Unbelievably, the farce continues……… oh, and we are paying for this. Amazing and crass.
Thank god we live in a democracy !! [irony!]
A LETTER TO THE STAR (newspaper)
On 13th January, 2017, the following letter arrived in my inbox. The author has given permission for me to post it here, in its entirety, for your benefit.
STREET TREE MASSACRE – a response to Cllr Peter Price
Cllr Peter Price asked why people rarely mention woodland planting. To explain, he has received two very detailed petition hand-outs from tree groups, distributed to EVERY COUNCILLOR in the city, by Sheffield City Council (Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources department). These are online at Stocksbridge Community Forum. The Council frequently mention woodland planting and tree numbers. I suspect this is intended to distract attention from and cover for their RECKLESS, INCOMPETENT APPROACH TO THE STEWARDSHIP AND CARE OF THE HIGHWAY TREE POPULATION.
Cllr Price wonders why people didn’t object so strongly to felling prior to the contract for the £2.2bn Streets Ahead project. Then, the Council did not have a contract that permitted THE FELLING OF 67.7% OF MATURE HIGHWAY TREES WITHIN A GENERATION. Nor did it permit contractors to cause such damage to trees, through TOTAL DISREGARD FOR GOOD CURRENT PRACTICE, that many of them would be likely to need felling.
‘Sheffield City Strategy 2010–2020’ lists SUSTAINABILITY as one of Sheffield’s ‘Five Key Ambitions’. In Feb 2016, the Council published ‘Sheffield’s Green Commitment – The Final Report of the Sheffield Green Commission ‘. This highlighted the health, social, economic and environmental benefits of green infrastructure. A Venn diagram is used to show the relationship between each of these and represent a ‘triple bottom line’. At the centre of the diagram, uniting all benefits, is a circle with the word “SUSTAINABLE” in it.
On 16/10/2016, the UN published “FAO Forestry Paper 178”, stating: ‘URBAN FORESTS ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE’. It specifically recognises ‘STREET TREES’ as part of the urban forest.
‘The UK Forestry Standard” (UKFS) sets the standard for SUSTAINABLE forestry in the UK. It applies to “all UK forest types and management systems, including the COLLECTIVE TREE AND WOODLAND COVER IN URBAN AREAS’: THE URBAN FOREST.
SUSTAINABLE URBAN FORESTRY IS ABOUT MAINTENANCE AND OPTIMISATION OF THE SHAPE SIZE AND DISTRIBUTION OF CANOPY COVER in each land use category, and maintenance of the range and magnitude of valuable ECO-SYSTEM SERVICE BENEFITS that it affords to communities and the environment: ENHANCING HEALTH AND WELL-BEING. ATTEMPTS TO OFFSET LOSS BY PLANTING IN OTHER LAND USE CATEGORIES ARE MISGUIDED, ILL-INFORMED, INEFFECTIVE, AND DO NOT REPRESENT CURRENT GOOD PRACTICE. Only focussing on the number of trees does not represent a sustainable approach or responsible stewardship and care of Sheffield’s urban forest and its various tree populations.
When the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership closed, the Director South Yorkshire Forest (Johanna Mawson) informed, on 29th Oct 2016:
‘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 and although austerity is a factor LACK OF PROACTIVE POSITIVE MANAGEMENT IS A MORE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM.’
When SORT presented their 10,000 signature petition to full Council, on 1/7/2015, the Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport (Cllr TERRY FOX) announced: ‘We had an independent survey done in 2006-2007 which helps us inform our priorities for the formation of the contract…’. This was undertaken by Elliott Consultancy Ltd. IN 2007, ELLIOTT RECOMMENDED THAT THE COUNCIL HAVE A TREE STRATEGY: ‘A formal document; ratified by the council; detailing policies; detailing best practise; detailing procedures; outlining the goals and objectives’.
It is of great concern that, to date, the Council has still neglected to adopt an adequate tree strategy, drafted in accordance with current good practice, in fulfilment of its six year old policy commitment to have one. AS A MATTER OF IMMEDIATE PRIORITY, A TREE STRATEGY IS URGENTLY NEEDED, TO HELP ENSURE THAT ACTS AND OMISSIONS ARE BALANCED, PROPORTIONATE, AUDITABLE, DEFENDABLE AND NOT UNDULY INFLUENCED BY TRANSITORY OR EXAGGERATED OPINIONS.
Prior to the Streets Ahead contract, there was greater openness, honesty, transparency, accountability and better communication. Secrecy, misinformation, ignorance deceit & lies erode trust, credibility and support. Perhaps the Council should start putting in place steps to ensure fulfilment of the policy commitment it made on 3rd Feb 2016: ‘TO BEING OPEN AND TRANSPARENT WITH THE SHEFFIELD PUBLIC ENSURING ALL RELEVANT INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.’
D.Long (Urban Forester & arboriculturist)”
Cllr Price’s letter to The Star:
“Distortions and untruths”
(THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE ON 3rd FEBRUARY, 2016 – when the Nether Edge tree action group presented their 6,295 plus signature petition – can be accessed under the sub-heading “Minutes of Previous Council Meetings”)
Another very well written land well documented letter summarizing important issues. Hope that it does not fall on deaf ears.
RECKLESS TREE FELLING: OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY & JUSTICE
A LETTER TO THE SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH (SIMILAR WAS SENT TO THE GUARDIAN)
Just over a week ago, on Wednesday 23rd 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.
Last Thursday, EIGHT TREES ON RUSTLINGS ROAD were felled as part of the city-wide tree felling programme that is part of the £2.2bn ‘Streets Ahead’ highway maintenance project. Seven of the trees (limes) were healthy and structurally sound, but FELLED BECAUSE, LIKE MOST MATURE HIGHWAY TREES IN SHEFFIELD, THEY WERE ASSOCIATED WITH DAMAGE TO THE FOOTWAY AND KERB. At the second (most recent) meeting of the “bi-monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum (2/9/2015), 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.’
THE TREES FELLED HAD BEEN VALUED by Mr Christopher Neilan (Member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters), using his nationally recognised Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees (CAVAT) method. THEY HAD A COLLECTIVE VALUE OF £139,534 AND A MEAN VALUE OF £19,933.
In February 2016, the Information Commissioner completed an investigation. The conclusions revealed that, OVER THREE YEARS IN TO THE £2.2BN CONTRACT, NEITHER SCC NOR AMEY HAVE COMMISSIONED OR DRAUGHTED ANY ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS for consideration for use as an alternative to felling, to retain trees. This was confirmed on 5th October, 2016, when SCC’s Director of Place (Simon Green: responsible for Highways and Planning) commented: ‘THE COUNCIL HAS NOT NEEDED TO COMMISSION ANY ALTERNATIVE ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS’.
On 1/8/2016 I met Cllr LODGE (SCC’s Cabinet member for Environment). He informed that use of alternative specifications would represent a ‘deviation’ from the Amey PFI contract. He informed that their use had not been budgeted for and, for this reason, they are unaffordable and not a reasonably practicable option. However, he added that
**** SCC HAD FINED AMEY OVER £2 MILLION 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. I WAS LED TO UNDERSTAND THAT £2 MILLION WAS AVAILABLE AND COULD BE USED SPECIFICALLY TO RETAIN TREES ON RUSTLINGS ROAD. Unless there is a change in the attitude of decision-makers, SHEFFIELD STANDS TO LOSE ALMOST ALL ITS MATURE STREET TREES.
D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.”
On Monday 19th December, 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.
To date (15th January 2017), the letter has not been published.
In his letter – “Council’s performance” – Mr Hanson commented that criticism of Sheffield City Council (SCC), in The Star, seems “to be motivated by a generalised dislike of the Labour Party” and that the causes of damage to “fabric of civilised life” are “the agents of a ruthless market fundamentalism”. With regard to the gross mismanagement of the highway tree population, and the city-wide felling programme that threatens to fell most mature street trees (which accounted for 73.8% of street trees in 2007), I’m afraid the truth is much more scary.
Ultimately, SCC is directly responsible for all acts and omissions that affect street trees. This has been clearly and bluntly stated, time and again, by SCC and Amey – the contractor for the £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance PFI project. Both have repeatedly asserted (falsely) that felling is a “last resort”. Both claim that they are “looking at improving… processes and building on industry good practise”, and that they comply with a range of “National Good Practice”, including the guidance cited in my previous letter* (“City Tree Destruction”). THERE DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE ANY EVIDENCE OF COMPLIANCE. If they genuinely did comply with the range of good practice guidance and recommendations that they claim to, felling genuinely would be a last resort. In fact, it is not.
It is both prudent and reasonable for citizens to expect that, in fulfilment of duties imposed by various legislation, representatives of SCC and all statutory undertakers – including Amey – ensure that their acts and omissions represent the level of care expected of reasonably skilled members of their respective professions. In practice, this requires matching the level of care of current good practice. From what I have witnessed of the replacement of street lighting and road resurfacing works, this is not happening. The Save our Roadside Trees (SORT) Sheffield Tree Action Group have alerted SCC and Amey to all errors multiple times since May 2015, particularly in the SORT letter dated 29/1/2016: distributed to every Councillor, as part of the hand-out for the petition with over 6,295 signatures that the Nether Edge tree group presented to SCC on 3/2/2016. The letter is online, at the Stocksbridge Community Forum website.
In a witness statement to The High Court of Justice, SCC’s Director of Development Services – “responsible for highway related-matters” (since gone) – stated that the “purpose” of transferring the majority of the operational, legal and financial risks to Amey was “to incentivise best practice from Amey”.
When I met Cllr Lodge (SCC’s Cabinet member for Environment), 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 the 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.”
However, Cllr Lodge did add that SCC HAD FINED AMEY OVER £2 MILLION 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. I was led to understand that the fine money was available and could be used specifically to retain trees. UNLESS THERE IS A CHANGE IN THE ATTITUDE OF DECISION-MAKERS, SHEFFIELD STANDS TO LOSE ALMOST ALL ITS MATURE STREET TREES.
“City tree destruction” (published on 9th December 2016)
SCC & AMEY INCOMPETENCE
ARBORICULTURAL ASSOCIATION REBUKE SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL & AMEY:
“BARRELL CRITICISES SHEFFIELD’S “SHOCKING” STREET TREE POLICY ON PRIMETIME TV
Barrell Tree Consultancy managing director Jeremy Barrell attacked Sheffield’s street tree removal programme on last night’s (4 January) One Show on BBC1.
Interviewed by presenter and veteran DJ Andy Kershaw while inspecting felled and soon-to-be-felled trees in the city, Jeremy Barrell said: “From a health and safety point of view they are fine – none of them need to come out.
*** “THIS IS CONTRARY TO GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE AND GUIDANCE FROM THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF HIGHWAYS & TRANSPORTATION – IT’S A SHOCKING AFFAIR THAT WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE DOESN’T HAPPEN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY.” ***
Defending the policy, the council’s Cabinet Member for Environment councillor BRYAN LODGE said the trees “are causing DAMAGE to pavements and highways including those on Rustlings Road” – the site of a controversial night-time felling operation in November.
THE REPORT ON THE RUSTLINGS ROAD TREES, PUBLISHED THE SAME MORNING, “SUGGESTED WE LOOK AT ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS, BUT THE COUNCIL DOESN’T HAVE THE FUNDING AVAILABLE TO DO THIS SORT OF WORK”, Lodge added.
The residents arrested during protests on Rustlings Road have yet to be charged.
The programme can be viewed online via the BBC’s iPlayer here (from 11:50) for one month.”
Horticulture Week – 5 January 2017. Author: Gavin McEwan.
COMMENT FROM THE ARBORICULTURAL ASSOCIATION
“AA REGISTERED CONSULTANT JEREMY BARRELL ON THE ONE SHOW – BBC 1 4th January 7pm
Arboricultural Association Registered Consultant and long term Fellow Member Jeremy Barrell will be appearing in a segment on The One Show about the Sheffield street tree situation.
THE AA SUGGESTED JEREMY, AMONG OTHERS, after the BBC contacted us FOR IMPARTIAL COMMENT FROM AN EXPERT on the emotive topic. He spent the best part of a day in December filming for the BBC magazine programme.
We hope this will be a great opportunity to advocate the SUSTAINABLE management of trees to the national audience, and for the importance for CLEAR LINES OF COMMUNICATION and COLLABORATION between all relevant parties to be emphasised once again, following the REGRETFUL HANDLING OF THE SITUATION.”
For more information about Mr Barrell, please use the following link:
FELLING: SCC/AMEY INCOMPETENCE AND DECEIT
A LETTER TO SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH, YORKSHIRE POST & THE GUARDIAN
The letter below (unedited version), dated Tuesday 29th November, 2016, was published in The Star on 9th December 2016 – “City Tree Destruction” (the final sentence in the published version was edited by The Star).
When Sheffield’s £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance PFI project began, in 2012, mature trees accounted for 73.8% of all highway trees in the city. Most are associated with damage to footways and kerbs and, consequently, scheduled for felling. Prior to the project, Sheffield City Council (SCC) relied on section 58 of the Highways Act as a defence for not undertaking works, due to insufficient funding.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has informed that The Highways Act does not set out specific standards for maintenance, stating:
“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.”
“THE UK FORESTRY STANDARD: The governments’ approach to sustainable forest management” defines and requires the sustainable management of street trees, as part of the urban forest. Last month, the United Nations also officially recognised street trees as such and added: “URBAN FORESTS ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE” (FAO Forestry Paper 178).
In February 2016, the Information Commissioner informed that both SCC and Amey had neglected to commission or draught any alternative highway engineering specifications for consideration for use when undertaking works in close proximity to trees. This discredits the oft stated project/policy commitment: “removal of any highway tree is always the last resort”. This gross omission is contrary to the range of national good practice that the Streets Ahead team claim to comply with and aim to “build on”, such as British Standard 5837:2012 and UK ROAD LIAISON GROUP GUIDANCE. The latter states:
“Although ensuring the safety of footways for users will be a priority, in some cases the presence of roadside trees may complicate the provision of footway surface regularity. THE RADICAL TREATMENT OR COMPLETE TREE REMOVAL NECESSARY TO ENSURE SURFACE REGULARITY MAY NOT BE POSSIBLE OR DESIRABLE AND REDUCED LEVELS OF SURFACE REGULARITY MAY BE A MORE ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME.”
TREES AND ASSOCIATED BENEFITS CAN AND SHOULD BE VALUED AND RETAINED. Perhaps the £2m plus that SCC fined Amey last year could be used to this end?
THE WHOLE CITY BENEFITS FROM TREES, WHEREVER THEY ARE – hence urban forestry. 😉
With £1.2bn coming from the Department for Transport, it could be argued that there is “no cost” to the Sheffield taxpayer when it comes to tree maintenance or the use of alternative highway engineering SPECIFICATIONS to enable the safe long-term retention of mature street trees.
“STEVE ROBINSON [SCC’s HEAD OF HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE] gave a presentation about each of these options at the second HTAF meeting, on 2nd September, 2015. He stated:
“THE ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS ARE ONLY APPLICABLE TO THOSE TREES THAT ARE CATEGORISED AS DAMAGING.
THE ENGINEERING AND TREE-BASED SOLUTIONS COME AT NO EXTRA COST TO THE COUNCIL. SO, THE TAX-PAYER DOES NOT PAY IF AN ENGINEERING SOLUTION OR A TREE-BASED SOLUTION CAN BE APPLIED, and the reason for that is that the Streets Ahead project is a highway maintenance project that engineering and tree-based solutions are highway maintenance solutions.”
Source: Page 47 of the SORT Letter dated 29th January 2016 (distributed to every Councillor in the City):
The “options” referred to by Steve Robinson are nothing more than a LIST of ideas. The list is provided on page 13 of the following PDF document:
“STREETS AHEAD ENGINEERING OPTIONS
• SENSITIVE ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS
1. Installation of THINNER PROFILE KERBS
2. EXCAVATION OF FOOTWAYS for physical root examination prior to an ultimate decision being made on removal
3. RAMPING / RE-PROFILING of footway levels over roots (within acceptable deviation levels).
4. FLEXIBLE PAVING/ SURFACING SOLUTION
5. Removal of displaced kerbs leaving a gap in the channel
• TREE BASED OPTIONS
6. Root pruning
7. Root Shaving
8. Root Barriers and Root guidance panels
9. EXCAVATION beneath the roots damaging the footway
10. Tree Growth Retardant
11. CREATION OF LARGER TREE PITS around existing trees
12. Heavy tree CROWN REDUCTION / POLLARDING to stunt tree growth.
13. Retain dead, dying, dangerous and diseased highway trees for their habitat value”
Although the Council and Amey like to present this list of ideas as alternative HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS, they are clearly not, as it is just a list. Follow the link provided (for the list of options) to discover the truth. Please remember that FlexiPave and similar products bond well and knit in with tarmac. They can be moulded to shape on site and be used for footways, kerbs and to provide an edge to the actual carriageway. As they are permeable, they contribute to sustainable drainage systems and help minimise the likelihood of surface water run-off and flooding.
The Information Commissioner has confirmed that over three years in to a £2.2bn city-wide project that threatens the health, structural integrity and longevity of 73.8% of the street tree population (25,877 mature trees), NO ALTERNATIVE HIGHWAY ENGINEERING SPECIFICATIONS HAVE EVER BEEN COMMISSIONED OR DRAUGHTED BY Sheffield City Council or Amey.
The Council wilfully lie, deceive and misinform the public*, to cover for and distract attention from their reckless and negligent acts and omissions.
Thankfully, the spotlight of international media is on them, so they should now be more incentivised to be less selfish, dishonest and deceitful and start being open, honest, transparent and accountable.
There is a policy commitment from 3rd February 2016, which has been TOTALLY IGNORED by SCC to date:
“TO BEING OPEN AND TRANSPARENT WITH THE SHEFFIELD PUBLIC ENSURING ALL RELEVANT INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.”
THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE ON 3rd FEBRUARY, 2016 – when the Nether Edge tree action group presented their 6,295 plus signature petition – can be accessed at the following link, under the sub-heading “Minutes of Previous Council Meetings”:
Questions about trees are on pages 6 & 7 of the PDF. A redacted version of the petition, followed by the Council’s response, can be found on pages 18 to 24.
A LETTER TO THE STAR
“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 (21st July, 2016), 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. It is why trees can receive multiple wounds when pruned, attacked by herbivores, otherwise damaged, and remain strong, healthy and safe. Trees 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.
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. An air-spade can be used to excavate around roots and avoid wounding.
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.
THE COUNCIL AND THE STREETS AHEAD TEAM HAVE EXISTING POLICY COMMITMENTS, TO COMPLY WITH CURRENT GOOD PRACTICE. See below.
In an e-mail (Ref: 101002358788) dated 8th January, 2016 (Appendix 19), sent in response to a complaint made on 9th December, 2015 (Appendix 19), STREETS AHEAD Customer Services stated:
“THE STREETS AHEAD PROJECT AIMS TO WORK TO BEST INDUSTRY PRACTISE AND GUIDELINES in all working sectors, including when working in the vicinity of highway trees.”
“In fact, we intend to expand the concept with a series of workshops starting in January 2016 looking at improving our processes and BUILDING ON industry good practise.”
On 8th July, 2015, STREETS AHEAD team 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”.
On 8th December, 2015, Cllr TERRY FOX (Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport) stated:
“I can confirm that Amey’s ARBORICULTURAL METHOD STATEMENT exists TO ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH BOTH BS 5837 AND NJUG STANDARDS.”
In a communication dated 8th January, 2016, with regard to works to and in close proximity to highway trees, Mr DAVID CAULFIELD (SCC Executive Director: see The Star report: “TREES: New council chief to lead Sheffield felling confirmed after secret recording apology”) responded to the question: “Can you provide evidence of the use of National BEST Practice?”. His response was:
“YES, WE CAN EVIDENCE USE OF NBP ACROSS THE WHOLE CONTRACT”
The response to Freedom of Information request FOI / 574, dated 7th August, 2015 (“Please provide a copy of the current national highway maintenance standards, guidance and recommendations that the Streets Ahead project claim to be using and working in accordance with; please also provide an online link to these standards.”), stated:
“Highways maintenance standards and REQUIREMENTS ARE DICTATED BY A NUMBER OF PIECES OF BOTH INDUSTRY BEST PRACTICE (for example the Well-Maintained Highways Code of Practice for highway maintenance management – http://www.ukroadsliaisongroup.org/en/UKRLG-and-boards/uk-roads-board/wellmaintained-highways.cfm ).
SCC & AMEY INCOMPETENCE
International, national and local authority commitments are not being implemented and compliance with existing commitments is not being enforced. Neglect to apply the level of care expected of reasonably skilled professionals represents negligence and liability for all harm and damage caused as a result. Read my previous postings. In particular, see the following:
“EXTRACTS FROM WELL-MAINTAINED HIGHWAYS – CODE OF PRACTICE”;
“EXTRACTS FROM WELL-LIT HIGHWAYS – TRACKED CHANGES”;
“SCC & AMEY: NON-COMPLIANCE WITH GOOD PRACTICE: A FEW EXAMPLES”
“WHAT THE STREETS AHEAD TEAM (SCC & AMEY) SAY ABOUT TREES AND DESIGN ACTION GROUP (TDAG) GUIDANCE AND RECOMMENDATIONS”;
“Quotes from the THE TREES AND DESIGN ACTION GROUP (TDAG) document that AMEY claim to have contributed to AND THE Council claim to “AGREE STRONGLY” with”;
“EXTRACTS FROM British Standard 5837”;
“…EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR for Place Simon Green said: ‘…WE WILL of course CONTINUE TO assess our trees and REPLACE THOSE THAT ARE DANGEROUS.'”
“FELLING: THE TRUTH”.
“RISK & LIABILITY”
“THE COUNCIL’S COMMITMENT TO RETAIN MATURE HIGHWAY TREES”;
“THE DISCRETION TO RETAIN MATURE TREES”
“POLICY & SUSTAINABILITY: THE COUNCIL’S POLICY COMMITMENTS SUPPORT FOR COMPLIANCE WITH CURRENT GOOD PRACTICE”
“SUSTAINABLE TREE POPULATION MANAGEMENT”
“SHEFFIELD’S FIRST TREE STRATEGY…We’re Still Waiting!”
“EXTRACTS FROM THE FORMER (2001) TREE STRATEGY ‘CONSULTATION DOCUMENT’”
“THE COUNCIL AND THE STREETS AHEAD TEAM HAVE EXISTING POLICY COMMITMENTS, TO COMPLY WITH CURRENT GOOD PRACTICE. See below.”
“FELLING: SCC/AMEY INCOMPETENCE AND DECEIT”
“SCC / AMEY: DECEIT & MISINFORMATION”
“DANGEROUS HIGHWAY TREES”
(Sent to The Star on Saturday 7th December, 2016)
“Recently, I have been contacted by citizens concerned that there has been a significant increase in the number of highway trees scheduled for felling on the basis that they are “dangerous” and have “structural integrity issues”. At first, I thought they must have misinterpreted information received. At the first of the two “bi-monthly” Highway Trees Advisory Forum (HTAF) meetings, on 23rd July, 2015, which I attended, Sheffield City Council’s HEAD OF HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE (Steve Robinson) informed:
“We had a survey carried out by an independent firm in 2006/2007… So, IN LIGHT OF THAT, the Council, as part of its application to Government for THE STREETS AHEAD PROJECT, RECEIVED FUNDING TO MANAGE THE CITY’S HIGHWAY TREE STOCK. […]
So, our underinvestment and underfunding left us with a number of DEAD, DYING AND DANGEROUS trees. Some of you would be surprised that THERE WERE 1,200 TREES THAT WERE WITHIN THAT CATEGORY. So, AMEY IDENTIFIED THOSE TREES AND ADDRESSED THOSE FIRST. […]
OUR NEXT PRIORITY is to improve the condition of our roads and pavements. So, in other words, deal with the DAMAGING trees – those trees that are damaging kerbs, pavements and drains. […]
So, JUST BECAUSE A TREE IS DISEASED DOESN’T MEAN TO SAY THAT THAT TREE NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. …whether it turns out to be dangerous… those judgements are made by tree people. …they have their budget to look after their trees. In terms of damaging… if an engineering solution can be applied, then it will be applied.”
Curious to see these “dangerous” trees for myself, I have visited a couple of streets in different parts of the city to take a look. What I have discovered is shocking, but not surprising, given the fact that THERE HAS BEEN CONTINUED, WIDESPREAD NON-COMPLIANCE WITH AND DISREGARD FOR A RANGE OF CURRENT GOOD PRACTICE BY SCC & AMEY. It would appear that TREES THAT HAVE PREVIOUSLY BEEN MAINTAINED BY PRUNING ARE BEING CLASSED AS “DANGEROUS”, on the basis that regrowth could break loose. Such trees can and should be safely retained, long-term, by use of the range of British Standard pruning operations that the Save Our Roadside trees Sheffield Tree Action Group have detailed previously, in a letter dated 29th January 2016 (see Appendix 4). The letter (available online) was distributed to every Councillor in the city, as a Nether Edge Petition hand-out. TO CLASS ALL SUCH TREES AS “DANGEROUS” IS WHAT I WOULD EXPECT FROM A “ROGUE TRADER” and not what should be expected of reasonably skilled, competent arboriculturists.
The National Tree Safety Group guidance is particularly apt:
“WITH INADEQUATE UNDERSTANDING, so-called defects may be erroneously confused with hazards and, furthermore, hazards with risk – so unless the risk of harm arising from a hazard is properly taken account of, MANAGEMENT CAN BE SERIOUSLY MISINFORMED, POTENTIALLY LEADING TO COSTLY AND UNNECESSARY INTERVENTION.”
In April 2013, The Star reported:
“THE COUNCIL SAID IT WOULD NOT REPLACE TREES WHERE PLANTING A NEW TREE WOULD BE CHEAPER THAN PRUNING THE EXISTING SPECIES.”
In October 2015, Amey’s Operations Manager for the Streets Ahead project (Jeremy Willis) stated:
“IT IS MORE COSTLY TO FELL AND REPLACE A TREE THAN MAINTAIN IT IN THE CURRENT POSITION.”
In December 2015, he stated:
“IF IT IS FELT THAT THE TREE COULD BE SAVED BY PRUNING AND MAINTAINING IT THEN THAT IS WHAT WILL HAPPEN.”
Mature trees accounted for 73.8% of all highway trees (25,877) at the start of the Streets Ahead project (in 2012). Most have been previously pruned and are associated with minor damage to the built environment. If citizens are unwilling to permit Amey to fell most mature highway trees, perhaps it is time to call in Matt Allwright of BBC’s Watchdog?
D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield”.
A STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD
(AFTER 19 MONTHS OF SILENCE)
“STATEMENT ON SHEFFIELD’S TREES FROM STAFF AT THE DEPARTMENT OF LANDSCAPE
In November of 2016, Sheffield City Council undertook a consultation process for its draft Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030. Staff in the DEPARTMENT OF LANDSCAPE made responses to specific points within the strategy, and to the strategy overall. These were all collated into a single, collective Department of Landscape entry into the consultation. In this blog entry, which is SUBMITTED AND ENDORSED BY THE SIGNATORIES BELOW (comprising ALL THE ACADEMIC AND TEACHING STAFF IN THE DEPARTMENT OF LANDSCAPE), we are publishing the accompanying statement to that submission.
We welcome Sheffield City Council’s consultation process for the Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030. THE PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT OF THE URBAN FOREST IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TOPIC, WITH HUGELY SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS FOR HUMAN HEALTH AND WELL-BEING, BIODIVERSITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE.
As a Department comprised OF RESEARCHERS AND EDUCATORS AND PRACTITIONERS IN LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY, LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, LANDSCAPE PLANNING AND LANDSCAPE MANAGEMENT, we would like to contribute in a constructive way to the HOLISTIC AND PROGRESSIVE development of a comprehensive urban tree management strategy, ESPECIALLY in the light of the on-going felling of urban street trees under the Streets Ahead Five Year Tree Management Strategy.
WE STRONGLY BELIEVE IN THE CONCEPT OF AN URBAN FOREST and we fully support initiatives such as The Outdoor City that fundamentally depend on Sheffield’s richly treed urban environment.
***** THE EXTENT OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST IS IMPRESSIVE. IN MANY WAYS, IT IS THE PREMIER EXAMPLE OF AN URBAN FOREST IN THE UK.*****
This is the result of forward-looking city plans from the early 20th Century that anticipate the modern concept of ‘GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE’, and from intensive street tree planting from the middle of the 19th Century to the middle of the 20th Century. This has resulted in an unrivalled legacy to current and future generations.
***** THE MAINTENANCE OF THIS RESOURCE, AND ITS ON-GOING VALUE, DEPENDS ON COMPREHENSIVE DESIGN, PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES.*****
The Sheffield Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030 offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate innovation in how the city measures and values the benefits of its trees, that go well beyond short-term economic considerations.
***** OPPORTUNITIES FOR SUSTAINABLE, INTEGRATIVE, URBAN TREE MANAGEMENT THAT ACTIVELY ADDRESS THE CONTRIBUTION THAT TREES MAKE TO THE CULTURAL AND ECOLOGICAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE CITY MUST BE SEIZED.*****
On-going research in the Department supports the valuable contribution that trees and woodland can make to human health and well-being, cooling the city, attenuating flood waters and providing habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna. Student design and planning projects throughout all student cohorts in the Department serve as testing grounds for innovative uses for trees across a wide range of real sites in the city. And PhD and Masters theses explore the extent and breadth of ECOSYSTEM BENEFITS that trees bring to the city, and to the tangible and intangible cultural benefits. This research shows that Sheffield residents VALUE STREET TREES highly.
More tellingly, the felling of STREET TREES as part of the on-going Streets Ahead Tree Management Plan has provoked strong and passionate responses from the public. The current management approach to the removal of street trees has resulted in public animosity and potentially high legal and administrative costs brought about by these legal challenges, Freedom of Information costs, and the decision to employ security at the Rustlings Road site.
We believe that a stronger urban tree strategy for Sheffield can be developed organically with the good will of Sheffield residents when it is accompanied by a WELL-ROUNDED AND OPEN ASSESSMENT OF THE BENEFITS AND DISADVANTAGES OF URBAN TREES AND SUPPORTED BY THE LATEST RESEARCH IN URBAN FORESTRY AND LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE.
WE CAN ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF SHEFFIELD’S URBAN FOREST THROUGH research and teaching projects, conferences, innovative case studies, the development of tree-planting prototypes and MANAGEMENT AND MAINTENANCE SPECIFICATIONS PARTICULARLY SUITED TO SHEFFIELD. We hope that our collective contribution will help CREATE A WELL-INFORMED AND MORE TRANSPARENT DECISION-MAKING PROCESS FOR SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL, with specific reference to the draft Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2016-2030 and the Streets Ahead Tree Five Year Management Strategy.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM THE COUNCIL in response to our comments and are happy to elaborate on further points.
Mel Burton, Ross Cameron, Andy Clayden, Catherine Dee, Nicola Dempsey, NIGEL DUNNETT, Kamni Gill, James Hitchmough, Anna Jorgensen, Eckart Lange, Sally O’Halloran, Laurence Pattacini, Clare Rishbeth, Olaf Schroth, Kevin Thwaites, Thom White, Helen Woolley, JAN WOUDSTRA”
Sheffield Landscape BLOG. December 21, 2016.
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.”
“…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.”
“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)
“The Arboricultural Association has in its members a wealth of knowledge about the practical aspects of planting and caring for trees…”
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.”
(FROM THE SORT LETTER dated 29th January, 2016:
Arboricultural Association, 2014. Defra recognizes Arboricultural Association as the ‘Voice of Arboriculture’. [Online]
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]
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]
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2015-06-02a.298.8&s=speaker%3A10370#g381.0 [Accessed 4 June 2015].
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