Oh dear ….. more rubbish!!

Oh dear ….. more rubbish!!

Dear All,

I just saw the letter from Bob Jeffry and others – How bizarre and misinformed! They have totally missed the points – and indeed I don’t believe they have been to any of our meetings held now over a period of more than 2 years.

The issue of affluence is totally misleading – there are protests across less affluent areas too – Sharrow, Handsworth, Gleadless Valley, Meadowhead, Heeley, Meersbrook, Stocksbridge, Greenhill, etc. True, less affluent communities often have less voice and are seldom heard but that is a separate issue. Many poorer communities will suffer the most from the current proposals – Burngreave, Page Hall, Darnall, and the rest – where the environmental quality, quality of life and therefore health will be badly affected.

The letter says nothing about issues of local environmental democracy – lack of effective consultation and local community empowerment etc. Lack of transparency or access to information because of public-private partnerships – a fog of misinformation descends.

Nor do they recognise the support for the campaign from national experts – including the people who wrote the national urban tree guidance – have those who signed the letter actually read the ‘Trees In Towns’ Guidance’? – if not, then they should!! That is the gold standard and nationally accepted protocol.

There has been widespread verification of the campaign – by bodies such as the Woodland Trust and the Ancient Tree Forum – and take up by communities across the UK – this is now a national issue.

The letter makes no mention of the adverse economic effects of damaging Sheffield plc, of the real impacts on flood risk and climate mitigation, on local biodiversity, on house values, on quality of life, on people.

Furthermore, the letter makes no reference to the fact that when it was put to them over the Gleadless oak trees and the infamous case of the 450-year old Deepcar oak, the City Council’s and Amey’s ‘experts‘ did not actually understand the concept of historic and heritage trees…………..!

To Bob and the others, please do your research and get your facts right before voicing silly, misinformed comments. Just my opinion of course!

Professor Ian D. Rotherham

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8 Responses to Oh dear ….. more rubbish!!

  1. Technotronic says:


    There are 27,000 MATURE HIGHWAY TREES that account for 75% of the population of street trees. Many of those, if not most, are being classed as DAMAGING, DISCRIMINATORY AND DANGEROUS for associated damage to kerbs and footways (pavements).

    The Deputy leader of the Council – Leigh Bramall – has recently mentioned (on 3rd February, 2016, at the meeting of full Council) that only 5,000 trees are being felled. However, when questioned as to why he believed that (on twitter – 4th Feb*) he said:

    “coz only trees that fall under ‘6 ds’ are replaced”.

    Also, Amey have scheduled many of these trees for felling on the basis that their planning machine and digging machinery will cause such severe damage to mature trees that they will decay and structural integrity will be compromised. Compliance with the current good practice guidance and recommendations that they claim to comply with, but don’t (such as National Joint Utilities Group Guidance and British Standard 5837: 2012), would ensure that such damage did not occur and would enable mature highway trees to be safely retained, long term, without unacceptable compromise to structural integrity.

    Recently, Cllr Terry Fox, Streets Ahead, Steve Robinson (SCC HEAD OF HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE) and David Wain (leader of SCC’s Environmental Maintenance Technical Team within the Highways Maintenance Division: also an “expert” on the HTAF panel) have all refused to the request:

    “ please provide full work contact details for the Sheffield City Council Officers/personnel most directly responsible for:

    a) MONITORING highway works in close proximity to trees;

    b) ON SITE SUPERVISION of highway works in close proximity to trees;

    c) AUDITING of highway works in close proximity to trees;

    d) ENFORCEMENT of compliance with current good practice guidance and recommendations for highway works in close proximity to trees.”

    In December, the Streets Ahead team claimed to be: “looking at IMPROVING OUR PROCESSES AND BUILDING ON INDUSTRY GOOD PRACTISE.”

    In the Rustlings Road Response PDF document (July, 2015**), Streets Ahead stated:

    “…all works will be supervised by a qualified arboriculturalist [sic] 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”.

    Sheffield’s neighbourhoods face serious, irreversible environmental degradation by the loss of so many mature highway trees. Cllr Bramall – Deputy Leader of the Council – has stated at two meetings of full Council that the Amey contract permits the felling of 18,000 mature highway trees – half the population of highway trees. In December 2012, The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation interviewed SCCs Head of Highway maintenance – Steve Robinson – and reported that 18,000 highway trees will be felled before 2018.***

    The Streets Ahead project is a 2.2bn, fully funded, city-wide felling programme, with up to £1.2bn of taxpayers money from the Government’s Department for Transport. Highway trees are a significant component of the urban forest and all tree populations within the urban forest must be managed in a sustainable manner, as required by The UK forestry Standard. This requires the stewardship and use of the highway tree population in a way and at a rate that maintains its potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions. These are wholly dependent on the shape, size and distribution of canopy cover, which provides a range of valuable ecosystem service benefits to neighbourhoods and communities. The benefits are not confined to political wards/constituencies, but are afforded to the whole city – the wind does not choose where it blows, nor the rain choose where it falls.

    In a communication dated 7th July, 2015, the Department for Transport stated:

    “Local highway authorities, in your case Sheffield City Council, have a duty under Section 41 of the HIGHWAYS ACT 1980 to maintain the highways network in their area. THE ACT DOES NOT SET OUT SPECIFIC STANDARDS OF MAINTENANCE, as IT IS FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL LOCAL HIGHWAY AUTHORITY TO ASSESS which parts of its network are in need of repair and WHAT STANDARDS SHOULD BE APPLIED, based upon their local knowledge and circumstances. Central Government has no powers to override local decisions in these matters.”

    Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) gave a presentation at the second Streets Ahead Highway Tree Advisory Forum meeting, on 2nd September, 2015. He stated:

    “We are replacing about 70% of the City’s footways over the first FIVE YEARS. We have a duty to consider equalities. Now, in the past, existing TRIP HAZARDS have been left, and the Council has a defence under the Highways Act – SECTION 58 DEFENCE UNDER THE HIGHWAYS ACT – OF NOT HAVING SUFFICIENT FUNDING TO DEAL WITH ALL THOSE DEFECTS.”

    On 23rd July, 2015, at the inaugural meeting of the Highway Trees Advisory Forum (HTAF), Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) commented:

    “So, just because a tree is diseased doesn’t mean to say that that tree needs to be replaced. It is the type of disease, the effect that disease will have on the tree’s life, err, whether it turns out to be dangerous, so on and so forth, and those judgements are made by tree people. …In terms of damaging, yes, again, there is a degree of judgement and, erm, and, you know, if something can be done, IF AN ENGINEERING SOLUTION CAN BE APPLIED, THEN IT WILL BE APPLIED. Err, there was a lots of comment made earlier on about whether a tree is removed as a last resort; and a tree is removed as a LAST resort.”

    Jeremy Willis (Amey Operations Manager and self-styled “arboricultural specialist”), stated (Ref: 101002253550), on 14/10/2015:

    “At Streets Ahead we are extremely proud of our green city and in order to maintain this it is our policy to retain healthy trees WHEREVER POSSIBLE. We will only remove trees as an ABSOLUTE last resort.”

    For further information, see the SORT letter to Cllr Fox, dated 29th January, in the Resources section of the Save Sheffield Trees.org website.

    * https://twitter.com/SaveSheffTrees/status/695253114400739328

    ** https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/streets-ahead-stocksbridge-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 [Accessed 15 October 2015].

  2. Technotronic says:


    At the start of the week, on 15th February, 2016, the following letter arrived in my inbox. The author has given permission for me to post it here, in its entirety, for your benefit. The same day, it was also sent as a letter to THE STAR newspaper, but they have clearly chosen not to publish it.

    Dear Editor of The Star


    On 29th January, Amey came knocking to request a car be moved so a hole could be dug for a street light, within 90cm of the trunk of my 25yo tree. I was instructed to contact Streets Ahead Customer Services (SACS: provided by Amey) if I wanted my objections to be considered and that regardless, a hole WOULD be dug in 3 days’ time. I did. Our house is at the end of a dead-end street that has never had lighting in the 45yrs (approx) that the street has existed.

    Amey started as they meant to carry on: heavy handed, ignorant, incompetent, reckless and negligent. Four days later, and the day after telling two of my local Councillors David Wain and Steve Robinson (SCC Environmental Technical Officer & SCC Head of Highway Maintenance, respectively: “experts” on the Highway Tree Advisory Forum panel) that a complaint investigation was underway, Amey excavated a hole. Two days AFTER works started, I received an e-mail to say the investigation had been completed and the light would be positioned where planned. No explanation or reasoning was provided, even though requested. On 8th Feb, they stuck a lighting column in the hole.

    Amey claimed to have investigated my objections, requests and suggestions. All were TOTALLY ignored. One objection was that the light would be just over 8m metres from our bedroom windows (as high as our roof), so would represent a nuisance. Mr Houston – Amey Street Lighting Supervisor – “guaranteed” that a “back-plate” (shield) would be fitted. It was not, even though Steve Robinson (SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) had also repeatedly assured us that one would be. Mr H said if the light was too bright, brightness could be adjusted and the unit could be tilted to direct light away from the home. He claimed that he had given his phone number to my neighbour and that if there were any problems all we had to do was call him. He claimed he wasn’t like other Amey supervisors that don’t care or respond to problems. Mr H said he couldn’t put the light elsewhere as he had to follow a plan that his boss had given him. He insisted that it was company policy not to give out contact details for any Amey department, so I couldn’t contact his boss. Mr Houston insisted he wasn’t prepared to discuss any of my suggestions or objections with his boss and that he would stick to the plan.

    Another objection was that not only did positioning a light so close to my tree represent non-compliance with industry good practice, but excavation so close to the tree, particularly with digging machinery and without an arboricultural supervision, would be likely to cause serious damage to roots of my tree (private property) that could, as Amey have repeatedly stated, result in decay and compromise structural integrity, therefore causing increased risk of danger to people and property and increased exposure to liability. It is precisely this kind of reckless damage that is likely to bring about the “catastrophic decline” in the number of highway trees that Cllr Bramall and Streets Ahead have predicted, because 27,000 of highway trees are mature and particularly vulnerable to negligent acts and omissions that arise as a result of non-compliance with current good practice: such as that detailed in letters from Save Our Roadside Trees campaigners (SORT), addressed to Cllr Fox, available in the “Resources” section at the savesheffieldtrees.org.uk website.

    On 11th Feb, Amey excavated a deep hole, fit for a coffin, within 33cm of the trunk of my tree, extending past it in both directions, using a digging machine. The hole remained open, with roots exposed, until 15th Feb, when they connected the light to an electricity cable. As they did the work, lights in our home flickered and our boiler (just months old) was damaged and stopped working, as did the electric ignition on our cooker. When we asked our neighbour for Mr Houston’s phone number, we discovered that what Mr H had actually provided was the SACS number – NOT HIS! It often takes SACS a month to respond to enquiries, when they bother.

    We (including elderly with cancer) are now stuck in a cold house, without hot water or the chance of a good night’s sleep. Cllr Fox, Mr Wain and Mr Robinson have all refused to provide contact details for the SCC people most directly responsible for the supervision, monitoring and enforcement of standards for highway works in close proximity to trees. Furthermore, all have neglected to fulfil the requirements of the Ảrhus Convention; to:

    “make appropriate practical and/or other provisions for the public to participate during the preparation of plans and programmes relating to the environment, within a transparent and fair framework, having provided the necessary information to the public.”

    No doubt our experience matches that of many thousands of Sheffield people. What is the Council doing to ensure that its acts and omissions are adequate and appropriate to fulfil their duties and responsibilities?

    Mr P. Isthoff

    Upper Don Valley.

    • Technotronic says:

      I am told Amey also burst a nearby water main and that following connection of street lights to the power grid cable, voltage has been peaking at 295, blowing transformers and overheating many electrical appliances in numerous homes. Have you had a similar Amey experience?

  3. Louise Wilcockson says:

    Hi Ian, you are very welcome to add my personal opinion back onto your blog – in fact, I’d welcome it. 🙂 Thanks!

    Louise Wilcockson

  4. These thoughts were sparked by my listening to a memorial of a friend from Chicago who recently passed away.

    Trees do not belong to anybody they belong to everybody and they are free. I want to ground us all right from the beginning in this point that trees don’t belong, as we all know, to anybody they belong to everybody. Trees are an essential component of any living process. It is critical trees are seen in this context and for one not to be confused but only to believe in the value for us all to care about tress.

    Tress are not the providence of experts i.e. arborists or politicians or the save tree campaigners. Yet, in the urban environment a tree care education programme needs to be seen as essential component and available to all. And a level of organization for looking after the trees which one may call a tree strategy. Transparent and open communication is essential in the creation the tree management strategy developed and agreed by all.

  5. Jerome says:

    1250 trees in total to be felled across Sheffield- the official line back in 2012-2013. Now we’ve seen over 3000 felled with more to come. At best this displays a completely ill-planned, opportunist approach, at worst it displays that we were lied to. As Jack Scott et al were not prepared to share plans with the public back in 2013, we can only be left to speculate on why more than double the trees initially quoted as being earmarked for felling across Sheffield, have now been felled. Please do not forget that what the council initially deemed as consultation was to purportedly put notes through randomly selected doors on an affected street, supposedly telling SOME residents what they were to be doing. These people were not properly engaged, consulted, nor, of course were the wider community who received nothing but who are equally impacted by tree felling in their area. So, we had incorrect figures (1250) provided, paired with utterly improper consultation. The council and Amey have also destroyed countless trees in conservation areas, including TPO trees, using the same ‘consultation’ process as that described above. In early 2013, Sheffield’s tree officer sheepishly told me that Amey and the council can do as they please because due to the fact that this is a highways issue, the felling of protected trees does not require planning consents, nor his involvement. This felling of protected trees should be explored further from a legal perspective, especially given the profit driven initiative into which this felling of protected (trees in conservation areas) and TPO trees has fallen. Surely this profit motive could be seen to undermine the ‘highways issue’ premise (which in itself should be scrutinised and brought into question) that has been constantly drawn upon to attempt to justify to this felling. Surely any Highway issue law loophole should be balanced against the solid laws governing PROTECTED TREES in conservation areas.
    Let us not forget that this very same council has fobbed us off with rhetoric about their hideous overly-garish and downright vile led street lights, telling the public that their lights need to remain on their ultra bright setting (shedding their disgusting blue/white light into our living room every night) as this is in line with British lighting standards that they have to adhere to. Utter tosh, most every street/main road in the Cotswolds does not have a street light in sight. Blue/white leds (those that we see in Sheffield) are viewed by experts to be the worst types of leds to use in residential areas for a multitude of reasons (see New Scientist magazine). Many London streets are lit with far warmer looking led energy efficient lighting which has only recently been installed as well and gives off nothing like the high intensity Guantanamo Bay style glare that we see in Sheffield.
    My point is that we should be questioning (from a legal perspective) the validity of all that is told to us by the council in relation to this utterly abhorrent scheme. Much of what they have said is factually incorrect (1250 trees, the word ‘consultation’ being misused, blue/white ultra bright leds being the only energy efficient option, engineering solutions to prevent felling being unfeasible etc…).

    On a side note, the other day I witnessed a kerb being moved out a few inches in London near Kew Gardens to accommodate for a row of mature plane trees, these solutions take place often across the UK and it took the workmen only a few days to effectively save 30 trees. It’s not that difficult.

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