Statement on Tree Replacement by Sheffield City Council
From: Bob Jeffery [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 18 February 2016 16:37
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Julia Armstrong; email@example.com; Leeds Look North; RSF Internet; South Yorkshire Online
Cc: Bob Jeffery; Martin Mayer
Subject: Statement on Tree Replacement by Sheffield City Council
Statement on Tree Replacement by Sheffield City Council
To whom it may concern,
We, the undersigned, our writing to express our consternation at the extent of the negative media coverage relating to Sheffield City Council’s tree felling operation, being conducted by the subcontractor AMEY. Firstly, let us state that we are all in favour of environmental protection, we accept the reality of climate change and acknowledge the importance of green spaces for creating healthy and vibrant communities. Nonetheless, we do feel that the extent of negative publicity that the Council has faced has been hugely disproportionate.
Let us be absolutely clear about this situation. Sheffield has an estimate 2 million trees within its borders, giving it a strong claim to be the greenest city in Europe. The council are proposing felling and replacing 14 per cent of the 36,000 street trees, or 5,000 in total. After this process is complete, Sheffield will still have a strong claim to be the greenest city in Europe.
Moreover, the City Council is not felling these trees because they ‘hate the environment’, but because professional tradespeople have deemed these trees to be in danger of falling down, or because they are damaging pavements and potentially hampering the mobility of the elderly and disabled. Trees that have a strong potential of future risk, at a time when roads, pavements and lighting are being upgraded or replaced, are also in scope. Ignoring that is simply adding a greater expense onto current and future Council budgets. It should also be noted that the current AMEY contract was negotiated by Liberal Democrat and Labour Councils over many years. Nor are the council removing these trees once and for all, they are replacing them with younger trees and with species more suitable for an urban environment.
We also feel it important to state that the opposition to these tree-felling operations is solely concentrated in the most affluent neighbourhoods within Sheffield, with the local groups that compose Sheffield Tree Action Group ranging from the Rivelin Valley through Crookes, Nether Edge and Dore. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that opposition to the tree felling has as much to do with the protection of house prices in the leafy suburbs as it does with environmental protection.
We also want to contrast this issue with what we would see as some of the more pressing concerns facing the city of Sheffield at this time. The city has been badly hit by economic recession and ongoing government austerity that has seen £350 million slashed from the council’s budget. Many residents have been rendered destitute by a toxic cocktail of the bedroom tax, benefits sanctions and cruel and perverse medical assessments that have seen the terminally ill deemed fit for work. Air pollution deaths are estimated to be stand at around 500 per year, overwhelmingly concentrated in Tinsley and the northeast of the city, and yet this had provoked no outcry from the residents of Dore and Totley.
Emblematic of the astonishing lack of perspective and navel-gazing of those who would seek to make tree felling the defining issue of the moment is a certain Nick Clegg MP, who has recently gone on the record as stating that the Council policy is a ‘national scandal’. This from the man who has the lowest attendance record of any Member of Parliament since the 2015 election, a man who has indebted an entire generation of students and has consistently shown to be no friend of the Sheffield “common people”.
So please, while we are open to sensible debate about whether trees actually need to be removed and replaced, can we ask the people of Sheffield for a little more perspective on the issues facing our city.
Bob Jeffery, President of Sheffield Trades Union Council, (personal capacity)
James Bangert, President of Sheffield College Students Union (personal capacity)
Christy McMorrow, President of University of Sheffield Students Union (personal capacity)
Abdul Galil Shaif Alshaibi, Sheffield Yemeni Community Association (personal capacity)
Muna Abdi, Doctoral Researcher, University of Sheffield (personal capacity)
Martin Mayer, Secretary of Sheffield Trades Council (personal capacity)
Andrew Yeardley, Secretary of UNITE Bus Drivers Branch (personal capacity)
Dave Smith, Chair of UNITE Bus Drivers Branch (personal capacity)
Zahira Naz, Labour Candidate for Darnall Ward (personal capacity)
Sohail Mumtaz, Sheffield Muslim Community Forum (personal capacity)
Jonathan Marsden, Community Organiser and Richmond Resident (personal capacity)
Cheryl Robertson, Community Worker, Drop the Knife (personal capacity)
Simon Murch, Branch Secretary, National Union of Teachers (personal capacity)
Mazher Iqbal, Labour Councillor, Darnall Ward (personal capacity)
Daragh O’Neil, Treasurer of Sheffield People’s Assembly (personal capacity)
Peter Davies, GMB Regional Organiser (personal capacity)
Jonathan Dean, Senior Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University (personal capacity)
Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Campus Convenor – UCU Sheffield Hallam
Chair of Sheffield Trades Union Council
Response from Louise Wilcockson
My statement which is my opinion (in my personal capacity of course):
“As a mixed heritage person, originally from Broomhall and from a single parent family, I find the statements in this letter to be wholly misleading and unjust. Over 15,000 people have so far signed the Save Our Rustlings Trees petition showing that this is far more than a neighbourhood situation. STAG (Sheffield Tree Action Groups) had to be formed because this is a CITYWIDE issue and concern. We are thinking of the health and well-being of Sheffielders now and in the future – and not short-term goals of convenience and profit making – only to have a costly health bills and other lasting consequences caused by the loss of our highway trees.
As for the figure of only 5,000 trees, this has been a recent new piece of communication by SCC’s Streets Ahead and we have written and verbal evidence that they have previously indicated it is 18,000 trees. Due to the recent anomaly, we have written to Simon Green (Director of Place) to ask him to explain this sudden change in scheduled felling figure.
We also object to the myth being perpetuated by Labour supporters and some of the Labour Cllrs that there is one choice – safety or the retention of our highway trees. They are not mutually exclusive – both are possible with good management. This is a 2.2 BILLION pound PFI contract into which alternative specifications and other options should already have been factored. No one is suggesting SCC should beg from Peter to pay Paul.
We are also highly disappointed to learn today that despite SCC indicating to the media and the public that there is some sort of ‘Drop In’ to discuss a draft Tree and Woodlands Strategy on Friday, 26 Feb, that this too is misleading. There is no draft strategy and they have indicated today that highway trees will not form any part of that ‘Drop In’ (as they call it).
Nor have we received information on if and why the Highway Tree Advisory Forum is now over 2 months late with no explanation and no apology.
We are also still waiting for SCC to publish a breakdown of the 26 million pound bizarre figure they have given for potentially retaining Sheffield’s roadside trees and for them to explain to the people of Sheffield how it is even possible that 200 trees will each cost up to £100,000. It beggars belief and is arguably bad management on their part or exaggerated figures.”
Louise Wilcockson – SORT campaigner (in a personal capacity)
To balance this silly letter, the media should also contact campaigning citizens (in a personal capacity of course) at Heeley, Meersbrook, Sharrow, Gleadless, Greenhill, Crookes, etc.
Save Our Roadside Trees
Creative Octopus Media Services (COMS)
Media Relations With Reach
“I wish COMS lots of Good Times!” – Justin Lee Collins
“The best PR I’ve ever had” – Sophie Mei – Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist
“Safety is but one of the many goals to which we aspire; the mistake is often made to focus on safety as if it is the only goal.” – Professor Davis Ball – Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management Middlesex University – From NTSG: Common Sense Risk Management of Trees – Guidance on trees and public safety in the UK for owners, managers and advisers (2007)
“So far as non-fatal injuries in the UK are concerned, the number of accident and emergency cases (A&E) attributable to being struck by trees (about 55 a year) is exceedingly small compared with the roughly 2.9 million leisure-related A&E cases per year. Footballs (262,000), children’s swings (10,900) and even wheelie bins (2,200) are involved in many more incidents.” – National Tree Safety Group (NTSG) report.
“What is the risk? 1) Each year between 5 and 6 people in the UK are killed when trees fall on them. Thus the risk of being struck and killed by a tree falling is extremely low. Around 3 people are killed each year by trees in public spaces; but as almost the entire population of the UK is exposed, the risk per person is about one in 20 million. The risk, per tree, of causing fatality is of the order of one in 150 million for all trees in Britain or one in 10 million for those trees in, or adjacent to areas of high public use. However the low level of overall risk *may not be perceived in this way by the public, particularly following an incident.” – from SIM (Health and safety executive . Management of the risk from falling trees. Hse sector information minute, sim 01/2007/05. [guidance for HSE inspectors and local authority enforcement officers]. *We have a duty of care not to exaggerate, scaremonger or exploit misperceptions.