Like thieves in the night they came to cut down the trees…….

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Like thieves in the night they came to cut down the trees…….

I am not sure whether it is just me or has the whole world gone mad …first, Boris and Gove with Farage as a bizarre Brexit threesome, then Trump, and now ordinary Sheffield citizens woken from their beds in the early hours of the morning by AMEY, SCC and a hefty bunch of policemen. This is more like something from Putin’s Russia, or from 1930s Germany; madness, pure madness.

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Following the earlier arrests of peaceful protestors, the residents of Rustlings Road were rudely awoken in the early hours and threatened that if they did not immediately move their (legally) parked cars then the cars would be forcibly moved and they would be arrested – and some were.

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This really is a world gone quietly mad.

The legislation being used to execute these arrests is something introduced by Margaret Thatcher to suppress union demonstrations and the irony of this being applied by a Labour-controlled local authority on its own electorate seemed lost on SCC. Furthermore, the original arrests of protestors were during the week when Government announced there would be no enquiry into police brutality at Orgreave. (But as Norman Tebbit said on radio the other week, ‘we know the police behaved admirably and with restraint, and the miners behaved abominably, so why do we need to waste time looking into this’…….ah another unbiaised and reasonable viewpoint!).

Again, does nobody see the acute irony in all of this? Of course if there was nothing done wrong during the 1980’s miners’ strike, then even without an enquiry, we could just release the Cabinet Papers so we could all see what was said and by whom……… unless there really is something to hide?
Anyway, back to trees and the increasing use of extreme and wholly undemocratic processes by the authorities to force their will on a reluctant population – all of course paid for by us! Bizarre!

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Just a thought too, if you receive a loud knock on your front door at 2 am in the morning and are met by a large policeman bearing a message, then I think it is fair to assume you will fear the worst – and not that someone wants you to move your car so they can cut down your tree at your expense…….madness, absolute madness!

So what next?? – why not build dams across the river valleys and spend another £80 million of taxpayers’ money  – oh, and the problem is…….it won’t work but will wreak untold damage on irreplaceable heritage and ecology, and damage the local tourism and leisure economies. Apart from that, this is another cracker!

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Images of trees felled previously  – pictures from Rob McBride and others

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4 Responses to Like thieves in the night they came to cut down the trees…….

  1. Karon Mayor says:

    I really can’t understand how they can get away with this??? It is very underhand, if people didn’t trust the council before this will certainly strengthen their beliefs!

  2. Nimby says:

    Speechless! Gob-smacked! Sheffield City Council shame on you, your green credentials have gone through the shredder for sure!

  3. Technotronic says:

    FELLING: SCC/AMEY INCOMPETENCE AND DECEIT

    ***

    A LETTER TO THE STAR

    At the start of the week, on Tuesday 22nd November, 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.

    ***

    ‘Following the 5:00am raid on 17th November 2016, to fell healthy, structurally sound, mature street trees on Rustlings Road, households on streets in many parts of the city have received a letter from Sheffield City Council (SCC) inviting a household representative to complete an online survey to indicate whether or not the household agrees to tree felling proposals for their street. The letter presents a number of assertions, each of which are intended to foster support for felling. In this letter, I will briefly tackle the matter of sustainable management, with the intention of enabling households to develop a more informed opinion.

    THE COLLECTIVE TREE AND WOODLAND COVER OF THE CITY REPRESENTS AN URBAN FOREST, as defined by “The UK Forestry Standard: The governments’ approach to sustainable forest management” (UKFS) and the UNITED NATIONS (FAO Forestry Paper 178). The latter clearly states that STREET TREES ARE PART OF THE URBAN FOREST. It states: “URBAN FORESTS ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE”. The UKFS defines a sustainable approach as:

    “The stewardship and use of forests and forest lands
    In a way, and at a rate, that MAINTAINS… their
    potential to fulfil, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE,
    relevant ECOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL FUNCTIONS,
    at local, national, and global levels..”

    THE URBAN FOREST IS DEFINED BY AREA OF CANOPY COVER and trees outside woodland contribute the most to that, as they have larger crowns. According to SCC guesstimates, trees outside woodland account for about 56% of Sheffield’s trees. THE MAGNITUDE AND VALUE OF ECO-SYSTEM SERVICE BENEFITS (e.g. grams of nitrogen dioxide captured per year*) that trees afford to the environment and communities, associated with functions (e.g. filtration of airborne pollutants), IS DEPENDENT ON THE SHAPE SIZE AND DISTRIBUTION OF CANOPY COVER. This is why the felling of so many thousands of healthy, structurally sound, mature trees is so controversial. MASS FELLING DIMINISHES CANOPY COVER. It does not maintain it. I have met with SCC’s CABINET MEMBER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT (Cllr BRYAN LODGE) and Amey’s Operations Director (Darren Butt: responsible for all highway maintenance until 2037). Neither recognise nor accept that STREET TREES ARE PART OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST. This is why they have wrongly set their own definition of sustainable tree population management: “one-for-one replacement”. It takes no account of the impact of proposals on canopy cover. According to the Chairman of the Arboricultural Association (Keith Sacre: Chartered Arboriculturist), 60 TREES WOULD NEED TO BE PLANTED TO REPLACE THE LEAVES LOST BY FELLING JUST ONE MATURE LONDON PLANE TREE. Furthermore, neither SCC nor Amey (the contractor for the £2.2bn, city-wide highway maintenance project) have valued Sheffield’s highway trees, or any of the range of benefits they afford to neighbourhoods and communities. THE MEAN CAPITAL ASSET VALUE FOR AMENITY TREES (CAVAT) FOR THE EIGHT TREES FELLED ON RUSTLINGS ROAD WAS £19,933, as assessed by the inventor of the nationally recognised and accepted CAVAT method: Mr Christopher Neilan (Landscape Officer & Arboriculturist).

    When I met Cllr Lodge, on 1st August, 2016, and complained about the APPARENT DISREGARD FOR COMPLIANCE WITH CURRENT GOOD PRACTICE, BY THE STREETS AHEAD TEAM (SCC & AMEY), when undertaking works in close proximity to highway trees, and an apparent absence of adequate supervision, monitoring, auditing and enforcement, Cllr LODGE responded:

    “We’re having to shave back on where we’re monitoring. So, the money for the maintenance side is in there, but the monitoring – the client management side – is not part of that, and that’s where we’re having to make funding cuts… THE MONEY THAT WE NEED TO MONITOR THAT CONTRACT IS NOT THERE, because we try to make savings and…where people have left, we haven’t replaced. We’ve done vacancy management, so WE HAVEN’T GOT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THAT CLIENT MANAGEMENT TEAM WHICH WE OUGHT TO HAVE.”

    Cllr LODGE INFORMED THAT SCC HAD FINED AMEY OVER £2m DURING 2015, for neglect to meet agreed standards. He added that SCC were “just in the process of taking some action against Amey”, for the same reason. If felling is genuinely a “last resort”, all but one of the trees felled on Rustlings Road should have been retained. Cllr LODGE LED ME TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE £2m COULD BE USED TO RETAIN TREES ON RUSTLINGS ROAD, SPECIFICALLY. In October 2015, Amey’s Operations Manager (JEREMY WILLIS: responsible for highway trees), stated:

    “Firstly, I would like to stress that we are not removing any trees unless it is absolutely necessary.
    …there is no financial gain for Amey to remove trees. In fact the opposite is true, as IT IS MORE COSTLY TO FELL AND REPLACE A TREE THAN MAINTAIN IT IN THE CURRENT POSITION.”

    THE TREES ON RUSTLINGS ROAD WERE FELLED BECAUSE, LIKE MOST MATURE HIGHWAY TREES IN SHEFFIELD, THEY WERE ASSOCIATED WITH DAMAGE TO THE FOOTWAY AND KERB. With regard to such damage, at the second (most recent) meeting of the “bi-monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum (2nd Sept, 2015), SCC’s Head of Highway Maintenance (STEVE ROBINSON) promised: “…if an engineering solution can be applied, then it will be applied. …a tree is removed as a last resort”. He added: “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.”

    Previously, I have criticised SCC and Amey: “BOTH AMEY AND SCC HAVE NEGLECTED TO COMMISSION OR DRAUGHT ANY ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS FOR CONSIDERATION FOR USE AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO FELLING”. This is supported by the conclusions of an investigation by the Information Commissioner, published in February 2016. On 5th October, 2016, SCC’s DIRECTOR OF PLACE (SIMON GREEN: responsible for HIGHWAYS and PLANNING) responded: “The Council has not needed to commission any alternative engineering solutions”. On 1st August, 2016, Cllr LODGE INFORMED ME THAT USE OF ALTERNATIVE SPECIFICATIONS WOULD REPRESENT A “DEVIATION” FROM THE AMEY CONTRACT AND THAT THEIR USE HAD NOT BEEN BUDGETED FOR. He asserted that the use of such specifications was unaffordable and therefore not a reasonably practicable option. THIS IS CONTRARY TO THE RANGE OF “NATIONAL BEST PRACTICE” THAT SCC & AMEY CLAIM TO COMPLY WITH AND AIM TO “BUILD ON”.

    In December 2015, communicating on behalf of Mr Green, SCC’s Director of Development Services stated: “I can advise that the scope of the UKFS and Guidelines does not extend to the management of individual trees (arboriculture)”. In October 2016, the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership (SYFP: the partnership responsible for the South Yorkshire Community Forest) finally closed, when SCC withdrew support. The FYFP Director (Johanna Mawson) commented:

    “Also for SYFP ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES HAS BEEN THE LACK OF ANY STRATEGIC WORKING CONTEXT FROM WITHIN COUNCIL, IN OUR CASE THE PLACE DIRECTORATE, AND SPECIFICALLY IN RESPECT TO THE KEY CHALLENGES FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING AND PROJECTS. …There is also no committed resource for the Green Commission and no delivery strategy in place. All capacity for developing environmental sustainability for Sheffield has been eroded at an alarming rate”.

    SCC’s Green Commission was a group set up “to recommend how to make the city sustainable” and develop a twenty-year plan for SCC’s approach to policies for and management of green infrastructure (Cllr Lodge is co-Chair). A final report was published in February 2016; it includes a Venn diagram that presents economic, health/social and environmental benefits as a “triple bottom line”, with SUSTAINABILITY at the core.

    The UK Government has existing international and European commitments to apply the precautionary principle:

    “WHERE THERE ARE THREATS OF SERIOUS OR IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE, LACK OF FULL SCIENTIFIC CERTAINTY SHALL NOT BE USED AS A REASON FOR POSTPONING COST-EFFECTIVE MEASURES TO PREVENT ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION.”

    To quote the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (“the public body that advises the UK Government and devolved administrations”):

    “THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IS ONE OF THE KEY ELEMENTS FOR POLICY DECISIONS CONCERNING ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT. IT IS APPLIED IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THERE ARE REASONABLE GROUNDS FOR CONCERN THAT AN ACTIVITY IS, OR COULD, CAUSE HARM BUT WHERE THERE IS UNCERTAINTY ABOUT THE PROBABILITY OF THE RISK AND THE DEGREE OF HARM.”

    However, in September 2015, the STREETS AHEAD team asserted:
    “Government summit commitments of this kind (i.e. Rio Earth Summit 1992) are not binding on local authorities unless and until they are incorporated into legislation.”

    In December 2015, COMMUNICATING ON BEHALF OF MR GREEN, this opinion was supported by SCC’s Director of Development Services. He stated:
    “agreements in EU conventions are not binding upon Local Authorities unless written into statute.”

    The Director was responding to the following criticism:
    “The Council have failed to comply with both the Arhus Convention and European Directive 2001/42/EC”.

    THE DIRECTIVE REQUIRES APPLICATION OF THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE.

    UNLESS THERE IS A CHANGE IN THE ATTITUDE OF DECISION-MAKERS, SHEFFIELD STANDS TO LOSE ALMOST ALL ITS 25,877 MATURE HIGHWAY TREES as a result of disregard for current good practice when undertaking works in close proximity to trees. Firm Government guidance and adequate legislation is urgently required and long overdue.

    * NO2: a pollutant associated with road transport, resulting in increased heart and respiratory problems, and increased mortality rates.

    D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.’

    Source:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/698#comment-698

  4. Technotronic says:

    ARBORICULTURAL ASSOCIATION REBUKE SCC & AMEY

    “THE ARBORICULTURAL ASSOCIATION COMMENT ON THE HANDLING OF THE FELLING OF TREES ON RUSTLINGS ROAD AND THE COUNCIL’S TREE MANAGEMENT POLICY.”

    “Street Trees in Rustlings Road, Sheffield

    Last Updated: 24/11/2016

    The Council have a legal responsibility to remove trees which are in a seriously diseased or dangerous condition. The removal of trees which are not dangerous but are merely seen to be “damaging” (to the pavement or nearby walls) or “discriminatory” (causing alleged obstruction to people with visual or physical impairments) has to be questioned. WE WOULD HOPE THAT ALL ALTERNATIVES TO REMOVAL WOULD HAVE BEEN FULLY CONSIDERED AND EXPLAINED TO ALL STAKEHOLDERS BEFORE ANY ACTION WAS TAKEN.

    FURTHERMORE, WE REITERATE THE IMPORTANCE OF COUNCILS, LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND ANYONE WITH TREES UNDER THEIR STEWARDSHIP TO STRIVE FOR AND ADVOCATE THE SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF TREES, as well as highlighting the need for clear lines of communication and collaboration between all relevant parties before such crucial decisions are made.”

    SOURCE:
    http://www.trees.org.uk/News-Blog/News/Street-Trees-in-Rustlings-Road,-Sheffield

    *****

    “Speaking at the Arboricultural Association National Amenity Conference, Lord de Mauley, PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT AND SCIENCE has recognised the Association as the representative body for the tree care profession and ‘THE VOICE OF ARBORICULTURE’.”
    (Arboricultural Association, 2014)

    *****

    PREVIOUSLY…

    “…we are unable to comment on Sheffield in any specific way, but… WE ARE …CONCERNED AT THE LEVEL OF UNNECESSARY TREE LOSS THAT MAY RESULT FROM OVER-ZEALOUS INTERPRETATIONS OF HIGHWAY MANAGEMENT STANDARDS.

    The AA position on trees in streets closely reflects the very strong research evidence and government guidance that trees MUST be properly and fairly accounted for in the urban management decision-making process.

    THE RECENT LONDON I-TREE PROJECT VALUED LONDON’S STREET TREES AT £6 BILLION and identifies and quantifies the wider benefits they bring (eco system services) in respect of storm water alleviation, carbon storage and pollution removal. This report clearly demonstrates that in the light of the benefits that trees bring, THERE CAN BE NO CREDIBLE CASE TO ADOPT AN AUTOMATIC PRESUMPTION TO REMOVE TREES CAUSING LOW LEVELS OF DAMAGE TO INFRASTRUCTURE.

    …the Arboricultural Association would urge all managers involved in this sphere to appreciate the importance of trees in streets, and particularly their beneficial effects on human wellbeing and health, flood buffering and their ability to make urban environments more pleasant places to live and work. WE ACTIVELY ADVOCATE THAT when tree removal is being considered, in addition to the maintenance costs associated with the presence of street trees, the BENEFITS ARE ALSO PROPERLY FACTORED INTO THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS. THIS PARTICULARLY APPLIES TO INFRASTRUCTURE DAMAGE, WHERE THE HIGHWAYS GUIDANCE CLEARLY IMPLIES THAT A FLEXIBLE AND BALANCED ASSESSMENT IS REQUIRED.”
    (Barrell, 2016a)

    *****

    “The Arboricultural Association has in its members a wealth of knowledge about the practical aspects of planting and caring for trees…”
    (Framlingham, 2015)

    *****

    “ABOUT US:

    AS THE LEADING VOICE ON ALL MATTERS ARBORICULTURAL IN THE UK, the AA provides a home and membership for all those employed within the sector; championing the SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT of trees in places where people live work and play – FOR THE BENEFIT OF SOCIETY.

    We provide the standards, training, support and recognition that put our members – in the UK and overseas – at the peak of their profession.”

    Source:
    http://www.trees.org.uk/About-Us

    *****

    REFERENCES:

    (FROM THE SORT LETTER dated 29th January, 2016:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/sites/default/files/files/SORT%20LETTER%20TO%20THE%20CABINET%20MEMBER%20FOR%20ENVIRONMENT%20AND%20TRANSPORT_29th%20January%2C%202016_v51.6_Corrected_1.pdf )

    ***
    Arboricultural Association, 2014. Defra recognizes Arboricultural Association as the ‘Voice of Arboriculture’. [Online]
    Available at:
    http://www.trees.org.uk/aa/news/Defra-recognizes-Arboricultural-Association-as-the-Voice-of-Arboriculture-323.html [Accessed 25 September 2014].

    ***
    Barrell, 2016a. Jeremy Barrell comments on the Sheffield Street Trees issue. [Online]
    Available at:
    http://www.trees.org.uk/News-Blog/News/Jeremy-Barrell-comments-on-the-Sheffield-Street-Tr [Accessed 18 January 2016].

    ***
    Framlingham, M., 2015. Queen’s Speech — Debate (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:24 pm on 2nd June 2015: House of Lords Debate (c381). [Online]
    Available at:
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2015-06-02a.298.8&s=speaker%3A10370#g381.0 [Accessed 4 June 2015].

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