Sheffield Street Trees campaign makes it to the pages of Private Eye!!

Private Eye No 1402 October 2nd 2015 Cover Private Eye No 1402 October 2nd 2015

Sheffield Street Trees campaign makes it to the pages of Private Eye!!

If you haven’t already seen it then read on. In the regular section on Rotten Boroughs, the Sheffield Street Trees campaign has made it to the pages of Private Eye!!

Enjoy!

Please circulate to anyone else interested!

 

Ian

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12 Responses to Sheffield Street Trees campaign makes it to the pages of Private Eye!!

    • Technotronic says:

      There is nothing wrong with what he says in The Star’s audio clip, in my opinion. Highway trees are Council property. It is unlawful to plant or excavate in the highway without permission. I wish Robinson WOULD do his job, and exercise the level of care expected of a reasonably skilled highway engineer in doing so! It is truly shocking that one of the largest cities in the UK has embarked on a city-wide felling & planting programme without a tree strategy to guide and inform decisions, guard against disproportionate activity to control risk, and ensure that policy, management and practice are soundly based on available evidence and not unduly influenced by transitory or exaggerated opinions, whether formed by the media or vested interests.

      Furthermore, when you consider that up to £1.2 BILLION of taxpayer’s money (from DfT)is being spent on the project, it is truly shocking to discover that valuations of ecosystem services afforded by trees have not been done, there are cost:benefit analyses, no criteria to assess the severity of pavement/kerb damage, no risk assessments for hazards associated with trees, and that no competent arboricultural consultants have been commissioned to work with competent highway engineers to draught alternative highway engineering specifications that could be used to safely retain existing trees long-term, there is a clear case of reckless acts and omissions by Steve Robinson.

      As SORT rightly pointed out in their letter to Councillor Fox, dated 14th July 2015, all these things are necessary and recommended by a raft of current industry guidance and recommendations documents: https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/update-on-sheffield-street-tree-issues/

      One lead campaigner contacted Streets Ahead & requested:

      “I would like to see the paperwork detailing the legal advice the council has received on the Precautionary Principle please?”

      The response was as follows:
      “The Council does not wish to release its detailed legal advice on this matter at present, however it is of note that Government summit commitments of this kind (i.e. Rio Earth Summit 1992) are not binding on local authorities unless and until they are incorporated into legislation.”

      Clearly, Robinson & the SCC:Amey people (AKA Streets Ahead) lack the necessary education, knowledge, training & experience relevant to the matters to be addressed: they ARE – by definition (BS 5837:2012) – INCOMPETENT insofar as tree management and works in close proximity to trees is concerned.

      As if all the problems highlighted were not sufficient to support this assertion, Streets Ahead have been felling mature trees on the basis that they have “outgrown their location” or are causing damage to pavements and kerbs. More recently they have justified felling (e.g.,Abbeydale Park Rise) on the basis that the machine that they use to remove tarmac during pavement resurfacing works MAY damage roots, thereby increasing the likelihood of disease and trees subsequently becoming unsafe and dangerous. They have even prescribed felling on the basis that mowers or excavations by Streets Ahead operatives could damage roots and lead to the same consequences.

      All this goes against current arboricultural/forestry industry practice guidance & recommendations, not least of all British Standard 5837 (2012).

      • Technotronic says:

        THE STAR

        Today’s The Star newspaper reports:
        “Simon Green, the council’s director of place, said:
        ‘I can confirm that another member of staff will be running the highway trees strand of the Streets Ahead project while we are looking into this matter.’”
        http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/tree-campaigners-call-for-urgent-action-after-sheffield-council-chief-s-views-secretly-recorded-1-7500533

        As I understand it, Mr Green is SCC “Executive Director of Place Management Team”.

        Please note that this reported comment does not mean that Steve Robinson will not remain a VERY senior highways decision maker. I suspect he will continue with his usual duties with the ONLY difference being that he will have a different title and will no longer be the public face of the Highways department. Well, that’s the way things usually work. No doubt, from now on, some dumb PR woman will do all the public communication – possibly the same one that can’t spell arboriculturist.

        Steve Robinson’s LinkedIn profile:
        Synopsis
        • Currently leading the delivery of the £2bn 25 year highway maintenane PFI in Sheffield
        11 year track record of success in local and central government work…with an ability to strategically manage client relationships with SENSITIVITY AND POLITICAL SAVVY.
        • Track record of driving innovation and creativity and opportunity identification and development.

        SPECIALITIES: Key Skills:
        • Highway Maintenance
        • Leadership, INNOVATION and CREATIVITY FOCUSED AROUND PEOPLE.

        Reference: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/steve-robinson/45/689/795

      • Technotronic says:

        THE STAR

        Today’s The Star newspaper reports:
        “Simon Green, the council’s director of place, said:
        ‘I can confirm that another member of staff will be running the highway trees strand of the Streets Ahead project while we are looking into this matter.’”
        http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/tree-campaigners-call-for-urgent-action-after-sheffield-council-chief-s-views-secretly-recorded-1-7500533

        As I understand it, Mr Green is SCC “Executive Director of Place Management Team”.

        Please note that this reported comment does not mean that Steve Robinson will not remain a VERY senior highways decision maker. I suspect he will continue with his usual duties with the ONLY difference being that he will have a different title and will no longer be the public face of the Highways department. Well, that’s the way things usually work. No doubt, from now on, some dumb PR woman will do all the public communication – possibly the same one that can’t spell arboriculturist.

        Steve Robinson’s LinkedIn profile:
        Synopsis
        • Currently leading the delivery of the £2bn 25 year highway maintenane PFI in Sheffield
        11 year track record of success in local and central government work…with an ability to strategically manage client relationships with SENSITIVITY AND POLITICAL SAVVY.
        • Track record of driving innovation and creativity and opportunity identification and development.

        SPECIALITIES: Key Skills:
        • Highway Maintenance
        • Leadership, INNOVATION and CREATIVITY FOCUSED AROUND PEOPLE.

        Reference: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/steve-robinson/45/689/795

  1. Technotronic says:

    ROBINSON & STREETS AHEAD: INCOMPETENCE

    Also from Robinson’s LinkedIn profile:

    “Just taken responsibility for Flood and Water Management in the City and delivering a wide ranging programme valued at over £50m of flood management works that will also innovatively facilitate economic development, regeneration, housing, water quality, amenity and river channel maintenance improvements.”

    That means Robinson is also ultimately responsible for vegetation management along rivers & canals, I reckon. God help Sheffield!

    FLOODING:
    “The Rustlings Road Response” PDF, prepared by Ms Stephanie Roberts of and for the STREETS AHEAD Customer Services Fulfilment Team (the Council:Amey partnership), during the afternoon of 8th July, 2015 – subsequently distributed to many individual SORT campaigners, directly, via e-mail – stated:

    “Flood risk was also cited as part of the argument for retention of the mature trees…

    We acknowledge that tree canopies do capture a proportion of rainfall, however in a significant flood event, a tree that is planted in a grass verge could make a very small contribution in soaking up water, but it is likely that the verge soil would make a much larger contribution than the tree.

    However a tree planted directly into a footpath (as is the case on Rustlings Road) would contribute very little that would help in flash flooding as the water would merely flow across the sealed surface. It is often the case that highway trees contribute to flooding through leaves blocking gullies and their roots blocking and collapsing drains and pipes”.

    EXTRACT from Balmforth, D. (2006). Designing for exceedance in urban drainage: good practice. London: CIRIA:

    “Interception occurs when rain falls and is stored on vegetation, and subsequently
    evaporates back to the atmosphere through transpiration. The amount of interception
    depends on the nature of the vegetation, including plant type, form, the density of
    leaves, branches and stems. TREES OFTEN HAVE A HIGH INTERCEPTION CAPACITY COMPARED WITH GRASS WHICH IS SUBSTANTIALLY LOWER. Low rainfall events can be completely intercepted but the proportion of interception for EXTREME rainfall events may be low.”

    • Technotronic says:

      Extracts from No Trees, No Future. Trees and Design Action Group, 2008
      http://www.tdag.org.uk/uploads/4/2/8/0/4280686/no_trees_no_future.pdf

      “When it rains, tree canopies slow the rate at which water reaches the ground. This slows the rate at which the water enters the drains, giving them more time to carry away the water and so reducing the likelihood of flooding. This can be particularly effective as part of a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS).
      Consequently, it is becoming increasingly understood that trees will be an important ingredient in creating successful towns and cities of the future. This is now starting to influence urban development policy at both national and local levels.

      Why bigger is better:
      The benefits that trees bring to urban areas are proportionate to their size: in general, large, mature trees bring more benefits than small ones. They provide more shade and shelter, and catch more rain in their leaf canopies. However, in urban areas, our large, mature trees are under threat, while the new trees being planted tend to be smaller varieties. This is happening for a range of reasons — including misperceptions about the risk of subsidence…”

      “The Trees and Design Action Group
      (TDAG) is a pioneering group
      of individuals, professionals and
      organisations from both the public
      and the private sectors who have come
      together to increase awareness of the
      role of trees in the built environment
      throughout the United Kingdom.”

      Amey are involved. It would appear that they ignore the TDAG guidance and recommendations that they have agreed with.

  2. Technotronic says:

    THE UK FORESTRY STANDARD: WATER

    ” ‘FORESTS AND WATER’ is one of a series of seven Guidelines that support The UK Forestry Standard (UKFS). The UKFS and Guidelines outline the context for forestry in the UK, set out the approach of the UK governments to sustainable forest management, define standards and requirements and provide a basis for regulation and monitoring.”

    DOWNLOAD: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-8bvgx9

    EXTRACTS:
    “Freshwater catchments in the UK:
    water enters a river basin as precipitation and the
    vegetation it passes through can exert a strong influence
    on the quantity and quality of water reaching the outlet.
    Quantity is affected when the trees and other vegetation
    intercept some of the precipitation, which then evaporates
    back to the atmosphere without reaching the ground; this
    is known as interception loss. The quality of water can
    also be affected by the evaporative loss concentrating
    chemicals present, by the canopy capture of mist, aerosols
    and pollutant gases, and by chemical interactions within
    the vegetation layer.

    Having passed through the vegetation layer and into
    the soil, some water is taken up by vegetation and
    returned to the atmosphere through the process of
    transpiration. The rest is either retained by the soil, or
    drains away. The amount of water following each of these
    routes is influenced by the nature of the vegetation and
    soil, and therefore by land-use practices. Interception
    and transpiration losses vary between different types
    of forest and non-forest vegetation, as well as being
    strongly affected by rainfall amount and pattern. Forest
    harvesting will temporarily reduce evaporation due to
    the removal of the vegetation, and in the short term
    will result in more water leaving the soil as drainage.”

    “The UKFS and Guidelines …apply to the
    planning and management of forests within the wider
    landscape and land-use context, and to ALL UK forest types
    and management systems, INCLUDING THE COLLECTIVE TREE
    AND WOODLAND COVER IN URBAN AREAS.”

    “The series of UKFS Guidelines explains the principles of the
    various elements of sustainable forest management in
    further detail, sets out how the UKFS requirements can be
    met, and points to sources of practical guidance. each of
    the UKFS Guidelines covers a different element of
    sustainable forest management and is based on current,
    relevant research and experience.”

  3. Technotronic says:

    TREES? GET LOST!

    This is another letter that THE STAR newspaper refused to publish. It arrived in my inbox last Thursday (8th Oct):

    “On 6th Oct, The Star reported that Steve Robinson – Head of Highways, & an “expert” on the Highway Trees Advisory Forum (HTAF) panel – had referred to the reasons for tree retention (as opposed to felling) that Save Our Roadside Trees (SORT) campaigners have provided as “nonsense”.

    At the Inaugural HTAF meeting, with regard to all decisions on whether or not a street tree should be felled, Mr Robinson commented:

    “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.”

    If it hadn’t been for the helpful suggestions of SORT campaigners, Mr Robinson would have taken even longer than a month to come up with the list of 20 ideas that Cllr Fox read out at the meeting of full council on 1st July”, and which he asserts represent “engineering solutions” that are always considered prior to taking a decision to fell trees. If it hadn’t been for SORT, Mr Robinson would still been unaware of the guidance and helpful recommendations contained within the UK Roads Liaison Group Code of Practice, British Standard 5837, or National Joint Utilities Group documents. As Freedom of Information (FOI) request responses (Refs: FOI / 493 & FOI / 563) indicate, until the 2nd HTAF meeting, on 2/9/2015, Mr Robinson didn’t even have any assessment criteria to assess the severity of pavement “ridging” damage.

    SORT Represent >13,000 people; their reasoning is certainly not “nonsense”. All of it is supported by references to current legislation, policy commitments and current industry best practice. This, along with Robinson’s “solutions”, is available to view online, via Stocksbridge Community Forum (once there, search for “pavement”). With the city-wide Streets Ahead project using up to £1.2 BILLION of taxpayer’s money (from the Department for Transport), it is certainly not unreasonable to expect the Head of Highways to demonstrate the level of care expected of a reasonably skilled member of his profession, in fulfilment of the duty of care that is imposed upon all professionals that have responsibility for giving advice and making decisions (including Amey & Council officers and managers).

    SORT Have noticed a disturbing new development. Since May, Streets Ahead (the Council:Amey partnership) have been secretly converting enquiries to FOI requests. As the Information Officer has to then request the information from Streets Ahead anyway, this seems ridiculous. However, by doing this, the Council have the option to refuse information requested under the Freedom of Information Act. This tactic has been used in handling SORT enquiries and is now being used for all enquiries. It would appear that the Council is not interested in involving communities during the preparation of plans and programmes relating to their neighbourhoods and the wider environment, or in having a transparent and fair framework, or in providing information to the public, or in making provision for the public to participate: all of which are required in accordance with Article 7 of the Arhus Convention and national planning policy.

    Recently, as was advised on a Tree Replacement Notice secured to one of the trees in her neighbourhood, one lady contacted Streets Ahead with an enquiry about the decision. Her enquiry was secretly converted to an FOI request (FOI / 827). What is particularly disturbing is the response she received, indicating that the Council are unwilling to communicate with anybody that has a tree related enquiry from this point on. The response was as follows:

    “As a result of the number and impact of requests received for information related initially to the proposed removal of highway trees on Rustlings Road and subsequent linked requests for information on other highway trees throughout the Council area, we have also decided that future requests will be considered to be vexatious (under Section 14 Freedom of Information Act 2000) and manifestly unreasonable (under Regulation 12(4)(b) Environmental Information Regulations 2004). …”We consider the request to also be exempt under Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act when aggregated to recent similar requests.”

    Presumably this means The Star will no longer be able to get answers either? Perhaps citizens should make it clear that they do not wish to have their enquiries secretly converted to FOI requests and then dismissed without consideration?

    It has been suggested to the Council that they could at least make commonly requested information available online. Does anyone have any helpful suggestions on how to get answers?”

  4. Technotronic says:

    SORT UPDATE: an update from the Save Our Roadside Trees campaign

    “STAG Plus ‘All-out’ Elections

    Dear supporters. A federation has been set up under the name Sheffield Trees Action Group (STAG) to act as a hub for people to share and access information submitted by the many tree campaign groups across the city.

    The Facebook link is here:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/392913244219104/?fref=ts.

    “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL”.

    There is an ‘all-out’ council election in May – where everyone’s seat is up for grabs – voters get 3 votes instead of the usual one. If people are unhappy with the inertia of the Labour Council and their councillors, over bringing Amey to task for felling healthy trees – or because they have failed, and refuse, to ensure Sheffield’s urban forest (of which highway trees are a major component) is managed in a sustainable way, as defined in “The UK Forestry Standard” – then this would be the time to vote for someone else. Doing so could improve the likelihood of getting a council that will commission alternative highway engineering specifications. That could enable the safe, long-term retention of many, if not most, of the thousands of larger-crowned street trees currently scheduled to be felled before 2018. Alternative highway engineering specifications, draughted by competent highway engineers, working in cooperation with registered/Chartered arboricultural consultants, would help preserve the magnitude and value of the range of ecological, economic and social benefits that street trees provide and which benefit our health and wellbeing.

    This is a generational opportunity to get rid of an entrenched, embedded Council that completely ignores the wishes of it’s constituents. People can stand up to be elected as councillors themselves – with Trees as the main part of their manifesto. If people would like our highway trees to be managed in a sustainable manner, or if you would like greater openness, honesty and transparency, or if you are fed up with having all enquiries secretly converted to Freedom of Information requests, then subsequently dismissed as “vexatious” and “manifestly unreasonable” under the Freedom of Information Act, voting may be your best opportunity to change things for the better (btw, yes, this IS the way ALL tree related enquiries that relate to the £2.2bn Amey:Council Streets Ahead PFI project are now being handled).

    If you would like our council to adopt, implement, supervise and enforce current, widely recognised and widely accepted industry guidance and recommendations, as befits “The most wooded and treed city in Britain” (SCC, 2015), or if you would like to see that officials ensure that their decisions are soundly based on available evidence and not unduly influenced by transitory or exaggerated opinions, whether formed by the media or vested interests, voting may be your only opportunity for positive change (you can find out more about these things online, by visiting Stocksbridge Community Forum and following the link to the SORT letter to Cllr Fox, dated 14th July, 2015:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/streets-ahead-stocksbridge-trees ).

    As always, thank you everyone for all of your endeavours, wherever you are, for the trees of Sheffield – each of your individual efforts are seen and very much appreciated by the rest of us!

    All the best
    SORT”

    The SORT petition is STILL LIVE! With a combined electronic & paper count, the signature total is currently >14,000.

    A link to the petition (initially presented at the meeting of full council on 1st July, 2015):
    https://www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-streetsahead-sheffield-gov-uk-save-the-12-trees-on-rustlings-road-sheffield

    https://www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-amey-councillor-fox-streetsahead-sheffield-gov-uk-save-the-netheredge-trees

  5. Technotronic says:

    FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: REQUESTS DENIED

    An FOI question submitted on Friday 3rd August, 2015; refused by Mark Knight (Information Management Officer) and Streets Ahead (the Council : Amey partnership) on 7th August, as “VEXATIOUS” and “MANIFESTLY UNREASONABLE”:

    Reference – FOI / 578 (Status: REFUSED)

    “At the first Highway Tree Advisory Forum, Mr Robinson – SCC Head of Highway Maintenance – stated: “The Council has the final say on any treatment of a tree…so, there is a detailed process through which decisions are made, ultimately ending with me.” Please provide a full, detailed, complete, accurate, current copy of this detailed process. “

    FOI Questions were also submitted on Friday 7th August, 2015; refused by Mark Knight and Streets Ahead the same day, as “VEXATIOUS” and “MANIFESTLY UNREASONABLE”:

    Reference – FOI / 608 (Status: REFUSED):

    “Under the FOI Act, please provide full detail AND copies of ALL policies, protocols, and methodologies SPECIFIC TO HIGHWAY TREES, that Sheffield City Council use to help ensure that the city’s population of street trees is managed in a sustainable manner, in accordance with The UK Forestry Standard and current arboricultural and urban forestry best practice.”

    Reference – FOI / 609 (Status: REFUSED):

    “Under the FOI Act, please provide full detail AND copies of all steps and methodologies used by Sheffield City Council to help ensure that tree management and felling decisions are balanced, so as to avoid any disproportionate response by or on behalf of the Council.”

    Reference – FOI / 610 (Status: REFUSED):

    “Under the FOI Act, please provide FULL detail providing AND explaining the Council’s reasons why a competent arboriculturist (as defined by BS 5837 [2012] & BS 3998 [2010]) is not present ON SITE, at all times, FOR THE DURATION OF ALL WORKS to pavements and kerbs that are likely to affect trees (including excavations such as holes and trenches).”

  6. Technotronic says:

    CLLR LEIGH BRAMALL

    Cllr Bramall is Deputy Leader of the Labour Council & Cabinet Member for Business, Skills & Development – of “outdoor city” rebranding notoriety.

    Taken from a transcript, the following quote is an accurate representation of what Cllr Bramall said at the meeting of full council at Sheffield Town Hall, on 1st July, 2015, during the speeches (“debate”) about issues raised by SORT, with reference to the the Council:Amey £2.2bn PFI Streets Ahead project:

    “THE CONTRACT SAYS UP TO 50% OF TREES CAN BE REMOVED, ERM, AND ACTUALLY THAT’S 18,000. So far, half way through the programme, 2,000 have been removed”

    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/letters-opinion/letters-how-can-an-outdoor-city-have-its-trees-cut-down-1-7512569

    The forward is by Cllr Leigh Bramall is the guy that justified the SCC spend of >£190,000 on consultants in an attempt to persuade HS2 Ltd to build the proposed station for its high speed rail network closer to the centre of the city, rather than at Meadowhall shopping centre, near the M1. The cost included £6,000 spent on a “Business breakfast consultation event: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-33027791 .

    Cllr Bramall justified the expenses by saying the choice of location:

    “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” and that it is a
    “once in a lifetime opportunity”, the
    “implications are massive”
    (comments made on BBC Radio Sheffield’s Toby Foster Breakfast Show, on 8/6/2015).

    *These should be competent arboricultural consultants (registered / chartered) – defined by BS 5837 (2012) – & competent highway engineers.

    At the meeting of full council on 1st July, Cllr Fox (Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport & now self appointed Chair of the Highway Trees Advisory Forum) claimed that Europe was watching. That really didn’t make much sense as, in terms of urban forest management, and in particular in terms of highway tree management & practice, Sheffield is decades behind on progress made in other European countries. It would appear that Cllr Fox was thinking about the council’s involvement in an EU Project: the APACHES “international, collaborative cluster project”.

    APACHES is an acronym for Attractive Public Areas: Competitiveness, Heritage, Urban Environments and Sustainability. A copy of the EU APACHES final report is available to download:

    http://www.apaches.eu/reports/ .

    Oddly enough, Cllr Bramall has written the forward to the report. The report does support the retention and planting of highway trees.

    • Technotronic says:

      CONTRACT SAYS UP TO 50% OF TREES CAN BE REMOVED

      Please remember that only relatively recently, this year, has Streets Ahead moved in to the city proper, after boosting its KPI statistics doing miles of more rural roads*, so there will be a sharp increase in the rate of felling. 😉

      *Quotes: Cllr Fox at full council on 1st July…

      “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.”

      “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, we are half way through the Core-Investment Project. As I said, we have done over 300 miles of road; 500 miles of footpaths.”

      BTW, In the above posting, please ignore the words “The forward is by” that appear immediately after the link to The Star. They should be deleted, but there is no option to edit on this blog. 😉

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