Petition update

IMPORTANT INFORMATION - KEEP FOR REFERENCE

Deepa Shetty
Sheffield, ENG, United Kingdom

Nov 8, 2016 — Dear supporters

Thank you for all your continued efforts, wherever you are!

It would be worth reading the following through a couple of times, to help assimilate important information.

Save Our Roadside Trees (SORT), as a Sheffield Tree Action Group (the first), continues to campaign alongside other very active groups across the city, e.g. in Nether Edge and Gleadless Valley. These STAG groups are campaigning citywide for Sheffield Council and Amey – the PFI contractor for the £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance project – to implement current good practice and adequately enforce compliance with it.

As SORT have done for over eighteen months, we will continue to highlight and oppose bad practice, and campaign for sustainable management and care of Sheffield's Urban Forest: in particular, its ~26,000 mature street trees, most of which face the axe because they are associated with disruption to kerbs and pavements and boundary walls, or because they require pruning on a cyclical basis.

Alternative highway engineering specifications for footway, kerb, drain or wall construction have not been commissioned or drafted for consideration as a means to retain mature trees, yet Sheffield City Council and Amey continue to assert that felling is a last resort. The PFI contract permits ~70% of mature street trees to be felled. That represents a catastrophic, loss of canopy cover and severe diminishment of associated, valuable, ecosystem service benefits that street trees afford to neighbourhoods and communities for each year of life.

Prior to the Streets Ahead project, Elliott Consultancy Ltd completed “Sheffield City Highways Tree Survey 2006 – 2007”. Elliott recommended that SCC adopt a tree strategy and recommended 1,000 TREES FOR FELLING, with an additional 241 to be crown reduced or to be considered for felling. Of the 35,000 street trees, Elliott stated: “There are 25,000 trees requiring no work at present”. Elliott advised: “Approximately 10,000 trees needed some form of remedial treatment”. Later, Elliott added:

“Did I tell them they needed to remove half of their tree stock? No. Did I tell them 70% of trees were nearing the end of their life? No […] Did I even suggest that the 10,000 bits of tree work were urgent? No - you have seen the power point and it was clearly explained that 25,000 trees needed no work and of that, 10,000 almost half, were routine crown-lifting operations, another quarter being dead wooding operations, and others including the whole gamut of routine works etc. (I did suggest to them that there were a couple of hundred trees that could be retained, but their condition was such that they may merit replacement – this was the only pre-emptive felling issue that I recall mentioning)”.

At the meeting of full Council, in Sheffield Town Hall on 1st July 2015, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport (Cllr Terry Fox) indicated that Elliott’s recommendations formed the basis for the Amey PFI contract for the Streets Ahead project. The Cabinet Member stated: “We had an independent survey done in 2006-2007 which helps us inform our priorities for the formation of the contract”. However, Amey have adopted a “6Ds” approach: any tree that is classed as Dangerous, Dead, Dying, Diseased, Damaging, or causing Discrimination (“Causing severe obstruction to pavements”) can be felled. Even the most minor disruption to pavements, kerbs or walls is used to justify felling. The way these criteria are currently being used, means that most mature street trees are likely to be felled during the Amey PFI contract.

To date, over 4,000 street trees have been felled (most were HEALTHY). In Nether Edge and elsewhere, trees have also been scheduled for felling on the basis that strimmers, mowers or machinery used in close proximity to trees during resurfacing works, such as diggers and the planing machines, will cause damage to roots, of such severity that tree health and structural integrity will be compromised to such extent, that the only reasonable option is to fell affected trees. Such damage is avoidable, in most instances, by compliance with current, nationally recognised good practice guidance and recommendations, many of which the Streets Ahead team claim they aim to “build on” and wrongly claim to comply with.

With regard to frequent, continued non-compliance with current good practice, in a communication dated 8th December 2015, Simon Green (Executive Director of Sheffield City Council's Place Management Team)* stated:

“In terms of BS 5837 / NJUG, as has been advised in numerous pieces of correspondence to campaign group activists, we are aware of a small number of isolated incidents where street lighting subcontractors have operated in breach of NJUG guidance. This has been comprehensively addressed by the Council’s client technical team, including a mandatory retraining of the entire Amey workforce and supply chain of subcontractors for the entire project to ensure that this does not occur again.”

*Email: simon.green@sheffield.gov.uk

If re-training has occurred, it has been ineffective, as there continue to be frequent occurrences of non-compliance with current good practice that result in irreversible damage to valuable trees. Currently, SORT are not aware that Sheffield City Council or Amey have any steps in place to ensure timely intervention to stop damaging / harmful acts that have been identified, or to safeguard against unnecessary, avoidable damage, loss and environmental degradation. Remember, the Government has agreed to adopt & apply the precautionary principle in its agreement to Agenda 21at the Earth Summit meeting at Rio, in 1992, which states:

“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.' (Principle 15)".

In October 2016, Freedom of Information request (FOI/2671) response (from SCC’s Resources Business Support team) stated:

“The Streets Ahead contract is based on performance self-monitoring by Amey. However, in order to ensure compliance with the contract, the Council undertakes a 100% audit check of tree replacement proposals and a 10% sample check of tree maintenance works.”

In a separate communication, later the same month, Darren Butt (the Amey Operations Director), stated:

“With regards to monitoring of our activities and improvements, the Streets Ahead Highways Maintenance contract is based on the principle of performance self-monitoring and is robustly self-monitored by Amey, this does not however mean that the works are not independently scrutinised and regulated. Sheffield City Council carries out such sample checks as are necessary to validate the Amey self-monitoring regime. There are various performance measures and targets included in the Highway Maintenance contract...”

Mr Butt is responsible for all tree work, and ALL highway MAINTENANCE once core investment works have been done (new lighting and resurfacing, etc). Please note that Amey’s Graeme Symonds is the Core Investment Project Director. As such, he is responsible for all NEW resurfacing, drainage and lighting works – the works that damage trees. At the Amey roadshow in Heeley, in November 2015, Mr Butt informed that both he and Mr Symonds ensure that both their teams work in cooperation, to minimise the likelihood of acts harmful to trees. However, to date, there has been an absence of any evidence to support the claim.

In September, 2016, at the Amey roadshow on Psalter Lane, Amey’s Area Stewards (PR people) informed that Sheffield City Council’s Highways PFI Client Team is responsible for the provision of adequate on-site supervision, monitoring and auditing of highway works in close proximity to trees, and for adequate enforcement of compliance with good practice and policy commitments. The Stewards informed that if you fill out a form at a roadshow event, to ask a question, complain, or request information, it is sent to the Council’s Highways PFI Client Team. The team is responsible for providing technical expertise for the Streets Ahead project and is led by David Needham. Contact details are as follows:

E-mail: David.Needham@sheffield.gov.uk

E-mail: highwayspficlientteam@sheffield.gov.uk

Tel: 0114 205 7421 (preferably before 4:00pm)

ADDRESS:
5th Floor,
Howden House,
1 Union Street
Sheffield
S1 2SH.

It is thought that David Wain, as Leader of the Council’s Environmental Maintenance Technical Team, is part of the Highways PFI Client Team. He is the Council’s Environmental Technical Officer, within the Highways Maintenance Division, “responsible for highway trees”; he has also attended a “street walk” and has been a panel “expert” at the two “bi-monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum meetings that have occurred to date (the latest of which was on 2nd September, 2015). Mr Wain can be contacted via E-mail: David.Wain@sheffield.gov.uk

In August, 2016, the SCC Cabinet Member for the Environment (Cllr Bryan Lodge) informed that Sheffield City Council’s Highways PFI Client Team do not have any arboriculturists of their own, as all SCC arboriculturists have left and are now employed by Amey. However, the FOI/2671 request asked:

“How many competent arboriculturists are directly employed by Sheffield City Council to oversee Tree maintenance in the Streets Ahead project?”

The response:
“Sheffield City Council directly employs 5 staff with arboricultural qualifications on the Streets Ahead contract.”

The response does not necessarily indicate whether or not the “staff with arboricultural qualifications” are in fact arboriculturists, or whether or not they are competent. Both terms are defined within the British Standards that Sheffield City Council and Amey claim to comply with and aim to “build on” (BS 5837:2012 & BS 3998:2010)

“3.3 arboriculturist
Person who has, through relevant education, training and experience, gained expertise in the field of trees in relation to construction

3.4 competent person
Person who has training and experience relevant to the matter being addressed and an understanding of the requirements of the particular task being approached

NOTE A competent person is expected to be able to advise on the best means by which the recommendations of this British Standard may be implemented.”
(The British Standards Institution, 2012, p. 3)

After a wait of over fourteen months, we now have an opportunity to help shape what we hope will be Sheffield’s first tree strategy. A draft is currently online for public consultation, with a response deadline for the end of November, 2016. We are greatly inspired by the United Nations’ recent publication of urban forestry guidance (FAO Forestry Paper 178), aimed at decision-makers, and, with continued support from the Woodland Trust and a range of leading green space professionals, particularly leading figures from the world of arboriculture, we remain hopeful for a more enlightened, modern approach to tree population management by Sheffield City Council and its strategic partners. Hopefully, a planned, systematic, integrated approach that recognises the value of trees and associated benefits, promotes and enforces compliance with current good practice, and ensures that policy and decisions are: “Soundly based on available evidence, and not unduly influenced by transitory or exaggerated opinions” (The National Tree Safety Group, 2011, p. 25).

The UN good practice guidance (FAO Forestry Paper 178) can be accessed here:  http://www.fao.org/forestry/news/92439/en/

To find out more, follow these links:
http://bit.ly/2dGxO01

https://www.stocksbridgecommunity.org/news/published-after-wait-14-months-sheffields-first-draught-tree-strategy-available-public-comment

“The Sheffield street tree population is owned by the people of Sheffield and the council are just custodians of these trees” ~ Moray Simpson (Arboriculturist and former Chairman of Municipal Tree Officer’s Association).

Thank you for all your ongoing help and support everybody. Please comment on Sheffield’s draft tree strategy ASAP - time is short!

AFOOFA
SORT


References:

1. The British Standards Institution, 2012. British Standard 5837:2012 Trees in Relation to Design, Demolition and Construction - Recommendations". London: BSI Standards Ltd.

2. The National Tree Safety Group, 2011. Common Sense Risk Management of Trees: Guidance on trees and public safety in the UK for owners, managers and advisers. Forestry Commission Stock Code: FCMS024 ed. Edinburgh: Forestry Commission.
Available at: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/FCMS024.pdf/$FILE/FCMS024.pdf


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