Sheffield Telegraph – uncovering the facts and myths behind the trees debate

Sheffield Telegraph article July 30th 2015 1

Sheffield Telegraph article July 30th 2015  2

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3 Responses to Sheffield Telegraph – uncovering the facts and myths behind the trees debate

  1. In attending the Tree meeting at Heeley Institute last evening and just speaking with Deepa I had the following thought;

    I am aware as we all are thAT the SCC has and will continue to moan about not having any money due to cuts from Government. I am of the view that finance does not need to be an issue in what we are asking. We are simply asking for consultation and transparency in the specifications SCC and Amey are using when they are considering to fell or keep a street tree. This does not require major funds. And SCC already has the 2.2 billon PFI contract that includes tree care and maintenance. Sadly there does not seem to be much of the latter as already 2000+ trees have been felled some of which we have evidence were healthy mature street trees.

  2. Technotronic says:

    A LETTER THAT “THE STAR” WOULD NOT PUBLISH

    The following letter reached my inbox at the start of this week:

    LABOUR/AMEY INCOMPETENCE AND THE MISMANAGEMENT OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST

    Since May, I have been keeping a close eye on The Star’s reporting of what has become the Save Our ROADSIDE Trees (SORT) campaign. With the 2nd meeting of Cllr Fox’s bi-monthly Highway Tree Advisory Forum fast approaching, I feel it necessary to blow a few myths.

    Both Cllrs Fox & Price are always keen to mention that 50,000 trees were planted last winter (NOT ON STREETS) and that STREET TREES are “replaced” on a 1:1 basis. In their mind, this constitutes a sustainable approach to tree management that helps “future proof” the tree stock. However, while the two former claims – if true – are praise worthy, they do not constitute adequate measures to offset the losses that result from the city-wide felling of thousands of STREET TREES within the space of a few years, nor does the current approach represent a responsible, sustainable approach to management of the city-wide tree population – the “Urban Forest”. The current programme of felling will significantly alter the shape, size and distribution of canopy cover along highways, with negative impacts on ecosystem services provision.

    It has come to my attention that, because Cllr Fox & the Streets Ahead team refused to include answers in many of their responses to SORT questions, SORT submitted a number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to get answers.

    Some interesting facts were revealed, indicating that Sheffield’s street trees are NOT being managed in a sustainable manner that complies with current legislation, policies and arboricultural & urban forestry best practice. “Streets Ahead” (SA – the Council:Amey partnership ) DO NOT do/produce:

    • a valuation of ANY of the range of ecosystem services afforded by trees to the built environment and all its inhabitants;
    • assessment criteria for the assessment of the severity of disruption to pavements;
    • protocols to minimise errors during inspection, hazard assessment;
    • risk assessments for trees;
    • for Rustlings Road (and, presumably, any road), a strategy for tree management for the duration of the PFI contract;
    • for Rustlings Road (and, presumably, any road), a management plan for all trees on the road (long established & new/proposed).

    Furthermore, through FOI, it was revealed that SA only have one set of HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS which they use for all streets, regardless of whether or not they have existing trees: NO STEPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO COMMISSION OR DRAUGHT ALTERNATIVE SPECIFICATIONS that could be used to safely retain long established trees for the long term. This is a disgrace and a truly shocking revelation, when you consider that the PFI contract is worth £2.2 billion (up to £1.2bn from the Government).

    As SORT have pointed out in their communications, the Council spent £6,000 on a PR “Business breakfast consultation event” & a further >£184,000 on consultancy for draughting alternative proposals for relocation of the proposed HS2 station, on the basis that relocation “has the potential to change the face of the city”; that they needed the “best possible people to advise”; that “decisions to be made need to be made on evidence and facts”; that it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, and that the “implications are massive”.

    All the same arguments apply with regard to urban forest management, in particular the management of street trees – a significant component of green infrastructure and ecosystem services provision. Surely, commissioning registered/chartered arboricultural consultants to work with highway engineers to produce specifications to enable the safe long-term retention of existing trees is not an unreasonable expectation? This could enable the safe retention of many trees that Cllr Fox regards as “discriminatory”: any tree associated with any disturbance to the pavement or kerb.

    SORT Have managed to persuade the Council to commission and adopt a tree strategy (hopefully draughted in accordance with current best practice), in fulfilment of its 5yo policy commitment. However, how the strategy is developed and what detailed policies and plans it contains will determine whether or not it is fit for purpose. In any case, it should be reviewed and revised at planned intervals and at other appropriate times, with community involvement at its heart, including public education, consultation and participation, as recommended by the Trees in Towns ll report commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (published in 2008).

    I just want to say a big thank you to SORT for sharing their case for tree retention (the letter to Cllr Fox, dated 14th July) on Prof Ian Rotherham’s blog (online) this month. It is packed with sound information and is a true gift to anyone with an interest in tree management. The definition of sustainable forestry, from page 7 of The UK Forestry Standard, is particularly pertinent, as it applies to management of Sheffield’s urban forest, including its population of 36,000 street trees:

    “Sustainable forest management is ‘the stewardship
    and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a
    rate, that MAINTAINS their biodiversity, productivity,
    regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to
    fulfil, NOW and in the future, relevant ECOLOGICAL,
    ECONOMIC and SOCIAL functions, at local, national, and
    global levels, and that does not cause damage to
    other ecosystems’.”

    SORT Also make a valid point that all that the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equalities Act require of the Local Authority is that it take such steps as are “REASONABLE” in ALL circumstances of the case. As SORT rightly point out, that does require appropriate, balanced assessments by competent people using current, widely recognised and accepted methods, to inform management decisions and help ensure that responses are proportionate and defendable: hopefully, not unduly influenced by transitory or exaggerated opinions, such as those of Cllr Fox.

    With regard to the current approach to urban forest management and the management of street trees, I hope the citizens of Sheffield are successful in dragging the current Council kicking & screaming in to the present century! Good luck – you need it!

    Yours faithfully,

    XXXX

    • Technotronic says:

      Oops, there is a bit missing from the paragraph beginning “Furthermore…”

      It should read:

      Furthermore, through FOI, it was revealed that SA only have one set of HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS which they use for all streets, regardless of whether or not they have existing trees: NO STEPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO COMMISSION OR DRAUGHT ALTERNATIVE SPECIFICATIONS that could be used to safely retain long established trees for the long term. This is a disgrace and a truly shocking revelation, when you consider that the PFI contract is worth £2.2 billion (up to £1.2bn from the Government).

      As SORT have pointed out in their communications, the Council spent £6,000 on a PR “Business breakfast consultation event” & a further >£184,000 on consultancy for draughting alternative proposals for relocation of the proposed HS2 station, on the basis that relocation “has the potential to change the face of the city”; that they needed the “best possible people to advise”; that “decisions to be made need to be made on evidence and facts”; that it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, and that the “implications are massive”.

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