Sheffield Street Trees – still controversial and expert advice still ignored!!

There are good engineering solutions to the disruption of footpaths and roads….it is simply that Amey are not using them!!

Technotronic just sent in a really pertinent comment, so I repeat the information verbatim:

Letter to THE STAR

The letter below arrived in my inbox on Sunday 24th July, 2016. The author sent it to The Star newspaper the same day. However, it remains unpublished. The author has given permission for me to share it here (below).

“Over several months, the Council have repeatedly, falsely claimed to have used Flexi®-Pave to retain healthy, structurally sound, mature highway trees. Flexi®-Pave is a product that can be used when resurfacing footways, as an alternative to tarmac. The key benefit is that when tree parts thicken – as they do each year – the product flexes rather than cracks, unlike tarmac. For this reason, it has been widely used elsewhere in other cities, to retain mature highway trees. A letter appeared in last Thursday’s Sheffield Telegraph, written by someone claiming to be an “independent arboriculturist”. I believe he is a sub-contractor on the city-wide, £2.2bn Streets Ahead highway maintenance project, working for the main contractor: Amey.

I was shocked and appalled by the implication that the slightest wound on a tree would be likely to result in “rapid decline” of the tree. For a tree, its bark is like skin; the wood is like flesh. Just like an animal, if wounded, in theory, the organism can become infected and a disease could result that could lead to death. However, like animals, plants have evolved ways of resisting infection and limiting its spread. They have also evolved ways of compensating for any decay, by reducing crown size and, through incremental growth, adding layers of biomechanically optimised wood, known as reaction wood. This strengthens affected regions and can compensate for cross-sectional loss; it is what enables plant parts to have a safety factor greater than that of most mammal bones. It is why you see many trees with large wounds or cavities (great for wildlife) and yet they remain perfectly healthy and their parts do not fail. It is why trees can receive multiple wounds when pruned, attacked by herbivores, otherwise damaged, and remain strong, healthy and safe.

Most people involved with tree care in Sheffield do not fulfil the British Standard requirements necessary to qualify as competent arboriculturists. An arboriculturist is defined (by BS 5837) as: “person who has, through relevant education, training and experience, gained expertise in the field of trees in relation to construction”. Only a small handful of people in Sheffield meet these criteria. An education and training deficit leads to misunderstanding and inappropriate comments, as well as bad policy and bad decisions that are not soundly based on available evidence, but: “unduly influenced by transitory or exaggerated opinions, whether formed by the media or vested interests.”

Provided Streets Ahead contractors comply with the current, widely accepted, nationally recognised good practice guidance and recommendations that they claim to comply with and aim to “build on” (e.g. BS5837 and guidance published by the National Joint Utilities Group and Trees & Design Action Group), there is no reason why mature highway trees cannot be safely retained, long-term, by use of products like Flexi®-Pave. Provided resurfacing works are adequately supervised on site by competent arboriculturists, and compliance with current good practice is specified, and adequately supervised & enforced, there is no “gamble” with public resources.

The Council & Amey repeatedly state that felling is a “last resort” and that they are willing to consider all other options to retain mature highway trees. However, on 19/2/2016, the Information Commissioner completed an investigation (Case Ref: FS50596905) which revealed that, over 3yrs in to the £2.2bn city-wide Streets Ahead project, neither Amey or the Council had ever commissioned or draughted any alternative highway engineering specifications for footway, edging (kerb) or drain construction for consideration as an alternative to felling, as a means to enable the safe long-term retention of valuable mature highway trees, and the range of valuable ecosystem service benefits they afford to the environment and communities each year. This revelation confirmed that felling is certainly not the “last resort” and that the Streets Ahead team have a long way to go before they can rightfully claim to comply with current good practice.

D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.

MY COMMENT: It still feels like nobody is listening – Amey & Sheffield City Council: ‘……….. is anybody out there??!’

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3 Responses to Sheffield Street Trees – still controversial and expert advice still ignored!!

  1. Technotronic says:

    “…EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR for Place Simon Green said: ‘…WE WILL of course CONTINUE TO assess our trees and REPLACE THOSE THAT ARE DANGEROUS.'” (1)

    Since at least May, 2015, the Council have used every opportunity to state that DAMAGE to footways (pavements) & edging (kerbs) represents a DANGER to motorists & pedestrians. This kind of damage is associated with mature highway trees. 73.8% OF HIGHWAY TREES ARE MATURE (25, 877). The Amey PFI contract permits up to 18,000 to be felled in the 5 year period (Core Investment Period) to 2018.

    To 17th June, 2016, over 3,800 MATURE HIGHWAY TREES HAVE BEEN FELLED (2). On 3rd Feb, 2016, the Council tweeted that 14% of trees would be felled (3). The same day, Cllr Bramall (DEPUTY LEADER of the Council) was asked why he did not believe many trees would be felled. He tweeted: “coz only trees that fall under ‘6 ds’ are replaced” (4).

    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. …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.”

    “So, just to give you a summary of where we are today, there’s been 2,563 HIGHWAY TREES REMOVED because they met one of the 6Ds and there was NO OTHER RECTIFICATION that we could carry out.”

    On 19th FEBRUARY, 2016, the Information Commissioner completed an investigation (case reference: FS50596905) in response to a previous freedom of information request response issued by Sheffield City Council (request reference: FOI/ 422). It revealed that, 3yrs IN TO A £2.2bn CITY-WIDE PROJECT, NEITHER AMEY OR THE STREETS AHEAD TEAM HAVE EVER COMMISSIONED OR DRAUGHTED ANY ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS for footway, edging (kerb) or drain construction that could enable the safe long-term retention of mature highway trees, without unacceptable compromise to tree health or structural integrity.

    The Information Commissioner response stated:

    “Assessment of suitability/lack of suitability for engineering solutions is made during a “walk and build” process by Amey. This is a joint inspection between a highway engineer and an arboricultural surveyor.

    The team carrying out this “walk and build” hold detailed discussions at site level, considering and debating any and all potential engineering solutions which may be utilised to retain each specific tree, considering the council’s legislative requirements… however, THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS AND RATIONALE FOR THE DECISION IS NOT RECORDED. The Commissioner considers that in this case, NO FURTHER INFORMATION IS HELD BEYOND THE LIST OF 25 OPTIONS, provided in response to your initial request… THE COUNCIL HAS NOW CONFIRMED TO YOU THAT NO INFORMATION IS HELD within the scope of your request “(5& 6).


    References:

    1) http://www.hortweek.com/sheffield-city-council-overturns-tree-felling-injunction/arboriculture/article/1388743

    2) http://www.sheffieldnewsroom.co.uk/tree-injunction-decision/

    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/appeal-to-stop-tree-felling-scheme-in-sheffield-rejected-by-court-1-7971156

    3) https://twitter.com/sheffcouncil

    4) https://twitter.com/SaveSheffTrees/status/695253114400739328

    5) https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/full_work_contact_details_for_sc

    6) http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/updated-sheffield-tree-felling-can-legally-resume-but-council-pledge-not-to-1-7813277#ixzz44tvWqq00

    NB: The FOI / 422 request (dated 6th July, 2015) was:

    “Under the FOI Act, I request the SPECIFICATIONS for the range of options that were considered and deemed to be impracticable, for the 11 healthy trees due for felling on Rustlings Road.”

    Source:
    “SORT Letter To The Cabinet Member For Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox), dated 29th January, 2016” – accessible at:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/street-trees-3-month-ban-all-tree-felling-city

    The “LIST of 25 options” – provided by the Streets Ahead team (Amey & SCC), over a month after requesting ideas from campaigners, as a substitute for not having draughted any alternative highway engineering specifications – can be found on pages 265 & 266 of the SORT letter.

    The first SORT letter, dated 14th July, 2015, advised that such alternative specifications should be draughted and used to retain mature trees. Cllr Fox ignored the advice. Every Councillor in the city has received a copy of both SORT letters, so there can be no excuse for the ignorant comments and scaremongering that is peddled by the likes of Cllr Jack Scott, Cllr Anne Murphy, Cllr Peter Price or Cllr Tony Downing.

  2. Technotronic says:

    More News:

    Sheffield Council ‘making a mockery’ of independent tree advice, campaigners claim

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