Acorn Environmental Management Group: stop chopping Sheffield's healthy street trees

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We are asking Acorn Environmental Management Group to withdraw their services from the "Streets Ahead" highway maintenance contract in Sheffield.

The 25 year PFI contract for highway maintenance in Sheffield includes a target for Amey to chop down 17,500 street trees(1) - that's nearly half of the street trees in the city.  Since 2012, over 5,500 street trees have been removed.  The majority of them have been healthy, and causing only minor damage to pavements which could easily be repaired using standard techniques.

These unnecessary fellings have provoked increasingly vocal protests by peaceful campaigners who are distressed at the unnecessary loss of the city's ecological assets.

The 17,500 target was secret until Sheffield City Council were forced to publish part of the contract in March 2018 (2). However local people have long argued that the scale of tree-felling on Sheffield's streets is unnecessary and unjustifiable. These views are supported by various national and international experts in arboriculture and highway engineering (3). In order to remove half of the street trees in the city, it is inevitable that a large proportion of healthy trees will be removed that are not causing any significant problems with the highway, and could otherwise be retained if the target did not exist.

Since Amey's own arborists, and other local companies, have withdrawn from the tree-felling only Acorn Environmental Group have continued to be involved.

As Arb Approved contractors, Acorn are required to meet and uphold the Arboricultural Association's Code of Ethics (4).  This includes the commitment to practice the profession "with due regard to sound ecological, social, economic and environmental principles to the advantage of present and future generations." (5)

This programme is also contrary to Acorn's own Sustainability Policy (6). According to this policy document, Acorn Environmental Management Group "shall achieve its sustainability vision by: Making a positive environmental impact wherever it is
possible to do so [and] Measuring and monitoring its impact upon the local community and ensuring that the local community benefits from its proximity to the organisation"

Street trees are known to have positive environmental and health benefits and there is an increasing body of research evidence to support this.  These benefits are recognised and promoted by cities throughout the world (7, 8, 9) For example, street trees can have health benefits equivalent to being seven years younger (10).

By continuing to participate in the unsustainable tree-felling programme in Sheffield, Acorn Environmental Management Group are supporting and condoning the harm that is being done to the city and its residents, breaching the Arboricultural Association's Code of Ethics and their own Sustainability Policy.

We call on Acorn Environmental Services Group to withdraw their services from Amey in Sheffield with immediate effect.

 

References

1 - Sheffield City Council: Streets Ahead Contract Schedule 2 (Service Standards) https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/dam/sheffield/docs/roads-and-pavements/streetsahead/Schedule%202,%20Service%20Standards_Redacted_2018.pdf Performance requirement 6.38 "The Service Provider [Amey] shall replace Highway Trees in accordance with the Annual Tree Management Programme at a rate of not less than 200 per year so that 17,500 Highway Trees are replaced by the end of the Term, such replacement to be in accordance with the Highway Tree Replacement Policy, unless Authority Approval has been obtained for deviation from this policy" (Note: Sheffield City Council have confirmed that no deviation has been agreed).

2 - Information Commissioner's Office: Freedom of Information Act decision notice ref FS50689106 https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2018/2173213/fs50689106.pdf

3 - Sheffield Tree Action Groups: What the experts say https://savesheffieldtrees.org.uk/what-the-experts-say/

4 - Arboricultural Association: Become and Arb Approved Contractor https://www.trees.org.uk/Accreditation/Become-an-ARB-Approved-Contractor

5 - Arboricultural Association: Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct https://www.trees.org.uk/Help-Advice/Public/Our-members-code-of-ethics-and-professional-conduc

6 - Acorn Environmental Management Group: Sustainability Policy http://acorn-grp.co.uk/pdf/Sustainable-Development-Policy-2017.pdf

7 - City of Vancouver: Benefits of trees https://www.cityofvancouver.us/publicworks/page/benefits-trees

8 - Hackney Borough Council: Biodiversity Action Plan 2012-17 https://www.hackney.gov.uk/media/6489/biodiversity-action-plan/.../BAP-2012-2017

9 - Stephen Lacey in the Daily Telegraph: Why we should plant more urban trees https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/problem-solving/why-we-should-plant-more-urban-trees/

10 - Kardan, Gozdyra, et al: Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center https://www.nature.com/articles/srep11610



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