Street Trees – Letter to Sheffield City Council Cabinet

Subject: SORT Letter Friday, 29 Jan 2016

Dear Cllr Fox,

In less than a week’s time it will be four months since the previous “bi monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum. A lot has happened since the second meeting and you have initiated a felling survey to gather opinions from individual streets, as a means of helping decide whether or not mature highway trees should be felled on individual streets. Furthermore, you have limited who can participate in a felling survey to just the residents of the particular street where the trees are scheduled for felling. Also, you have initiated a separate tree panel to listen to complaints from streets where more than 50% of households on a street object to felling, who then advise you, based on their knowledge and experience. These steps do not address the matters we brought to your attention in the SORT letter previously sent to you, dated 14th July, 2015.

SORT do not approve of the felling survey, or the way in which the new panel is being used. Nor do SORT approve of your neglect to consult with key stakeholder representatives prior to your acts and omissions, such as your apparent decisions to cancel the third and fourth bi-monthly meetings of the Highway Tree Advisory Forum, without letting citizens know. Because there has not been any opportunity for SORT to discuss your acts and omissions, or those of the Streets Ahead team, or to contribute to the tree strategy currently being drafted, SORT have found it necessary to send you a letter detailing most of the matters that we would like to be addressed by the Council, as matters of immediate priority. The letter, dated 28th January, 2016, is attached to this e-mail (above), in PDF format. It is quite long, as there has not been any opportunity for communication with officials for almost four months, and we have had to educate ourselves, in the absence of a Local Authority tree strategy with sub strategy for community involvement. Because the document is quite long, an index is provided in the final pages, to aid navigation of the document.

We look forward to a full response that addresses each of the matters raised, provides the information requested, and that provides detailed, well-reasoned answers, supported by cited and referenced evidence.

Yours sincerely,

SORT

And for a detailed breakdown of the issues and the community’s demands:

SORT LETTER TO THE CABINET MEMBER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND TRANSPORT_29th January, 2016_v1_v51_Corrected_b

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3 Responses to Street Trees – Letter to Sheffield City Council Cabinet

  1. Technotronic says:

    OOps, someone got it wrong.

    The above letter appears to be a different version to the one that STAG / SORT actually sent Cllr Fox , which appeared on the Sheffield Tree Action Groups website last night: 30th January 2016 (the above letter is v50c. To me, it would appear that it should be v51). See: http://www.savesheffieldtrees.org.uk/resources-and-links/

  2. Technotronic says:

    FELLING HALTED FOR THREE MONTHS BY THE HIGH COURT

    Well done Ian, you finally have the correct PDF posted. 🙂
    Just as well, as the Save Sheffield Trees.org website appears to be down. As are the Facebook pages where videos of the “debate” at the meeting of full Council (this time last week) were posted. Possibly sabotaged by Amey, following the negative publicity in today’s Daily Mail?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3439673/Chainsaw-massacre-Residents-fury-council-fells-3-000-trees-Sheffield-bid-save-money-fear-thousands-risk.html

    The PDF is a letter dated 29th January 2016 that was e-mailed to Cllr Fox (CABINET MEMBER FOR ENVIRONMENT & TRANSPORT) on 29th January 2016, by Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG), acting on behalf of SORT.

    The letter also formed part of the Nether Edge petition hand-out that was distributed to every Councillor by SCC’s John Turner (Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources) – on 1st February, 2016, at 3:17pm – to encourage informed “debate” at the meeting of full Council, on 3rd February, 2016, about tree population management. In reality, there was no debate. As usual, just a series of speeches and the usual political point scoring.

    As you may have heard, the High Court have since issued an injunction to halt the felling of street trees throughout the city:

    “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.”

    Both the Council & Amey claim to comply with best practice and good practice, respectively. All campaigners want is for it to be applied, supervised, audited and enforced, with evidence of such steps having been taken.

    Since there doesn’t appear to be any opposition to the relevance of and necessity to apply good practice, I think campaigners need to be getting forceful in insisting that it be applied, supervised, audited and enforced. If it had been, most of the trees currently scheduled for felling would be safely retained, instead. They say there are no other reasonably practicable “solutions”, but alternative highway engineering specifications for footway, kerb & drain construction have not been commissioned or draughted for consideration, and balanced risk assessments (including valuation, cost:benefit analyses and adequate hazard assessment) are not done. Instead, they have sought and relied upon the OPINION of citizens. That does not constitute a responsible approach to asset management, nor does it comply with current arboricultural and urban forestry good practice guidance and recommendations, including UKRLG guidance. Campaigners need to really pick up on this & run with it. Remember, Streets Ahead claim compliance with UKRLG guidance; BS 5837; BS 3998; NJUG guidance and TDAG recommendations. So, hold them to account!

    Please note that although felling has been halted, pruning (crown “removal”) has not and nor has resurfacing. It is likely that Streets Ahead (Amey) will push on with resurfacing using current methods (use of a planing machine within NJUG protection zone: a radius from the tree trunk equal to 4x stem circumference – measured at 1.5m above ground), contrary to NJUG guidance & BS5837 recommendations. HAVE YOUR CAMERA READY!

    Once roots of mature highway trees are severely damaged by such machinery (& trenching machinery – diggers), the predicted “CATASTROPHIC DECLINE” in the number of highway trees* is reasonably foreseeable and there is likely to be reasonably strong justification for felling. The prediction of catastrophic decline in tree numbers

    *Predicted by the Deputy Leader of the Council (Cllr Leigh Bramall), David Caulfield (SCC Director of Development Services with responsibility for all aspects of highway tree management and practice) and the Streets Ahead team (Amey): SEE APPENDIX 9 of the letter (page 201).

    75% of Sheffield’s street trees (27,000 trees) are mature. Mature trees are particularly vulnerable following damage (like elderly people). Mature trees are the ones associated with kerb and footway DAMAGE, which is why most are being felled. However, many are scheduled for felling because Amey predict their roots will be severely damaged during resurfacing works. If they complied with good practice, in most instances (possibly all) that would not be the case.

    Alternative highway engineering specifications for footway (pavement) kerb and drain construction would enable safe long-term retention of mature trees – a valuable community asset and key component of green infrastructure. A mature lime tree like those on Rustlings Rd, with at least 40yrs of remaining estimated safe useful life expectancy is likely to have a value of @65,000, once structural value and a range of ecosystem service benefits afforded to the environment and communities have been accounted for. See pages 118-120 & the references on pages 125-139 in the above PDF. There is a SORT of Index section at the end of the document.

    REMEMBER, THE STREETS AHEAD PROJECT IS A FULLY FUNDED PFI PROJECT: A £2.2 BILLION CITY-WIDE PROJECT. UP TO £1.2 BILLION COMES FROM THE DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT (TAXPAYERS): SEE APPENDIX 3 (page163) of the letter.

    Here are some links:

    http://www.hortweek.com/three-month-reprieve-sheffields-street-trees/arboriculture/article/1382765

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/08/drone-fighting-eagles?CMP=share_btn_tw

    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/high-court-pauses-sheffield-tree-felling-for-three-months-1-7722542

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