What is particularly notable from looking at the list of panellists is that over half consist of representatives from Amey and the City council.
Bearing in mind that this forum has been named a Highway Tree Advisory Forum and that it is intended to address the points raised in SORT communications, it does appear to be a little ridiculous that so many representatives from Amey and the Council are on the panel and that there is a clear absence of the same type of “experts” from the private and voluntary sectors, totally independent of Amey or the Council and without bias or conflict of interest/s. The official beliefs and opinions of Amey and the Council – to date unsupported by evidence, policy, legislation or best practice – need to be scrutinised by competent professionals with education, knowledge, training and experience relevant to the matters being approached. Citizen groups and voluntary organisations are unlikely to have the necessary expertise, or have the resources to access such expertise.
In short, there is a distinct absence of independent representation from the fields of urban forestry, arboriculture, highway engineering, health & safety assessment and legal.
Given the seriousness of the subject matter and the likely magnitude of city-wide negative impacts as a direct result of the Council’s acts and omissions, I would certainly have expected the following to have received invitations to put forward representative/s to be on the forum panel:
Trees and Design Action Group.
Institute of Chartered Foresters.
The National Tree Safety Group.
The Landscape Institute.
The UK Roads Liaison Group.
National Joint Utilities Group.
Joint Nature Conservation Committee: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-5287
The Forestry Commission.
There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest any of these groups have been approached or offered invitations.
Worst of all, after all is said and done, Cllr Fox gets to decide the content of the minutes and gets to make decisions, free of challenge and free from accountability. There is no independent board of competent professionals with education, knowledge, training and experience relevant to the matters being approached to consider all evidence and agree what is prudent and reasonable, based on all evidence and circumstances.
IT REALLY IS JUST CLLR FOX DOING AS HE PLEASES!
IN SHORT, THE FORUM LOOKS LIKELY TO BE A SHAM – NOTHING MORE THAN HALF-BAKED SPIN & PR.
Natural England should have been offered an invite too, in my opinion.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST:
ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS CONSIDERED TO ENSURE
THE SAFE, LONG-TERM RETENTION OF LONG ESTABLISHED STREET TREES
DURING PAVEMENT RESURFACING AND KERB REALIGNMENT WORKS
On 6th July, 2015, the following request was submitted to Sheffield City Council:
“Under the FOI act, I request the SPECIFICATIONS for the range of options that were considered and deemed to be impracticable, for the 11 healthy trees due for felling on Rustlings Road.”
SORT Campaigners have been requesting to see such specifications since late May, 2015.
It is evident, from the response (below), that the Streets Ahead team have clearly benefited from the suggestions of SORT campaigners, and have managed to take some inspiration from the documents referenced in SORT communications. The Streets Ahead team have managed to add to the 20 options that Cllr Fox first mentioned at the meeting of full Council on 1st July, 2015. HOWEVER…
THERE ARE NO ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS FOR PAVEMENT CONSTRUCTION/RESURFACING AND KERB REALIGNMENT
THE FOLLOWING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION RESPONSE WAS RECEIVED:
Subject: Response – Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/422
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Re: Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/422
Thank you for your recent request for information regarding Options deemed impracticable for trees due for feeling on Rustlings Road, which we received on 06/07/2015.
Please find below, Sheffield City Council’s response to your request:
Please find attached the list of options that are considered before any tree across the city is noticed for removal and replacement. Please note that 3 out of the 11 trees that have been noticed on Rustlings Road will only be felled if once we have excavated the footway we find that none of the solutions attached can be applied. Also note that these solutions are likely to have allowed some of the other 19 trees along Rustlings Road to remain in place.
These engineering solutions will also be discussed by the Highway Tree Advisory Forum on the 2nd September.
Streets Ahead Team”
The “list of options” was attached as a Word document named:
“STREETS AHEAD ENGINEERING OPTIONS”
The content of the document is reproduced below, in its entirety:
“Streets Ahead engineering options
Sensitive Engineering Solutions
1. Installation of thinner profile kerbs
2. Excavation of footways for physical root examination prior to an ultimate decision being made on removal
3. Ramping / Re-profiling of footway levels over roots (within acceptable deviation levels).
4. Flexible paving/ surfacing solution
5. Removal of displaced kerbs leaving a gap in the channel
Tree based options
6. Root pruning
7. Root Shaving
8. Root Barriers and Root guidance panels
9. Excavation beneath the roots damaging the footway
10. Tree Growth Retardant
11. Creation of larger tree pits around existing trees
12. Heavy tree crown reduction / pollarding to stunt tree growth.
13. Retain dead, dying, dangerous and diseased highway trees for their habitat value
Other non-engineering solutions
14. Line markings on the carriageway to delineate where it is not safe to drive or park
15. Building out kerb line into carriageway
16. Footpath Deviation around the tree
17. Installation of a Geo-grid under the footway to reduce reflective cracking
18. Reconstruction of the path using loose fill material rather than a sealed surface
19. Filling in of pavement cracks
20. Reduce the road width and widen the footways as well as converting them to grass verges
21. Close a road to traffic
22. Change to contract specification to leave the footways as they are without carrying out any repairs and removing trip hazards
23. Abandonment of the existing footway in favour of construction of a new footway elsewhere
24. Permanent closure of footways to pedestrians. Dig up and replace as grass verges.
25. Seeking the views of residents about removal where that is considered by the Council to be the only option and getting the residents to sign a legal agreement regarding accepting liabilities regarding accepting liabilities”
REQUEST TO SEE RISK ASSESSMENTS
On 6th July, 2015, the following request was submitted to Sheffield City Council:
“Under the FOI act, I request a copy of the risk assessment for the trees that are proposed to be felled on Rustlings Road please”.
SORT Campaigners have been requesting to have detail of how decisions to fell healthy, structurally sound trees are made, since late May, 2015!
Subject: Response – Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/423
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Re: Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/423
Thank you for your recent request for information regarding Risk Assessments for the trees due to be felled on Rustlings Road, which we received on 06/07/2015.
WE DO NOT CARRY OUT A RISK ASSESSMENT as part of our review of trees. We do however undertake an assessment of whether a tree meets any of the criteria for removal as outlined on the Council’s website I.e. Dangerous, Dead, Dying, Diseased, Damaging the road or pavement or Discrimination (causing extreme obstruction to pavements). Please note that 7 of the trees on Rustlings Road are damaging the footway to such an extent that we cannot rectify it using reasonably practical means and 1 further tree is diseased. As we have outlined in previous correspondence to you 3 of the trees may be able to remain in situ but this cannot be confirmed until we have excavated the footway.
Streets Ahead Team
Well, that certainly explains Cllr Fox’s rather extraordinary fear of litigation! It also explains why both Amey and the Council have been ramping up fear amongst citizens by stressing the dangers of dead, diseased and dangerous trees at every opportunity possible on radio and in print!
Without a strategic approach to risk assessment, as required in numerous current best practice documents (see SORT communications), the Council is liable in the event of any harm or damage caused as a result of its acts or omissions. Without a strategic approach and risk assessments, they cannot demonstrate that they have acted as reasonably skilled professionals, in fulfilment of their Duty of Care – they have failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner.
Ramping up fear amongst citizens will drum up support for felling and help save on maintenance costs, but at a ridiculous cost to neighbourhoods, by loss in the value and magnitude of a range of benefits afforded to the built environment and its inhabitants by larger-crowned trees: particularly those that benefit health and well-being.
If private landowners of land adjacent to the highway fell their trees, that also saves the Council the cost of inspecting them and tidying up after them.
Yup, the cowboy style fear-mongering campaign by Amey & the Council is now starting to make sense. …Sod the precautionary principle adopted as policy at Rio; the European Directive 2001/42/EC and the UK Forestry Standard!
I can understand why they added “Streets Ahead engineering option” number 25 now, since the meeting of full Council on 1st July, and since the freedom of information requests were submitted!
BTW, The Council, and Amey, should have Professional Indemnity Insurance & Public Liability Insurance to cover any negligence claims. Of course, unless employees are competent, and employers can prove it, insurers are unlikely to offer insurance! …Now there’s a thought to reflect on!
REQUEST TO SEE THE STRATEGY USED TO GUIDE AND INFORM TREE MANAGEMENT & TO SEE A DETAILED STREET TREE MANAGEMENT PLAN.
“Under the FOI act, I request a complete detail of the strategy for tree management on Rustlings Rd, for the duration of the PFI contract, and for full and complete detail of the current management plan for all trees on the road (long established & new/proposed).”
Since late May, 2015, SORT campaigners have been requesting to know detail of plans for both the short and long-term management of trees on Rustlings Road. Until now both the Council and Amey have refused to give detail of any strategy or plans and have only provided limited detail of their immediate intentions. Vague language is usually used to avoid divulging information.
Subject: Response – Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/428
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Re: Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/428
Thank you for your recent request for information relating to Strategy for tree management on Rustlings Road, for the duration of the PFI contract, and the current management plan for trees on the road which we received on 06/07/2015
We would note that as trees are living organisms, it would be impossible to speculate every conceivable required maintenance operation to a mature tree into the future.
We can confirm that all trees will continue to be assessed by competent and qualified arboricultural inspectors for both safety and condition on a regular rolling programme, and any maintenance works identified as being required as part of this survey process will be carried out in a suitable timescale and priority based upon the severity of the issue identified. The maintenance programme is entirely dynamic based on the survey findings, and as such we cannot predict what maintenance challenges we will face. There may also be pavement damage caused by the trees and our approach will depend on the extent of the damage.
Lime trees will typically be trimmed of epicormic (lower trunk) growth on an annual basis in order to keep footways.
Despite our best efforts, it is possible that some trees will reach the end of their life during the next 22 years given the unique stresses and strains of being planted in a hard surface such as the highway environment.
The Council remains bound to its legal obligations outlined in the highways act, and as such, it is pertinent to add that further tree replacement works may be required in the future in order to continue to meet these legal requirements.
Streets Ahead Team ”
So, in short, THERE IS NO STRATEGY to guide and inform tree management decisions on Rustlings Rd. There is nothing to help ensure that there is a planned, systematic, integrated, sustainable approach or to help ensure consistency, transparency, accountability, and help temper a risk-averse approach. THIS DOES NOT ACCORD WITH CURRENT ARBORICULTURAL OR URBAN FORESTRY BEST PRACTICE.
THERE IS NO MANAGEMENT PLAN for all trees on Rustlings Road (long established & new/proposed).
Just for the record, as stated previously, for Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/423 (above), INSPECTORS DO NOT DO RISK ASSESSMENTS. They identify hazards, but they that does not mean they are appropriately and sufficiently qualified in hazard assessment or risk assessment and risk analysis.
Section 154 of the Highways Act requires assessment of the tree CONDITION AND the LIKELIHOOD of danger, when assessing and considering management options for any tree that is DEAD, DISEASED, DAMAGED or insecurely rooted.
NOTE THAT THE WORD “DYING” DOES NOT APPEAR WITHIN THE ACT.
ADEQUATE assessments that comply with CURRENT best practice, undertaken by COMPETENT ARBORICULTURISTS (people with relevant education, training and experience relevant to the matter being addressed and an understanding of the requirements of the particular task being approached, as defined by British Standard 5837 ), are required to help temper a risk-averse approach and help ensure that assessments are BALANCED, consider ALL CIRCUMSTANCES of the case in hand, and that management response is PROPORTIONATE. This represents a prudent and reasonable, defendable approach to tree management.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUESTS
At the foot of every Freedom of Information Request response, the following text appears:
“I hope the information we have provided is of help to your enquiries. If you have any queries about this response, please do not hesitate to contact us.
If you are unhappy with the response you have received in relation to your request, you are entitled to have this reviewed. You can ask for an internal review by either writing to the above address or by emailing FOI@sheffield.gov.uk.
If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of your internal review, you can contact the Information Commissioners Office. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF, telephone 0303 123 113, or for further details see their website http://www.ico.gov.uk
Resources Business Support
Moorfoot Level 8 West Wing
Sheffield S1 4PL
Tel : 0114 20 53478
E-mail : FOI @sheffield.gov.uk “
I did post up contact details here for the FOI department, but the posting is awaiting moderation. In the meantime, you can find those details on Stocksbridge Community Forum (via the “News” tab):
SHEFFIELD’S FIRST EVER TREE FORUM
Thursday 23rd July, 2015
LIST OF PANELLISTS:
Cllr Joe Otten (Lib Dem).
(Robin Thistle?) (A man representing the Tinsley Tree Project ).
David Aspinall (SCC: Woodlands Manager).
Ms Nicky Rivers (Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust: Living Landscape Development Manager).
Mr (Sample?) (The Woodland Trust: Regional Policy Administration Officer).
James Winters (SCC: Environmental Technical Advisory Team member).*
David Wain (SCC: Environmental Technical Advisory Team member).*
Cllr Sarah Jane Smalley (Green Party).
Mr Steve Robinson (SCC: Head of Highway Maintenance, responsible for the Streets Ahead Project).
Cllr Terry Fox (Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport: Labour).
Ms Ann (Cave?) (SCC: Communications).*
Ms Charlie Howell (Amey & SCC: Ecologist).*
Mr Thorpe (Disabled Access Liaison Group).
Ms Porter (?).*
Greg Simons (Director of Amey, responsible for the improvement works across the city).*
Daren Butt (Amey: Operations Director).
Professor Nigel Dunnett (University of Sheffield: Urban Horticulture, Park and Landscape specialist).
Louise Wilcockson (Campaigner: Save Our Roadside Trees [SORT]: formerly Save Our Rustlings Trees).
Dr Deepa Shetty (Campaigner: Save Our Roadside Trees [SORT]: formerly Save Our Rustlings Trees).
Ellen Beardmore (The Star & Sheffield Telegraph).*
*These people chose to remain quiet, throughout, if my memory serves me right. Mr Wain was typing away on a laptop for the duration of the meeting.
It has been brought to my attention that some of the names above are wrong. Here is a list of suggested corrections (although their accuracy has yet to be confirmed):
Ronnie Hislop (Not Robin Thistle): A man representing the Tinsley Tree Project.
Nick Sandford (Not Mr Sample): The Woodland Trust: Regional Policy Administration Officer.
Ms Anna Caig (Not Ann Cave): SCC: Communications.
Ms Charile Carroll (Not Charlie Howell): Amey & SCC: Ecologist.
Graeme Symonds (Not Greg Simons): Director of Amey, responsible for the improvement works across the city.
Well, I attended the forum, but only to record exactly what happened and what was said; nothing more. It was all very poorly structured and amateurish.
To my surprise, CLLR FOX (Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport: Labour) has promised there will be a tree strategy. If true that is certainly worth celebrating as a milestone on the road toward a planned, systematic and integrated approach to sustainable management of Sheffield’s Urban Forest.
Now, IF the Council did not already have an existing policy commitment to produce such a “Trees & Woodland Strategy” (within the “Sheffield’s Great Outdoors: Green and Open Space Strategy 2010-2030″ document, referred to in SORT communications), I would not have believed a word of Cllr Fox’s promise. In fact, during the meeting Cllr Fox stated, twice, that the provision of a tree strategy was not within his “portfolio”. In other words, it was not his responsibility to commission one and ensure it is adopted as Council policy and that it is properly implemented in accordance with current best practice. Indeed, he claimed that it was CLLR ISOBEL BOWLER’s (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods: Labour) responsibility as it was her “portfolio”. It is odd that the leader of the Council, CLLR JULIE DORE, has never mentioned that, at ANY point.
Cllr Fox went on to state that, with regard to trees, his “portfolio” only made him responsible for street trees. He said the preparation of a tree strategy would be the responsibility of DAVE ASPINALL, Woodlands Manager in the COUNTRYSIDE AND ENVIRONMENT department (at Meersbrook Park: formerly the “Parks, Woodlands & Countryside” department). Mr Aspinall held aloft a copy of the Council’s “Sheffield’s Great Outdoors: Green and Open Space Strategy 2010-2030″ document and commented that there was indeed a current policy commitment to produce a “Trees & Woodland Strategy”, and that he would prepare one. He pointed out that it was an enormous task, as his department alone has responsibility for a much greater number of trees than the Highways department does. However, he did promise to have one ready for next March (2016).
One heckler pointed out to Cllr Fox that as he is Cabinet Member for Environment responsibility for a tree strategy certainly is within his “portfolio”. Fox responded by saying that in truth, responsibility was shared between “portfolios”.
Just to remind readers, the Agenda for the first forum meeting was as follows:
“Agenda – 23rd July 2015
1) Welcome and introductions by the Chair
2) Details of how the meeting will be run
3) Confirm Terms of Reference
4) Public questions (3 minutes to speak) – (1 hour)
5) Experts Discussion about the 6 Ds
6) Advice offered
7) Date of next meeting
The meeting started late.
The first two items went as well as could be expected.
The Terms of Reference were only confirmed in that CLLR FOX STATED THAT IF ANYBODY WASN’T HAPPY WITH THEM, THEY HAD THE OPTION TO LEAVE OR NOT ATTEND. There was no consultation, discussion or vote about the Terms of Reference, at any level or stage.
On the day, A NEW ITEM APPEARED IN THE AGENDA, between items 4 & 5. It was an 8 minute slot when STEVE ROBINSON (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance, “Responsible for the Streets Ahead project”) gave a presentation. He said:
“…we had a survey carried out by an independent firm in 2006/2007…they recommended that there was a process of sustainable replacement. So, in light of that, the Council, as part of its application to Government for the Streets Ahead project, received funding to manage the City’s highway tree stock…”
It is, perhaps, worth me sharing with you the fact that I have an e-mail from Cllr Jack Scott (then Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene [Labour]), dated 27th August 2014, in which Cllr Scott states:
“At contract commencement in August 2012, Amey commissioned an independent tree inspection company to undertake a full condition survey of all 36,000 highway trees.”
Also, in a letter dated 23rd March, 2015, addressed to a senior SORT campaigner, DAVID WAIN (SCC Environmental Technical Officer) stated:
“The initial asset survey of all 36,000 highway trees was undertaken by ACORN, however Amey are now utilising their own in house staff for both the cyclical safety inspections and also the pre-Streets Ahead works surveys. AMEY CANNOT FELL A TREE WITHOUT APPROVAL FROM THE COUNCIL, and as such ALL REQUESTS FOR TREE FELLING ARE ASSESSED BY qualified tree inspectors from THE COUNCIL’S CLIENT TEAM IN ORDER TO ENSURE THAT all requests are legitimate and the WORKS ARE PROPORTIONATE AND REQUIRED.”
According to Mr Robinson, this survey was “To identify the health of each tree and also to identify the diseased trees and the extent of that disease”.
Mr Robinson commented on the process of how trees are assessed. Commenting on what happens after Amey have made their recommendations, he said:
“…those recommendations are then made to the Council tree experts who then independently verify that recommendation. The Council has the final say on any treatment of a tree. Those decisions are made at a corporate level rather than independent – at the individual. SO, THERE IS A DETAILED PROCESS THROUGH WHICH DECISIONS ARE MADE, ULTIMATELY ENDING WITH ME.”
His presentation concentrated on the 6Ds policy. There was no detailed justification or reasoning. Almost everything he said either has appeared in the media or on the Council’s website. It was just a re-hash of what everyone there has already been fobbed off with previously. I use the word almost, because, as mentioned above, he stated that the extent of disease is identified, which is more than has been said previously. However, that does not imply that the nature and significance (to people, property and the tree) of the disease is assessed, nor that it is assessed in accordance with current best practice, by competent arboriculturists (as defined within British Standards 3998  and 5837 : see SORT PDFs for detail). Ironically, one of the photographs shown was of the fungus Laetiporus sulphureus (AKA chicken-of-the-woods), on the MELBOURNE RD VETERAN OAK, STOCKSBRIDGE, before Amey felled it last year! It was shown as an example of a disease that justified felling! To me, that just served to highlight the lack of education and knowledge amongst Council & Amey representatives on the panel.
For detailed comment on the significance of decay caused by this fungus, please visit Stocksbridge Community Forum (online): https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/contribute-website
Item four was a waste of time, in my opinion. Random people in the audience put their hand up to be selected to present a question, one after the other. Cllr Fox chose who would get the opportunity to speak. A lady walked around the room with a microphone for most of them. Some “questions” were relevant to the agenda, others not. Some assertions had firm basis, others did not.
One young lady commented that she regularly ran along Rustlings Road with a blind companion (a man) and that her companion had never complained about the pavement or had even had any difficulty with it. She even said that the man had used Rustlings Rd to train his guide dog.
Another lady mentioned that, in France, she has noticed that the French place a rail around particular street trees, some distance from the stem, so that people can’t walk in to the trees or trip on ground disturbed by roots. I thought that was a great practical solution!
One man was particularly knowledgeable about engineering standards for footpaths and read out a whole load of technical stuff that sounded very helpful. Mr Robinson appeared to pay particularly close attention to what this man said; he also looked as though the information was new to him, which was a shock to me!
There was strong protest from the audience when they realised that the first hour was going to be taken up by them asking questions without the panel actually responding to any, let alone providing answers. Cllr Fox attempted to reassure everyone, by saying that there were three people on the panel taking notes, so even if the panel couldn’t remember any of the questions presented to them, when it came to responding in the second hour, they would have the notes to remind them of the detail of the questions asked in the first hour.
In practice, that didn’t work. Perhaps 95% of points raised during questions went unaddressed by the panel. So, in fact, the fears of the audience were justified!
Point five to seven were meant to be addressed in the second hour (the final half of the meeting). In truth, there was no discussion between panellists, or between panellists and the audience. It reminded me very much of the format used at the meeting of full Council on 1st July, when SORT presented their >10,000 signature petition.
The guys most closely and most directly involved with tree management (Mr Winters & Mr Wain) didn’t say a word. Those panellists that did say something took it in turn to present personal opinions. Where these challenged current acts and omissions, there was no response from or discussion, let alone discussion involving those responsible for current acts and omissions. To me, that just reinforced my opinion that there is a distinct lack of transparency and accountability. That, of course, does nothing to foster good relations between the Council & communities.
With time taken up by panellists presenting opinions, there was no time to address the questions asked in the first hour.
Precious little advice was offered to Amey & the Council from the panellists. They all recognised the importance of and necessity for a Tree Strategy to guide and inform decisions. Most, if not all, agreed that the benefits afforded by trees to the built environment and its inhabitants, by way of “ecosystem goods and services” and their value should be taken in to account during assessments. There was particular concern that the filtration of airborne particulate matter (pollution), carbon storage and carbon sequestration were not being accounted for and that the costs to health and well-being were being ignored and not being recognised as serious.
The SORT campaign representatives highlighted the point that the precautionary principle adopted as policy at Rio should be applied in the decision making process, as required by European Directive 2001/42/EC, so as to avoid causing serious harm to people and wildlife and damage to the environment and public property. Neither the Council or Amey responded to criticism that they don’t do valuations of ecosystem goods and services or risk assessments, and that they fail to apply the Precautionary Principle (see the SORT PDFs for a detail).
Ms Wilcockson, of SORT, read out an excerpt from UK ROAD LIAISON GROUP guidance, which appeared to take Steve Robinson by surprise. I thought she made a fair and useful comment. The guidance quoted is reproduced here, in its entirety:
“Extensive root growth from larger trees can cause significant damage to the surface of footways, particularly in urban areas. A RISK ASSESSMENT SHOULD THEREFORE BE UNDERTAKEN WITH SPECIALIST ARBORICULTURAL ADVICE ON THE MOST APPROPRIATE COURSE OF ACTION, if possible to avoid harm to the tree. In these circumstances, it may be difficult for authorities to reconcile their responsibilities for surface regularity, with wider environmental considerations and A REDUCED STANDARD OF REGULARITY MAY BE ACCEPTABLE.”
I note that, to date, SCC & Amey have failed to specify, or provide detail of which National highway standards & guidance they are working to. In this day & age, you would expect all non-sensitive information to be made readily available, at least online!
Darren Butt – Account Director and Operations Manager for Amey – mentioned that ALL his tree officers were previously employed by the Council & were transferred to Amey when the PFI contract started (in August 2012). He claimed that they all have degrees, although he failed to say what in. Personally, with good reason, I believe this last claim is false, based on acts and omissions to date, as well as my personal knowledge of all the circumstances.
Cllr Fox stated that it would be difficult to provide evidence of the competence of employees, as there were data protection issues and it would depend on whether or not individual employees were willing to share personal information publicly.
The man from the Woodland Trust said that although he was not an arboriculturist, his job was to draught, review & revise regional policy. He voiced concern that the Council appear to be acting before having policy in place and commented that there certainly should be a strategy in place and that one is needed. He was particularly concerned about the destruction of Smithy Wood – ancient woodland near Chapletown, beside the M1.
The lady from Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust commented that there was an absence of transparency in how decisions were made. She noted that, at least, the pro formas used for inspections and assessments could and should be made available for the public to see.
Cllr Smalley made a passionate case for greater integration and cooperation at all levels, particularly between Cabinet Members of the Council and also between different Council departments. Indeed, this is actually required by current urban forestry and arboriculture best practice guidance & recommendations contained within:
“Trees in Towns 2: a new survey of urban trees in England and their condition and management”: a report published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, in 2008 (see SORT PDFs for detail).
Mr Thorpe kindly offered to walk along Rustlings road with whoever would like him to and give his personal verdict. He has severe visual impairment, so is unable to read words or see much. Cllr Fox said he would accept the offer.
Cllr Fox refused to delay ANY scheduled felling, other than the trees on Rustlings Rd, which he said wouldn’t be touched until after the next forum meeting.
Was anything achieved, other than the commitment to actually carry out the pre-existing policy commitment to produce a tree strategy? The answer, in my opinion, is a firm NO!
Just to remind everyone, these were Cllr Fox’s Terms of Reference for the Forum:
“The purpose of the Tree advisory forum is to offer an opportunity for all the experts in their respective fields to debate issues relating to highway trees. These include:
• The city wide approach and adoption of the 6 ds
• The sensitive engineering solutions that are considered before any trees are noticed for felling
• The Streets Ahead approach to communications
• Replanting species catalogue
• Sharing industry best practice and innovation”
Looking at the above, given that the second forum is supposed to be about “engineering solutions” and that the 6Ds were the topic of the first forum, I can’t help but wonder at what stage will “the city wide approach” be the topic of the forum? It is the first item on the list, but it wasn’t mentioned, approached or “discussed” at the first forum meeting.
Really, this forum needs a constitution agreed by representatives of all key stakeholders, as mentioned previously. It also needs to continue through the centuries ahead. So far, I have a feeling that Cllr Fox only intends there to be a total of five forum meetings at inadequate intervals (every two months).
Given that felling is scheduled to take place each week, in many cases for no other reason than that nobody has done an appropriate risk assessment, or bothered to draught alternative highways engineering specifications, holding a forum every two months appears to be nothing more than a shallow PR stunt.
FORUM: LACK OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Just before 11am on the day of the first tree forum (yesterday), an strange e-mail arrived in the inbox of a close associate of mine from a Labour Councillor, requesting an invitation to participate on the panel of “experts” at the forum. Here is the content of that e-mail, in its entirety:
Can you please include Nether Edge Neighbourhood group for update and invite.
Cllr Nasima Akther
Nether Edge Ward”
It is hard to believe that Cllr Fox is so secretive even with his own fellow Labour Councillors. Then again, I have no sympathy for Cllr Akther as she chose to vote to do nothing about trees at the meeting of full Council on 1st July.
BUTT: A REAL JAM ROLL!
At the first meeting of the Highway Tree Advisory Forum, DARREN BUTT (Amey’s Operations Director), in reference to potential damage caused during pavement resurfacing stated:
“The majority of tree roots are actually in the upper 60 mil of the surface and therefore removing the top layer will remove and be extremely detrimental to those trees…”
Yes, those were his EXACT words!
He was wrong to say that “The majority of tree roots are actually in the upper 60 mil of the surface”. I suspect that was an honest slip of the tongue (if I’m being generous). Also, removing the paved surface can be done with minimal or no damage to tree roots, provided the work is done in accordance with current best practice guidance and recommendations, particularly that provided by the National Joint Utilities Group and that contained within British Standard 5837 (2012): see the SORT communications for further information.
MACHINERY SHOULD 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 (as per BS 5837 ).
Now, it should be kept in mind, by everyone involved, that the trees everyone is most concerned about are street trees planted in, and in close proximity to, pavements. Roots seek out water and nutrients. These can’t be easily accessed in compacted layers, especially beneath sealed surfaces. A high stone content also physically impedes root growth. Pavements are constructed of compacted layers over a stony base. Generally speaking, tree roots spread out beneath these layers. If they enter these layers, it is likely to be as a result of the roots thickening as they get larger in diameter each year (although that growth will be minimal in long established trees).
By draughting highway engineering specifications that avoid damage to trees, or minimise damage to an acceptable level, and by working in accordance with current best practice guidance and recommendations, it is possible to conduct pavement reconstruction and/or resurfacing works in close proximity to long established trees, and ensure their safe retention for the long term.
Pavements can be reconstructed and pavement level can be raised. However, as we know from the response to FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST – REFERENCE FOI/422 (above), neither Amey or the Council have considered alternative highway engineering specifications. They just opted straight for the easy fix – fell!
What Mr Butt meant to say, I suspect, is that most tree roots are within 60cm of the surface. That is a simple statement of fact that he has used in a specific context so as to mislead the ignorant or uninformed. Newly planted trees, provided they have been well cared for and have been planted in well prepared ground, will have vigorous root growth. They will soon extend beyond the limits of any pavement. As they do so, they branch, and branch again, spreading outward, upward & downward. Most of the roots are less than 2cm in thickness, the bulk are very fine (<3mm thick). These very fine roots are the ones that access water and nutrients; they are near the surface and they are easily damaged. With long established trees, these FINE FEEDER ROOTS ARE FAR FROM THE STEM, so only a very, very, small percentage are likely to be under the pavement, if any! Close to the stem (trunk), there are unlikely to be more than about six roots, if that! THE BULK OF ROOTS IN LONG ESTABLISHED TREES ARE NOWHERE NEAR THE STEM!
The information on pages 20 & 21 of the hand-out published in support of the Save Our Rustlings Trees (SORT) campaign, which was distributed to every Councillor on 26th June, 2015 (by the Sheffield City Council Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources department), provides USEFUL COMMENT ON THE PRACTICALITIES OF PROTECTING TREES FROM DAMAGE DURING PAVEMENT RESURFACING.Mr Butt, and all people with an interest in tree retention will benefit from taking a look.
For your benefit, the relevant section of the SORT hand-out is reproduced below:
“According to Cllr Davison’s notes from the meeting on 10th June 2015, with reference to comments made at the meeting, he noted:
“They argued that putting further covering of pathways would damage the roots as it wouldn’t be permeable”.
Actually, permeable surfacing could be used (Trees and Design Action Group, 2014; The British Standards Institution, 2012). However, impermeable surfacing close to the primary stem (trunk) of medium and large crowned trees is not likely to cause damage that would have negative impact on the safe, long-term retention of such trees, provided the following criteria are met:
1) engineering and works specifications are appropriate and adequate;
2) such specifications are in accordance with current arboricultural best practice;
3) adequate on-site supervision by a competent arboriculturist is provided at all times, for the duration of all such works;
4) compliance with all specifications and current arboricultural best practice is enforced.
Engineering and works specifications need to ensure that accidental damage to the roots of trees that could/are to be retained is minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that retained trees remain healthy in the long term, by acting in accordance with current arboricultural best practice when doing any works near trees (Patch & Holding, 2007; National Joint Utilities Group, 2007b; National Joint Utilities Group, 2007a; The British Standards Institution, 2010; The British Standards Institution, 2012; Trees and Design Action Group, 2014).
In BS 5837 (2012), the root area within “the area equivalent to a circle with a radius 12 times the stem diameter”* is termed the Root Protection Area (RPA). Fine feeder roots occur far beyond the stem, and those under the pavement, many metres from the stem, are not likely to account for more than 20% of the RPA.
20% is the threshold beyond which significant damage is likely to be caused. Provided the aforementioned criteria are met with regard to works close to the primary stem (trunk) of trees, around major “structural” roots, there is not reasonable to suspect that more than 20% of the RPA will be affected in a negative manner.
*This is Diameter at Breast Height (DBH), measured 1.5m from the ground, perpendicular to the axis of the stem. On sloping ground, DBH is measured on the up-slope side of the tree (The British Standards Institution, 2012).
It should be remembered that there are a range of alternative permeable surfacing solutions (The British Standards Institution, 2012; Trees and Design Action Group, 2014) and that not all hard surfacing is tarmac. Alternative surfacing solutions can sustain heavy, frequent and consistent flows of pedestrian traffic on a daily basis!”
AMEY: COWBOY PRACTICE ON RUSTLINGS ROAD
Here is an interesting quote from page 7 of the “Rustlings Road Response” PDF, prepared by Ms Stephanie Roberts of and for the Streets Ahead Customer Services Fulfilment Team, during the afternoon of 8th July 2015:
“Concerns have been raised about the construction process with regards to the retained trees. WE CAN CONFIRM THAT ALL WORKS WILL BE SUPERVISED BY A QUALIFIED ARBORICULTURALIST TO ENSURE NO TREE ROOT DAMAGE OCCURS AS PART OF OUR WORKS. The Streets Ahead team work to National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) regulations and relevant British standards for construction works in the vicinity of trees and will continue to do so, our inspectors regularly monitor this by carrying out site inspections.”
Well, a mini-digger machine was digging a trench within 2m of tree stems on Rustlings Rd on 10th July. The operator was not supervised on site for the duration of works by any arboriculturist, let alone a competent one! This does not accord with the guidance and recommendations of NJUG or BS 5837 (2012).
Promises and words of assurance are meaningless and hollow if they are not backed up by action!
BTW, There’s no such word as “arboriculturAList”. The correct word is: arboriculturIST.
“THERE is not reasonable to suspect that more than 20% of the RPA…” should read:
“IT is not reasonable to suspect that more than 20% of the RPA …”
HEALTH & WELL-BEING: ECOSYSTEM SERVICES (AESTHETICS/AMENITY)
Research from Toronto, Canada
“Results from multiple regressions and multivariate canonical correlation analyses suggest that people who live in neighborhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions (controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors). We find that having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger. We also find that having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardiometabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.”
Kardan, O., Gozdyra, P., Misic, B., Moola, F., Palmer, L. J., Paus, T., & Berman, M. G. (2015). Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center. Scientific reports, 5.
Click to access srep11610.pdf
The letter below arrived in my inbox on Sunday 24th July, 2016. The author sent it to The Star newspaper the same day. However, it remains unpublished. The author has given permission for me to share it here (below).
“Over several months, the Council have repeatedly, falsely claimed to have used Flexi®-Pave to retain healthy, structurally sound, mature highway trees. Flexi®-Pave is a product that can be used when resurfacing footways, as an alternative to tarmac. The key benefit is that when tree parts thicken – as they do each year – the product flexes rather than cracks, unlike tarmac. For this reason, it has been widely used elsewhere in other cities, to retain mature highway trees. A letter appeared in last Thursday’s Sheffield Telegraph, written by someone claiming to be an “independent arboriculturist”. I believe he is a sub-contractor on the city-wide, £2.2bn Streets Ahead highway maintenance project, working for the main contractor: Amey.
I was shocked and appalled by the implication that the slightest wound on a tree would be likely to result in “rapid decline” of the tree. For a tree, its bark is like skin; the wood is like flesh. Just like an animal, if wounded, in theory, the organism can become infected and a disease could result that could lead to death. However, like animals, plants have evolved ways of resisting infection and limiting its spread. They have also evolved ways of compensating for any decay, by reducing crown size and, through incremental growth, adding layers of biomechanically optimised wood, known as reaction wood. This strengthens affected regions and can compensate for cross-sectional loss; it is what enables plant parts to have a safety factor greater than that of most mammal bones. It is why you see many trees with large wounds or cavities (great for wildlife) and yet they remain perfectly healthy and their parts do not fail. It is why trees can receive multiple wounds when pruned, attacked by herbivores, otherwise damaged, and remain strong, healthy and safe.
Most people involved with tree care in Sheffield do not fulfil the British Standard requirements necessary to qualify as competent arboriculturists. An arboriculturist is defined (by BS 5837) as: “person who has, through relevant education, training and experience, gained expertise in the field of trees in relation to construction”. Only a small handful of people in Sheffield meet these criteria. An education and training deficit leads to misunderstanding and inappropriate comments, as well as bad policy and bad decisions that are not soundly based on available evidence, but: “unduly influenced by transitory or exaggerated opinions, whether formed by the media or vested interests.”
Provided Streets Ahead contractors comply with the current, widely accepted, nationally recognised good practice guidance and recommendations that they claim to comply with and aim to “build on” (e.g. BS5837 and guidance published by the National Joint Utilities Group and Trees & Design Action Group), there is no reason why mature highway trees cannot be safely retained, long-term, by use of products like Flexi®-Pave. Provided resurfacing works are adequately supervised on site by competent arboriculturists, and compliance with current good practice is specified, and adequately supervised & enforced, there is no “gamble” with public resources.
The Council & Amey repeatedly state that felling is a “last resort” and that they are willing to consider all other options to retain mature highway trees. However, on 19/2/2016, the Information Commissioner completed an investigation (Case Ref: FS50596905) which revealed that, over 3yrs in to the £2.2bn city-wide Streets Ahead project, neither Amey or the Council had ever commissioned or draughted any alternative highway engineering specifications for footway, edging (kerb) or drain construction for consideration as an alternative to felling, as a means to enable the safe long-term retention of valuable mature highway trees, and the range of valuable ecosystem service benefits they afford to the environment and communities each year. This revelation confirmed that felling is certainly not the “last resort” and that the Streets Ahead team have a long way to go before they can rightfully claim to comply with current good practice.
D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.
SCC DECEIT & INCOMPETENCE: HOW SCC & AMEY FOOLED THE PUBLIC
Part 1 / 5
Recently, a High Court case was concluded: R (Dillner) v Sheffield CC and Amey Hallam Highways Ltd. A Sheffield man, called David Dillner, took Sheffield City Council to court over the £2.2bn, city-wide Amey PFI highway maintenance project (“Streets Ahead”).
On 28th July, 2015, The Star reported:
“Campaigner Dave Dillner and other residents have fought to stop Sheffield Council’s ‘Streets Ahead’ scheme run by contractor Amey, which has seen more than 3,000 trees cut down and replaced since work began in 2012.
Dave, of Heeley Bank Road, Heeley, took his fight to London’s Appeal Court, where lawyers challenged a previous review of the scheme, which was rejected by the High Court in May.
They argued no environmental impact assessment had been carried out and also said Sheffield residents had a right to be consulted properly about the scheme – and were not.
But his appeal was rejected by LORD JUSTICE LEWISON, WHO SAID IT WAS ‘TOO LATE’ TO RAISE THE IMPACT ASSESSMENT ARGUMENT WHEN THE PROJECT HAS BEEN ONGOING SINCE 2012 and the need for it could not apply to individual trees.”
SORT argue that, in line with the current range of “industry” good practice, most of which Sheffield City Council and Amey claim to comply with and aim to “build on”, the highway tree population should be managed as such, as a key component of the urban forest (defined by the UK Forestry Standard and a significant component of green infrastructure :
Click to access gitaskforcereport.hyperlink.pdf
Click to access 2890-Forest_Report_Pages.pdf
Click to access 2890-Forest_Report_Pages.pdf
From what I gather, Mr Dillner’s legal team argued that an adequate environmental impact assessment (EIA) of some sort had not been undertaken prior to, or at any stage of, the Streets Ahead project, so Sheffield City Council and Amey had neglected to account for the impact of proposed felling (up to half the highway tree population, of which mature trees represent 73.8% of the population) on canopy cover (shape, size and distribution) and the range, magnitude and value of the range of valuable, beneficial ecosystem services afforded by canopy cover to neighbourhoods and communities, many of which positively affect health and wellbeing. SCC & Amey had also neglected to account for the value of benefits afforded by trees in cost:benefit analyses and BALANCED risk assessments. I believe Mr Dillner’s legal team also argued that there had not been adequate community involvement (the timely provision of all necessary information to the public, and timely, adequate consultation).
At paragraph 221 of the judgement, Mr Justice Gilbart stated:
“There has been no good reason shown why the objections to the programme could not have been made in 2012 or in every subsequent year.”
Click to access dillner-v-scc-judgment.pdf
According to the Council, despite Sheffield being the third largest metropolitan authority in England , and a 7.7% increase in the human population (to 552,698 ) in the decade to 2011 (“in-migration” being the biggest driver of population growth ), the city has been “in economic decline since the late 1980s” : “over 30% of Sheffield’s population live in areas that fall within 20% most deprived in the country” . The Centre for Cities (the first port of call for UK and international decision makers seeking to understand and improve UK cities’ economic performance) has described the city as: “classed as having ‘a low-wage, high-welfare’ economy” .
Many people lack the time, money and opportunity to be struggling to gain access to information and to go to court.
This five part commentary sets out why it was not reasonable for Judge Gilbart to assume that one or more citizens of Sheffield could or should have presented objections to the court sooner than February, 2016.
Part 2 / 5
To date, Amey have felled over 10% of highway trees: over 3,800 . The contract permits the felling of 50% of highway trees. Without compliance with current good practice, we stand to lose around 67.7% of MATURE highway trees: about 15% of which have been felled. The negative impacts are obvious and significant.
On 15th February, 2013, The Star reported:
“Steve Robinson, head of highway maintenance at the council, which is working with contractor Amey on the project, said:
‘Overall there are 36,000 highway trees and there are 1,250 across the city which we are taking out and replacing.’”
On 16th April, 2013, The Star reported:
“Highways officials have revealed 1,250 trees deemed to be ‘diseased or dying’ are to be felled on streets across Sheffield. And HUNDREDS more trees could also be felled where they are deemed to be damaging road surfaces or ‘causing a hazard’ such as when roots break through the pavement surface.
The total number of healthy trees to be chopped down has not yet been decided.
Sheffield Council said some healthy trees which caused a hazard to blind people, or pushchair or wheelchair users, could be removed.The council said it would not replace trees where planting a new tree would be cheaper than pruning the existing species.”
On 18th January, 2014, The Star reported:
“Figures obtained by The Star under the Freedom of Information Act reveal THE COUNCIL IS WORKING TO FELL 1,200 TREES FROM A STOCK OF 36,000 BY MARCH.
Streets Ahead contractor Amey has already pulled down 750 highway trees – some 100 years old – which they claim are dead, dying, diseased, dangerous or damaging structures since August 2012.
A SHEFFIELD COUNCIL SPOKESMAN said:
‘THERE ARE IN THE REGION OF 1,200 TREES THAT HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED AS DEAD, DANGEROUS, DISEASED OR DAMAGING structures and those trees are spread across the city.’ ”
From the SORT letter addressed to Cllr Fox, dated 29th January, 2016 (Appendix 11; page 210) :
“At the meeting of full Council, on 1st July, 2015 (when SORT presented the >10,000 signature petition), in your speech as Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, you said:
‘Mayor, where are we now? Well my predecessors – Councillor Stock and Councillor Dunn – have overseen a great leap forward in our city and a replacement of over 2,000 highway trees… and today we have removed, as I say, over 2,000 trees and replanted over 2,019 trees.’”
(Remember, the policy is “one-for-one replacement”: one tree planted for each tree felled)
In MAY 2015, an Action For Woods And Trees (AFWAT) event was held at St Mary’s church in town, organised by Professor Ian Rotherham (the same day that schools marched in support of multiculturalism). It was at this event that citizen’s learnt, from SCC’s David Aspinall, of Amey’s “pepper-pot” approach to Streets Ahead works: rather than completing all highway works in one area, then starting in an adjacent area and progressing across the city in that way, Amey were starting works in various, separate, distant parts of the city at different times.
The “pepper-pot” approach, together with a range of other factors, ensured that it would be near impossible for citizens to recognise & understand the scale of felling, other works, and the likely impact of scheduled works on the highway tree population and streets in their neighbourhood.
Part 3 / 5
At two separate meetings of full Council, the Deputy Leader of the Council – Cllr Leigh Bramall (Labour) – stated that Amey has permission to fell 50% of highway trees (17, 528 mature trees). This has never been reported by local media. For most, if not all citizens , the first meeting – on 1st July, 2015 – was the first time they learnt of the true potential scale of highway tree felling by Amey.
On 1st July 2015 , at the meeting of Full Council (in Sheffield’s Town Hall), Cllr Leigh Bramall (Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council) stated:
“Just before Streets Ahead, we had an independent survey done, erm, assessing all the trees across Sheffield, and it found that 70% were nearing the end of their life and 10,000 needed urgent attention. […] Now, THE CONTRACT SAYS UP TO 50% OF TREES CAN BE REMOVED, erm, and actually that’s 18,000.”
On 3rd February, 2016 , at the meeting of Full Council (in Sheffield’s Town Hall), Cllr Leigh Bramall (Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council) stated:
“Actually, we have 4m trees in the city. Now, we have 36,000 highway trees on the street. THE CONTRACT STATES THAT UP TO 50% CAN BE REPLACED.”
On 23rd July, 2015, at the first HTAF, Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) stated :
“…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.”
“…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.”
“In terms of damaging, …if something can be done, IF AN ENGINEERING SOLUTION CAN BE APPLIED, THEN IT WILL BE APPLIED.”
“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.”
It took intervention by the Information Commissioner investigation (case ref: FS50596905) to reveal that, OVER THREE AND A HALF YEARS IN TO A £2.2BN, CITY-WIDE, HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE PROJECT, NEITHER THE COUNCIL OR AMEY HAVE COMMISSIONED OR DRAFTED ANY ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS FOR CONSIDERATION AS A MEANS TO RETAIN TREES.
Felling is certainly not the “last resort” that the Council and Amey claim it is.
The Council and Amey have always been keen to mention that Sheffield has millions of trees. To discover more about that, and the relevance to tree population management, please see the letter posted at the following link:
Part 4 / 5
The recent High Court case (R (Dillner) v Sheffield CC and Amey Hallam Highways Ltd [Exhibit DC1]) revealed that the “Sheffield City Highways Tree Survey 2006 – 2007”, undertaken by Elliott Consultancy Ltd, recommended that SCC adopt a tree strategy. It also stated that Sheffield has 35,057 highway trees and that there are: “25,000 HIGHWAY TREES REQUIRING NO WORK AT PRESENT”. It recommended 1,000 TREES FOR FELLING, with an additional 241 to be crown reduced or to be considered for felling. This is the survey that Cllr Fox stated: “helps us inform our priorities for the formation of the contract”.
Amey are felling trees associated with damage to footways and kerbs. To date, Amey have felled over 10% of highway trees: over 3,800 . The contract permits the felling of 50% of highway trees. Without compliance with current good practice, we stand to lose around 67.7% of MATURE highway trees: about 15% of which have been felled. The negative impacts are obvious and significant.
As late as OCTOBER, 2015, Cllr Leigh Bramall (Deputy Leader of the Labour Council & Cabinet Member for Business, Skills & Development) was telling The Star that Amey had only felled 2,000 highway trees. See:
Also, see pages 208-210 of the SORT letter dated 29th January, 2016.
From the aforementioned information, it is clear that when the trees on Rustlings Road first had notification of felling attached to them, in April, 2015, they were amongst the first batch of the healthy, structurally sound, mature highway trees that Amey planned to fell.
We now know that one of Amey’s primary reasons for felling is their non-compliance with the range of current good practice that they claim to comply with and aim to build on (British Standard 5837 & National Joint Utilities Group guidance): specifically, but not exclusively, their USE OF MOWERS, STRIMMERS AND MACHINERY USED IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO TREES DURING RESURFACING WORKS, SUCH AS DIGGERS AND THE PLANING MACHINES (for example, see pages 40-41, 107, 315-318 & 220-235 of the SORT letter dated 29th January, 2016 ).
Healthy, structurally sound, valuable, mature highway trees are felled on the basis that damage caused will be of such severity that that tree health and structural integrity will be compromised to such extent that the only reasonable option is to fell the trees. No consideration, whatsoever, is given to the impact on the shape, size and distribution of canopy cover, so no consideration is given to maintenance of the range, magnitude and value of beneficial ecosystem services that canopy cover affords to neighbourhoods and communities, contrary to the requirements of “THE UK FORESTRY STANDARD (UKFS): THE GOVERNMENTS’ APPROACH TO SUSTAINABLE FOREST MANAGEMENT”.
THE UKFS DEFINES WHAT A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH MUST BE. THE STANDARD APPLIES TO:
“ALL UK FOREST TYPES AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS, INCLUDING THE COLLECTIVE TREE AND WOODLAND COVER IN URBAN AREAS.”
THE UKFS DEFINES THE TERM “FOREST” AS “LAND UNDER STANDS OF TREES WITH A CANOPY COVER OF AT LEAST 20%”.
In summary, by any standard, the current approach to tree population management and works in close proximity to trees, by Sheffield City Council and Amey, appears to be reckless and sub-standard.
THERE HAS BEEN AND CONTINUES TO BE A DISTINCT ABSENCE OF OPENNESS, HONESTY AND TRANSPARENCY ABOUT THE TRUE SCALE OF PROPOSED FELLING .
SCC & Amey appear to have wilfully withheld information from the public that would have revealed the true scale of proposed felling. Indeed, the information provided has been and continues to be contradictory and misleading.
Notes & references provided below…
NOTES & REFERENCES:
Sheffield City Council, 2007. Sheffield Profile. Sheffield Key Facts. [Online]
[Accessed 10 January 2016].
Sheffield First Partnership, 2013. State of Sheffield 2013. [Online]
[Accessed 3 May 2016].
Sheffield City Council, 2014. 2011 Census: key statistics. [Online]
[Accessed 29 April 2014].
Sheffield City Council: Performance and Research, 2015. Sheffield population estimates: Sheffield’s Population 2014. [Online]
[Accessed 10 January 2016].
From the witness statement of Dave Caulfield (then SCC’s Director of Development Services: “responsible for highway related-matters”) to The High Court of Justice (Queen’s Bench Division Administrative Court): case ref: CO/613/2016 (exhibit DC1), dated 29th February, 2016.
Sheffield City Council: Development and Regeneration Services, 2014. Statement of Community Involvement. [Online]
[Accessed 27 March 2015].
Also, see: http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/one-third-of-sheffield-neighbourhoods-are-deprived-report-claims-1-8069913
Hobson, D., 2016. Sheffield is a low-wage high-welfare economy says new report. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 25 January 2016].
Centre for Cities, 2016. About. [Online]
[Accessed 25 January 2016].
The SORT Letters can be accessed via either of the following links:
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.
In response to the letter dated 29th January, 2016, Amey quickly cobbled together a “Streets Ahead Five Year Tree Management Strategy”. They back-dated it and made it public on 2nd February, 2016. It is NOT a tree strategy. In fact, it is a strategy in name only.
Much of the content of the earlier SORT letter, dated 14th July 2015, was included in the 29 page SORT petition hand-out that was DISTRIBUTED TO EVERY COUNCILLOR by SCC’s John Turner, prior to presentation of the petition at the meeting of full Council on 1st JULY, 2015. An abridged version (27 pages) can be accessed via the following link:
In response, the Council set up the “bi-monthly” Highways Tree Advisory Forum, which only met twice. It has not met since the 2nd September, 2015, when the then Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox) informed that a draught tree strategy would be ready public consultation in for November, 2015. In fact, work did not begin on the draught strategy until after 26th February, 2016. To date, there is no evidence that a draught strategy is in development. No draught tree strategy has not been made public, despite requests.
The primary purpose of the petition hand-outs was to educate & inform councillors, in order to encourage informed “debate”, at the meetings of full Council, about the matters raised by SORT; in particular, responsible, SUSTAINABLE tree population management and practice.
In 2012, Steve Robinson (Sheffield City Council’s disgraced Head of Highway Maintenance*) was interviewed for the December 2012 issue of Transportation Professional (a Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation publication). The publication stated (on page 12):
“OVER THE FIRST FIVE YEARS of the 25 year Streets Ahead deal…” AMEY will be: “REPLACING HALF OF THE CITY’S 36,000 HIGHWAY TREES”.
The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation, 2012. Transportation Professional. [Online]
Available at: http://www.ciht.org.uk/download.cfm/docid/EAFEC96C-F341-455B-B811F1C627AC75AD .
SORT did not become aware of the publication until OCTOBER 2015.
Please note that in a Witness Statement to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division: case ref: C1/2016/1819), dated 15th JUNE, 2016, Simon Green (SCC’s Executive Director for the “Place” portfolio, to which the Planning and Highways departments report) informed:
“MR CAULFIELD RECENTLY LEFT SCC TO TAKE UP A NEW POST”.
THIS HAS NOT BEEN PUBLICISED.
**** THE DISGRACED STEVE ROBINSON IS NOW AGAIN RESPONSIBLE FOR HIGHWAY TREES. ****
THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE ON 1st JULY 2015 – when SORT presented their petition*: 4,693 signatures online plus an additional >5,307 on paper – can be accessed at the following link, under the sub-heading “Minutes of Previous Council Meeting”:
Questions about trees are on pages 8 & 9 of the PDF; the Council’s response can be found on pages 9-16.
THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE ON 3rd FEBRUARY, 2016 – when the Nether Edge tree action group presented their 6,295 plus signature petition – can be accessed at the following link, under the sub-heading “Minutes of Previous Council Meetings”:
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.
Here is an extract:
“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.”
On 17th June, 2016, Sheffield News Room – “Sheffield City Council’s Online Media Hub” – reported:
“TO DATE, UNDER THE STREETS AHEAD CONTRACT WE HAVE REPLACED JUST OVER 3,800 STREET TREES…”
On 18th June, 2016, The Star reported:
Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said:
‘TO DATE, UNDER THE STREETS AHEAD CONTRACT WE HAVE REPLACED JUST OVER 3,800 STREET TREES’ ”
Please note that in a Witness Statement to The High Court of Justice (Queen’s Bench Division Administrative Court): case ref: CO/613/2016 (exhibit DC1), dated 29th February, 2016, Dave Caulfield (then SCC’s Director of Development Services: “responsible for highway related-matters”) informed:
“In terms of numbers of trees affected by Streets Ahead, AS AT THIS MONTH ABOUT 3,670 HIGHWAY TREES HAVE BEEN REPLACED.”
On 5th February, 2016, the High Court of Justice (Queen’s Bench Division Administrative Court) issued an injunction (court ref: CO/613/2016):
“The Defendant (i.e. SCC) and the Interested Party (i.e. Amey) shall not, whether by themselves, their servants, agents or otherwise, fell any street tree in the City of Sheffield under the Sheffield Streets Ahead Project unless an appropriately qualified independent arboricultural expert has produced a written report stating that the tree presents an immediate danger to the public and must be felled.”
The ban on unnecessary felling remained in force until 23rd March, 2016. See:
A quote from pages 42 of the SORT letter dated 29th January, 2016 (also on page 184: a letter dated 8th December, 2015, addressed to Simon Green – Executive Director of the Council’s Place Management Team):
“On 17th November 2015, at the Amey Roadshow in Heeley, Darren Butt (Amey’s Operations Director for the £2.2bn city-wide Streets Ahead project) said that “pavement ridging” and disturbance of kerb alignment was unacceptable. However, he mentioned that his arboricultural team had worked with Graeme Symonds’s (Amey’s Core Investment Project Director*) highway construction team to develop a range of alternative highway engineering specifications for footway and kerb construction, which Amey use and which the Council have not mentioned or made available to the public, and which could enable the safe, long-term retention of mature trees.
Mr Butt was very derogatory about the Council’s twenty-five “Streets Ahead engineering options” (Appendix 17), completely dismissing them (using an expletive to describe them). If Amey do have alternative highway engineering specifications, as Mr Butt claims they do, they are the ones that SORT have been repeatedly requesting to see since May, 2015, as evidence that felling is a last resort (see Appendices 6 & 20). SORT are most disappointed that, to date, all such requests have been totally ignored and that Streets Ahead did not use the opportunity at the second HTAF meeting to present the alternative highway engineering specifications that Darren Butt now asserts that Amey do have and use, instead of the twenty-five “Streets Ahead engineering options”.
Also, see the following pages of the SORT letter dated 29th January, 2016 :
40; Appendix 21 (pages 308 to 309); 107; Appendix 22 (pages 314 to 318).
Apologies for posting this final section in four parts, but the blog limits how much text can be submitted in a single posting.
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