On the value of urban trees with large crowns……..

17021696_10154375727628030_3173662011392310448_n From Rob McBride

Deerhund Shetty posted in Save Ecclesall Road Trees.

On the value of urban trees with large crowns…….. 

Deerhund Shetty
26 February at 16:44

Large crown trees offer the most in terms of ecosystem service benefits to the communities they serve, for each year of their long lives. Councils in the UK are looking to this demographic of trees more and more, as vital parts of a toolkit needed to climate proof our future cities. These big old trees are therefore valuable community assets that should be respected and cared for in a manner deserving of such a precious and irreplaceable resource, the importance of which becomes clearer with every passing year.

SCC’s underhand and immoral night raid to fell the trees on Rustlings Road, against the wishes of residents and its own Independent Tree Panel, has incurred a monetary loss of £165,000 in asset value to this road alone. Other Councils would have retained these trees by default, by having an adequate Tree Strategy in place based on current best practice. The asset value of these trees would have been measured and cost:benefit analysis would have revealed that maintenance of these trees makes much more longterm financial sense, compared to felling.

The modern and most practical way to retain trees that cause pavement ridging, is by the use of Flexi-Pave. Abolishing Amey’s current tree-phobic and ridiculous ‘Unbroken Kerb-Line’, would mean the use of alternative specifications that would include thinner kerb profiles, no kerb profiles, ramping of tarmac and a tarmac-free zone at the base of trees. One of Amey’s worst working practice’s in Sheffield, is asphalting pavements right up to the trunk of trees. This is completely unprofessional and arguably incompetent and negligent, malpractice to boot. Sheffield deserves better than these rogue traders.

We demand that Cllrs Dore and Lodge honour the sustainable management of the street tree resource, that they already claim to comply with and put an end to this abhorrent nonsense with Amey NOW.

#AmeyOUT

Posted on the Ecclesall Road Street Trees Campaign Facebook site  – do join!!

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8 Responses to On the value of urban trees with large crowns……..

  1. Alison says:

    Dear Ian First, thank you very much for your posts, not least the updates on Amey’s scandalous behaviour in Sheffield. They don’t do this in London! On Buckingham Palace Road, which has a line of fine plane trees near Victoria Coach Station, the pavement has just been relaid. There is a large square of earth left bare around the roots of each tree! Secondly, just a quick note to say that I have a short poem about trees on that interesting website for nature writing, Caught by the River. I expect you know it? I find it especially encouraging because many of its writers are young, (deservedly) fashionable, and very keen. My poem is the second item on http://www.caughtbytheriver.net/ But as time is often short for following links, and the site may have changed anyway, I’ll also just paste it below. It is loosely based on Oliver Rackham’s writings. But any factual mistakes are my own! Very best wishes, and the very best of luck in Sheffield! Alison First: a poem by Alison Brackenbury Prehistory is mainly guess. How else to start the small machines of happiness? After the age of ice, trees could creep back. Grove heart, oak, ash, tall lime made the first wood, soon felled for farming, feuds and blood. What whispers through our deepest shade? Wildwood. Wildwood. Recent research suggests that most of Britain’s ancient forest was felled in the Neolithic period.

  2. Technotronic says:

    A LETTER THE STAR REFUSED TO PUBLISH

    WW1 MEMORIAL TREES

    The letter below arrived in my inbox on Tuesday 3rd March, 2017. It was sent to The Star newspaper the same day. The author has given permission for me to share it here. To date, The Star has not published it.

    *****

    “Amey and Sheffield City Council (SCC) have informed residents of Western Rd (Crookes) that investigation work will take place between 6th & 10th March 2017, to help determine whether or not any of the 25 ideas that SCC have listed as ‘solutions’ would be reasonably practicable to use to retain the trees. Like most healthy, mature street trees scheduled for felling by the Streets Ahead team (SA), with scores of years of safe useful life expectancy ahead of them, the Western Rd WW1 memorial trees are scheduled for felling because of their association with damage – primarily to footways and kerbs. Trees could be safely retained long term, by use of adequate, alternative highway engineering specifications for construction and repair.

    In October 2015, when such investigations were scheduled for Rustlings Road, the team responsible for the £2.2bn Streets Ahead Highway maintenance project, and SCC’s Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox), made the following invitation to SORT:

    ‘You are welcome to provide your own representation and SCRUTINY of the excavation area should SORT have any interested parties with the appropriate technical knowledge or background wishing to attend.’

    SORT accepted the invitation and invited me to ‘scrutinise’ at site on the day of works. What I witnessed was shocking and amounted to nothing more than a PR stunt. Amey’s senior engineer – NICK HETHERINGTON (former SCC) – was present on site, supervised excavation close to three trees, and undertook the ‘investigations’. His recommendations are those presented to SCC. The process was: 1) to identify three trees associated with the worst footway ‘ridging’ damage; 2) excavate one small pit (@60x60sq) by each tree, through the worst ridge; 3) lay a spirit level across the hole and use a ruler to measure the depth from the spirit level down to the root. That was the totality of the investigation*. This method could not and would not provide any useful information. It is the kind of practice that is more befitting of a rogue trader than a competent professional. No excavations were undertaken prior to felling any of the other 8 trees that were felled on Rustlings Road in November 2016. Mr HETHERINGTON was uncooperative. Each question I asked of him was met with the response: ‘I’m not here today to answer questions’. However, when SORT asked ‘how much depth was needed for the mechanical planer’ (the machine used to grind away tarmac), he informed that 150 mm depth was necessary to lay 20 to 60 mm of tarmac.

    In 2007, mature trees (25,877 trees) accounted for 73.8% of the entire population of Sheffield’s street trees. They are the ones most susceptible to ill health and compromised structural integrity as a result of damage caused by use of mowers, strimmers, and machinery used in close proximity to trees during lighting and resurfacing works, such as diggers and planing machines. The prospect of such damage has been used by the SA team to justify the felling of 1000s of healthy, structurally sound, mature highway trees: valuable trees which could otherwise be safely retained, long-term through compliance with current good practice guidance and recommendations (TDAG; BS5837 & NJUG).

    Current UK ROAD LIAISON GROUP GUIDANCE, commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT), 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.’

    Unless SCC & Amey (the contractor for the PFI project) review and revise their opinions, policies and plans, and adjust their acts and omissions to incorporate and implement current good practice, SHEFFIELD STANDS TO LOSE MOST/ALL OF ITS MATURE STREET TREES DURING THE AMEY PFI CONTRACT. Let’s hope Western Rd is not just another PR stunt!

    D.Long (BSc Hons Arb)”

    * Since sending the letter, the author has added the following:

    “In addition to the footway excavations, the kerb stone nearest the stem of each of the three trees was removed and the level and ruler used in similar fashion.”

    Source:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/737#comment-737

  3. Technotronic says:

    NO EXTRA COST” IDEAS

    THE WHOLE CITY BENEFITS FROM TREES, WHEREVER THEY ARE

    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):

    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

    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:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/sites/default/files/files/6Ds_SCC%20%26%20AMEY%20HIGHWAYS%20INFRASTRUCTURE%20ASSESSMENT%20CRITERIA%20-%20LICENCE%20TO%20KILL_1.pdf

    “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.”

    Source:

    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”:

    http://sheffielddemocracy.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=154&MId=6022

    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.

    * http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/your-say/leaves-rustling-ever-louder-1-8323701

    • Technotronic says:

      FLEXI®- PAVE

      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.

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

      Source:
      https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/533#comment-533

      Also, see:
      https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/clr_fox_tree_retention_solutions#comment-69476

      http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-tree-campaigners-question-council-flexi-paving-figures-1-8012728

      Finally, at a meeting of full Council in Sheffield Town Hall, on 1st February 2017, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment (Cllr Lodge: Labour) stated that FlexiPave has NEVER been used for the £2.2bn city-wide Streets Ahead project, despite 73.8% of Sheffield’s street trees (25,877) being mature. In fact, he claimed to have no knowledge of previous agreements to meet with the Managing Director of the firm that supplies the product. Given that there was plenty about this in the Letter from SAVE OUR ROADSIDE TREES (SORT) that he responded to, it is clear that Cllr Lodge was lying again, or that he lied about reading the letter. It would not be the first time he has wilfully deceived citizens.

      The SORT letter was addressed to The Cabinet Member For Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox), dated 29th January, 2016″. The letter, in its entirety, also formed part of Nether Edge petition “hand-out” that was DISTRIBUTED TO EVERY COUNCILLOR by SCC’s John Turner (Democratic Services Legal and Governance Resources) – prior to the meeting of full Council on 3rd February, 2016, in Sheffield’s Town Hall.

      The SORT letter can be accessed via this link:
      https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/published-after-wait-14-months-sheffields-first-draught-tree-strategy-available-public-comment

      Cllr Lodge’s response to the letter can be found here:
      https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/522#comment-522

      DISCOVER MORE HERE:
      https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/751#comment-751
      &
      https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/752#comment-752
      &
      https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/753#comment-753
      &
      https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/sites/default/files/files/6Ds_SCC%20%26%20AMEY%20HIGHWAYS%20INFRASTRUCTURE%20ASSESSMENT%20CRITERIA%20-%20LICENCE%20TO%20KILL_1.pdf

  4. Technotronic says:

    TREE BENEFITS; THE MISSING PART OF THE STREET TREE COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS EQUATION

    Comment by

    JEREMY BARRELL FICFor
    Managing Director at Barrell Tree Consultancy

    (One of the world’s leading arboricultural consultants and spokesman for the Arboricultural Association )

    Published on 7th February 2017

    *****

    “SHEFFIELD was widely hailed as one of Europe’s greenest cities, but it is rapidly gaining an international reputation as the place where they are felling street trees on an industrial scale.

    LOCAL DEMOCRACY SEEMS TO BE UNRAVELLING BEFORE AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE as the wishes of local communities are ignored and healthy trees with decades of life left in them are felled causing significant loss of tree benefits.

    IT IS A POLITICAL PROBLEM and it will be for the politicians to find a solution, with issues way beyond the remit for tree experts to resolve.

    However, in the melee for the high ground, *****TREE MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES ARE BEING MISAPPLIED ***** as Sheffield City Council clamours to justify its actions, and that certainly is a matter where tree professionals can assert authority.

    AT THE HEART OF THE RHETORIC IS THE CONTENTION THAT THE TREES ARE MATURE, with little useful life expectancy, and it is in the best interest of the community and good management, to fell and replace them immediately. Two technical pillars support that position; life expectancy, and the optimum felling point, or rotation length.

    Taking life expectancy first, I have seen a significant selection of the condemned trees and I assess that most of them have decades, if not centuries, of life left in them, so

    **** THE JUSTIFICATION OF “THEY ARE AT THE END OF THEIR USEFUL LIFE” FALLS AWAY UNDER PROFESSIONAL SCRUTINY. ****

    Of course, that is my opinion, and there will always be scope for disagreement, but the trees are there for all to see, so doubters can form their own opinion.

    This leaves us with ROTATION LENGTH, and more specifically, what is the optimum point in time to fell street trees. While there is plenty of research on forestry rotation length, there is very little guidance for street trees, and thus this post. How can we as professional tree managers assist in deciding the optimum time to remove and replace street trees? Foresters grapple with this concept on a daily basis, with THE PRINCIPLES OF CURRENT ANNUAL INCREMENT (“CAI”) and MEAN ANNUAL INCREMENT (“MAI”) being the foundation for many decisions where optimising the timber volume is the priority.

    From research and practical experience, we know that the optimum time to fell is the age where the curves of CAI and MAI cross, but can this principle be reasonably transferred to urban tree management, where ***** THE PRODUCT IS TREE BENEFITS ***** rather than timber volume?

    Which reveals the heart of the problem; conventional ***** STREET TREE MANAGEMENT DECISION MAKING HAS BEEN FOCUSED ALMOST ENTIRELY ON COSTS, WITH NO BALANCED CONSIDERATION OF BENEFITS. *****

    There are plenty of MODELS identifying how much it costs to buy, plant and maintain a new tree through to removal, but very few FACTORING IN THE MULTIPLE BENEFITS THAT TREES PROVIDE.

    Accountants are exploiting this knowledge gap at the expense of communities, creating an urgent need for the tree profession to stand up and ***** INJECT SOME BALANCE INTO THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS. *****

    Towards this end, I HAVE WORKED UP A DRAFT CONCEPTUALISATION OF WHAT AN URBAN TREE BENEFITS MODEL MAY LOOK LIKE (see attached figure*).

    IT REFLECTS THE CONCEPTS OF CAI AND MAI, WITH THE OPTIMUM ROTATION LENGTH BEING WHERE THEY CROSS.

    CONCEPTUALISING TREE BENEFITS is tricky for multiple reasons; primarily because most are difficult to reliably VALUE, but also because some are linked to SIZE, e.g. pollution buffering, water buffering, health and wellbeing, etc, while others are more related to AGE, e.g. ecology, heritage, etc. I accept that THE PRECISE FORM OF THE CURVES WILL VARY WITH SPECIES, growing conditions, local benefit values, etc, but that aside, the primary question is whether this conceptualisation reasonably captures the principle.

    ***** With INCREASING INSTANCES OF STREET TREES BEING PREMATURELY REMOVED across the country BASED ON COSTS RATHER THAN A BALANCE OF COSTS AND BENEFITS, ***** this is becoming an increasingly important built environment management issue, which is why I would be grateful for feedback on any fundamental flaws that this CAI/MAI approach may have.”

    Source:

    The Institute of Chartered Foresters website:
    * http://www.charteredforesters.org/2017/02/tree-benefits/

    *****

    Note:

    Rotation length = the optimal time to fell a tree, for a specific purpose.

    *****
    Also, see:
    THE LATEST GUIDANCE FROM THE UNITED NATIONS (UN):

    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2016). FAO Forestry Paper 178.
    Available at:
    http://www.fao.org/forestry/news/92438/en/

    *****
    SEE WHAT THE FORESTRY COMMISSION HAVE TO SAY…

    “INTRODUCING ENGLAND’S URBAN FORESTS”:
    http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/IntroducingUrbanForest_FINAL_Sept16.pdf/$FILE/IntroducingUrbanForest_FINAL_Sept16.pdf

    *****
    “FORESTRY COMMISSION RESEARCH REPORT: DELIVERY OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES BY URBAN FORESTS”:
    http://www.forestry.gov.uk/PDF/FCRP026.pdf/$FILE/FCRP026.pdf

    *****
    Also, see this recent;y published research:

    “CHALLENGES FOR TREE OFFICERS TO ENHANCE THE PROVISION OF REGULATING ECOSYSTEM
    SERVICES FROM URBAN FORESTS”:

    Freely available here:
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kieron_Doick

    *****
    And the following report, commissioned by the Department for Transport
    (DfT: the Government department contributing £1.2BILLION to Sheffield City Council’s 25yr Streets Ahead highway maintenance PFI project)…

    “WELL-MANAGED HIGHWAY INFRASTRUCTURE: A CODE OF PRACTICE”:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/sites/default/files/files/UKRLG_well-managed_highway_infrastructure_combined_Revised_Published_28_october_2016.pdf

    A quote from page 83:

    “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.”

    *****
    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE MAGNITUDE OF DECEIT AND INCOMPETENCE BY AMEY AND SCC, SEE THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENT:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/sites/default/files/files/6Ds_SCC%20%26%20AMEY%20HIGHWAYS%20INFRASTRUCTURE%20ASSESSMENT%20CRITERIA%20-%20LICENCE%20TO%20KILL_1.pdf

  5. Technotronic says:

    RECKLESS TREE FELLING: OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY & JUSTICE

    ***
    A LETTER TO THE SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH (SIMILAR WAS SENT TO THE GUARDIAN)

    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.

    ***
    “Dear Editor,

    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.”

    SOURCE:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/714#comment-714

  6. Technotronic says:

    WHERE DO OUR SLAIN STREET TREES END UP?

    BIOMASS!

    On 16th December 2016, a Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/3067 – received a response from Sheffield City Council. The request asked for information regarding the use of wood felled under the Streets Ahead project. The response informed:

    “TREES REMOVED ARE GENERALLY USED IN THE BIOMASS INDUSTRY.”

    The money helps Amey recoup costs. Amey is the contractor acting as “service provider” on the £2.2bn city-wide “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance project. Sheffield City Council (SCC) borrows money (expensive loans from banks) to pay them £64 million each year of the 25yr contract. Amey cut corners and don’t comply with industry good practice, in order to optimise profits, safe in the knowledge that Sheffield City Council neglected to budget for adequate on-site supervision, monitoring, auditing and enforcement. To boot, there is no incentive for Amey to care, as they get a fixed fee and can charge whatever they like for anything extra. In addition, Sheffield City Council rely heavily on Amey “self-monitoring” their own work (like a student marking their own work).

    *****
    Below are a few questions that have been asked on this topic, and the responses received.

    • On 30th April 2014, Cllr JACK SCOTT (then SCC Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene: Labour) was asked the following question, after the Melbourne Rd Oak had been felled in Stocksbridge:

    “What has become of the timber and cord wood (branch wood)?

    In an e-mail dated 13/2/2014, Amey made the following statement:

    ‘…However, due to public reaction, and the prominent nature of the tree and its associated amenity value, further investigation has been arranged i.e. Picus tomography. The results of which will enable our Arboriculture Asset Management team to evaluate more accurately the extent of decay and, possibly, offer an alternative management option.’”

    *****
    • Cllr SCOTT responded four months later, on 27th August 2014:

    “A significant amount of timber was utilised to create a bench and sculpture in conjunction with children from local schools. The remaining timber will be in Olive Grove depot and is likely to be RECYCLED INTO THE BIOMASS INDUSTRY.”

    Source:
    https://ianswalkonthewildside.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/not-a-good-time-to-be-a-tree/

    *****
    ON 1st JULY 2015 when the Save Our Roadside Trees (SORT) group – the first Sheffield Tree Action Group – presented their petition (4,693 signatures online plus an additional >5,307 on paper)* at the meeting of full Council, held in Sheffield Town Hall, a number of questions were asked. Some of those and the responses received are provided here (taken from a transcript of an audio recording of the meeting):

    • Mrs Helen MCILROY asked:

    “WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE TIMBER FROM THESE MATURE TREES? IS IT BEING SOLD? What happens to that?”

    • Mr Nigel SLACK asked:

    “Question 3: Can Council confirm that e-mail enquiries sent to Cabinet Members on 17th June should have received full responses by now? One on particular is relevant to the petition and upcoming debate on the tree policy in the city and I will, therefore, ask whether a response to that e-mail, which I’ve copied in to my questions, can be provided today, either now or as part of the debate.”

    The official minutes of the Council meeting, authored and published by SCC**, state:

    “Mr Slack had asked a question about ensuring that wood which was removed was sold on behalf of the Council, rather than being sent to BIOMASS.”

    *****
    • As Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr Terry FOX (Labour) responded to both:

    “As regarding part of yours comment regarding the timber. Obviously, after our last conversation, I looked in to this. WE HAVE GOT TIMBER THAT GOES TO BIOMASS; we have got timber that goes to furniture construction sites. But, obviously, THE MAJORITY OF TREES THAT ARE COMING OUT ARE OF DECAY. They have high particle concentration in them, so, obviously, just part because where they are. So, depending that they are not all only as dying as the streets as what some construction firms love. Obviously, local artists and local schools will want them. They will be supplied as well.”

    *****
    * https://www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-streetsahead-sheffield-gov-uk-save-the-12-trees-on-rustlings-road-sheffield

    ** THE MINUTES OF THE COUNCIL MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE ON 1st JULY 2015 can be accessed at the following link, under the sub-heading “Minutes of Previous Council Meeting”:

    http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s19532/Council%20Minutes%201%20July%202015.pdf

    Questions about trees are on pages 8 & 9 of the PDF; the Council’s response can be found on pages 9-16.

    *****
    On 4th JANUARY 2017, when the Western Rd Sheffield Tree Action Group presented their petition at the meeting of full Council, held in Sheffield Town Hall, a number of questions were asked. Some of those and the responses received are provided here (taken from a transcript of an audio recording of the meeting):

    • Mr Nigel SLACK asked:

    “Question 2: In response to a question in full council on 1st July 2015, regarding the disposal of trees felled under the Streets Ahead contract with Amey, THE RESPONSE FROM THE PREVIOUS CABINET MEMBER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT COMMUNICATED THAT FELLED TREES WERE SENT FOR BIOMASS USE, as the wood was often decayed. That seems, now, to be somewhat inaccurate. None of the trees removed on Rustlings Road, for instance, were decayed. A brief review of the ITP – that’s the Independent Tree Panel – REPORTS SUGGESTS THAT MOST TREES REMOVED ARE NOT DECAYED. WHO was responsible for this inaccurate answer to my original question? And, to follow up on that, WHO RECEIVES THE INCOME FROM FELLED TREES SENT FOR BIOMASS? Cash-strapped Council, or prophet focussed Amey?”

    *****
    • As Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr BRYAN LODGE (Labour) responded:

    “I think Cllr Fox did answer accurately, err, in that MOST OF THE TIMBER FROM STREET TREES DOES GO TO THE BIOMASS MARKET, err, and material from a lot of the trees is not grown in of a high quality. Err, Some timber is provided to other markets. It is also provided to community groups on request, err, and there are examples of this. There is a school – I can’t remember where it is – where they asked for a tree that had been taken down. There was, err given to them. Amey moved in there and it’s been carved in to a bench, at Stocksbridge I think it is. I can’t remember where the school is. So, you know, it is provided to community groups and schools, and things like that, when people do request it. Err, I DON’T THINK THERE WAS ANY INDICATION IN THE RESPONSE FROM, FROM, CLLR FOX THAT EVERY TREE FELLED WAS DECAYED. Err, and, you know, you can look through the answers. It’s a bit hard to understand how you can draw that assumption from the answer that’s in there.

    Err, the costs of the income from the trees replacement is included in the overall price that, err, is negotiated as a part of the contract with Amey. So, the cost of replacing trees in there; the costs of removing trees and disposing of the trees is in there. SO, ANY DECISIONS ON WHETHER A TREE IS REPLACED IS MADE BY THE COUNCIL, so it’s not really a consideration of Amey’s as to whether it’s a profitable exercise whether to take trees down to sell the timber, but ANYTHING THAT DOES COME FROM THE SALE OF THE TIMBER GOES BACK IN TO THE CONTRACT. So, ultimately, is delivering a cheaper price on the contract with Sheffield City Council.”

    *****
    Perhaps people should ask for the names and contact details of the businesses that are using the arisings (trunk & branch wood, and wood-chip) from street trees felled as part of the Streets Ahead project (over 4,246 mature street trees between August 2012 & 30th December 2016*), and for detail of income raised, and other cost savings made, as a result of sales to each of these? Does Veolia get biomass for free in return for reduced energy costs/free energy? Does Amey or SCC have a contract to supply the power station at Blackburn Meadows (Sheffield)?

    * see Freedom of Information Request – Reference FOI/3308:

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/tree_felling_numbers?nocache=incoming-923563#incoming-923563

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

    *****
    Finally, in another spectacular piece of spin, on 4th April 2017, in the fifth year of its city-wide street tree felling programme, Sheffield City Council decided to announce to the public where their healthy, mature, structurally sound, beloved street trees are ending up, once felled. A piece was published by The Star – a local newspaper :

    “Ever wondered where the timber goes from Sheffield’s thousands of felled trees? Here’s where”:

    http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/ever-wondered-where-the-timber-goes-from-sheffield-s-thousands-of-felled-trees-here-s-where-1-8474877

    *****
    Blackburn Meadows:

    https://www.eonenergy.com/About-eon/our-company/generation/our-current-portfolio/biomass/blackburn-meadows

    https://pressreleases.eon-uk.com/blogs/eonukpressreleases/archive/2014/06/25/2367.aspx

    *****
    Source:
    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/comment/748#comment-748

  7. Technotronic says:

    FESTIVAL OF DEBATE

    “THE SILENT KILLER: AIR POLLUTION – Q&A”

    BY SHEFFIELD STUDENTS’ UNION

    DATE AND TIME
    Mon 22 May 2017
    18:00 – 19:30 BST

    LOCATION
    Raynor Lounge
    Sheffield Students’ Union
    Western Bank
    Sheffield
    S10 2TG

    Description

    “Our expert panel including Greg Fell, Sheffield’s Director of Public Health and Jane Thomas a former senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth UK, will be discussing the health risks of air pollution, which is estimated to lead to the premature deaths of 500 people in Sheffield every year, and calculated to cause £160 million in lost working days in the city due to illness. Come along and ask your questions about this invisible threat.”

    Source:

    https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-silent-killer-air-pollution-qa-tickets-33490108817

    To learn more, see:

    https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/450-year-old-stocksbridge-oak-nominated-sheffields-greatest-tree

    &

    sheffield-councillor-standing-down-for-health-and-personal-reasons-1-8540428

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