YOU’RE NICKED MY SON …….. STREET TREE CAMPAIGNERS ARRESTED
As Dixon of Dock Green would have said, ‘it is not often we have a story of two vicious tree-hugging felons disturbing the peace, terrifying neighbourhoods, and drawing down the full weight of the law…….. ‘
Sometime Environment Minister, Rory Stewart, said: ”Our trees and forests have long been central to British identity. But we are beginning to understand with even more precision, just how important they are to our air quality, our health and our happiness.”
But it feels like the world is going quietly mad, and compounded this week by the latest bizarre twist in the Sheffield street trees campaign as two peaceful protestors exercising their rights to demonstrate were arrested. Misusing some pretty appalling and thoroughly undemocratic legislation brought in by Maggie to quell the striking miners, it feels as if daily we are lurching haphazardly towards some sort of totalitarian state. Expensive and heavy handed would be the least of the accusations one could lob at Sheffield City Council and Amey in this latest twist.
Meanwhile I continue to be bombarded from across the city by people upset and concerned about the fate of the trees on their doorstep – an example was a reader from Hackenthorpe in Sheffield,
‘All the mature trees along the length of Well Lane have demolition notices on them. the reason given is disease. I cant see any disease. I desperately need a tree person / ecologist to look at these trees and assess the result of this work – I suspect one of the reasons may be that the house owners above are constantly complaining about the leaves!!
Who can help me to get this work delayed?’
Maybe some of the media who think this is so trivial might spare the time to take a look???
Of course, having brought out a good number of special response police officers in a number of vehicles, all at OUR EXPENSE (!!!!), the villains were released without charge – thus avoiding any possibility of testing the legality of this exercise in court.
Media & Mediocrity: even some of our local media are letting us down very badly by failing to understand the issues, getting their facts badly wrong, and not asking the right questions…….
In terms of context, the key issue – which appears to have been overlooked in much of the local media coverage, is that this is not a matter of saying no tree maintenance or management is necessary or appropriate – but that the approach applied by AMEY for SCC is rolled out without due process and without reference to many other viable alternatives.
For those interviewers who seem to think that there is only one single solution to tree management, you are wrong – and this is at the core of the protests which clearly demonstrate deep-seated discontent with how our precious tree resources are being managed and how OUR MONEY IS BEING SPENT.
AMEY have a list of criteria that can condemn a tree – and in many cases these are HEALTHY TREES. If they are dead, dying or dangerous, then of course they need to go – but most of these are not, and independent, highly professional assessments confirm this.
Older trees will lift and damage paving and kerbs and in most, if not all, cases the solution which is cost-effective – is to engineer the pavement and road around the tree – it is not that difficult and councils elsewhere are doing this!!
The methods and technologies exist and others are using them – so why not Sheffield??? And why do interviewers not ick this basic stuff up on our behalf – we are their public for heaven’s sake and are being shoddily treated by ignorant politicians, professionals, and media alike.
I have brought to Sheffield some key national experts to look at the Street Tree situation here and these professionals – renowned authorities in their field – are unanimous that Sheffield has got it wrong – yet some of the media, many politicians, and some professionals, persist in misrepresenting the facts. Why?
I have been and talked to senior tree professionals in other local major authorities and they cannot believe that Sheffield is even considering removing some of the trees that I have shown them.
We even get the old mantra of planning a tree for every one felled as some sort of compensation – which of course it is not – a sapling planted – often in a different location – does not provide the same benefits:
Climate proofing, human mental and physical health and wellbeing – happiness, economic value in your home, biodiversity i.e. wildlife values, pollinating insects and millions of £s resulting value – remembering that honey bees have plummeted with massive potential costs to the economy*, sense of place, history and heritage, water management and flood-proofing, carbon capture and more…..
*[worldwide economic value of the pollination service provided by insect pollinators, bees mainly, is €153 billion in 2005 for the main crops that feed the world]. – street trees are hugely important to this.
And yet they still don’t get it…………..dumb and dumber?????
COSTS & REALITY: Even the costs of remedial treatment trotted out are wildly inaccurate – with a tree in Nether Edge suggested by SCC / AMEY to cost £50,000 to £100,000 but an independent higways engineer estimated around £1,500 to £3,000 max. Lies and damned lies!
The recent High Court ruling is also misunderstood and misquoted:
Mr Justice Gilbart said that whilst Mr Dillner’s claim unfounded in law, (i.e. the campaign was addressing the wrong legal issues), ‘Nothing in this judgment is to be read as criticising the residents of Sheffield for seeking to protect the trees in their streets and roads whose presence many of them appreciate so much.’
‘……it goes without saying that the removal of trees will have environmental effects, and no one seriously disputed that in very many cases the environmental effects of removal would be adverse until the replacement trees became established. (That leaves the issue of whether the effects were “significant”)‘
‘I repeat that NOTHING in this Judgment is to be read as criticising the residents of Sheffield for seeking to protect the trees in their streets and roads, whose presence many of them appreciate so much. But as with many matters, such an understandable and natural desire must be tempered by acceptance of the important duties cast on the highway authority to maintain those roads and streets in good repair. It is unfortunate in the extreme that those advising the Claimant and others who object have failed to address both sides of the argument, and even more so that the claim was advanced, and the injunction sought, without any proper analysis on their behalf of the statutory and legal context. It may be that those who will be disappointed by the terms of this Judgment will want to see a different legislative regime in place. That is a matter for Parliament, and not for this Court.‘
The ruling was only able to consider the legal merits of the case and not the adequacy of the professional processes and methodologies applied in coming to a conclusion over the fate of groups of streets or individual trees. The challenge was thrown out largely because it failed to consider the statutory and legal dutes of the local authority to deal with highways issues and dangerous trees, but in no way dismissess the alternatives which are indeed applied successfully, by major local authroities elsewhere. This was on a point of law and not one of principle.
Myths & Lies: There is still a myth, again promoted by some media that this is just a bunch of posh people – NIMBYs – which is a total red herring and fundamentally incorrect for anyone that knows the Sheffield region – so why perpetuate it? Posh areas like Meersbook, Heeley, Sharrow, Hackenthorpe Handsworth, Deepcar, Stocksbridge – oh, I get it, those posh areas! I think we have a right to expect better and more balanced interrogation of the issues ………. in the meantime: