With misrepresentation of LabourSheffield’s tree replacement strategy having had another airing today by all sides, here’s a timely reminder of how we are safeguarding Sheffield’s Green credentials for the future.
There are 5 key strands to the tree replacement strategy
We are maintaining and replacing the city’s street tree stock and building Sheffield’s green status for future generations.
Trees that are replaced are subject to consultation surveys with local residents and trees are only being replaced where the majority of local residents have indicated support for the proposals
Where residents object to the proposals they are referred to the independent tree panel which provides advice to the council
We are open and transparent with the Sheffield public ensuring all relevant information is available and in the public domain
We are committed to delivering the Streets Ahead programme which is a long awaited improvement to Sheffield’s highway network
In support of these 5 key strands we’d add the following important points
1) Streets Ahead is about protecting our tree stock over the long term
· This programme is the largest investment there has ever been in the city’s street trees.
· The strategic aim of the Streets Ahead 5 year Tree Management Strategy is to protect the city’s 36,000 street trees for generations to come.
· An independent survey of the street tree population was undertaken in 2007 which found that 75% of the city’s street trees were assessed as being mature or over mature with the potential of a catastrophic decline in the health and safety of a number of street trees being highly likely if a sustainable programme of replacement was not undertaken. This does not mean that this percentage of trees will be replaced. Removal is a last resort and only carried out when all considerations have been met.
· Without this programme, our children and grandchildren will not be able to say they live in one of the greenest cities in Britain. This tree replacement work is absolutely vital to maintain Sheffield’s tree-lined streets for years to come. Without the Streets Ahead programme, dying or dangerous trees will not be replaced.
· Since Streets Ahead started we have removed 3388 trees and planted 3618. Our aim is to increase the number of trees in Sheffield.
2) We have listened to people’s concerns
· We’ve listened to people’s concerns and paused the programme to survey 5136 households on the 80 streets where we are planning tree replacements. Each household on the streets in question were sent a letter containing a web address to complete a survey on line, with full details of the proposal included. We wrote to all households including flats. The consultation was far more detailed and extensive than that required by law.
· Of the 5136 households who were sent a letter, 679 responded (a response rate of 13%). Of the 679 responses, 285 were in agreement with our plans, with the remaining 389 not in agreement of our plans. So, of the respondents, 57% of these were not in agreement with our plans, while 43% were in favour.
· Even though only 13% of those households replied, we have still referred 42 streets to an Independent Tree Panel. Referrals are made to the Panel when more than 50% of respondents on a street object to the proposals.
· The following people have been appointed to the Independent Tree Panel: Andy Buck (Chair); Jacquie Stubbs (Independent Panel Member); Phillip Duckett (Consultant at STS Health and Safety); David Graham (Managing Director of David A Graham Associates Limited); and Andy Bagshaw (Arboricultural Consultant).
· The streets that have been referred to the Independent Tree Panel will be considered in three batches, with the first recommendations due to be made around the end of February.
· On 26 February the Council is launching consultation on its Trees and Woodlands Strategy, which will set out the Council’s commitment to its 170 woodlands as well as its street trees. A drop-in event will be held for members of the public at Sheffield Town Hall and more information will be published soon.
3) Alternative engineering solutions are not affordable
· Officers have produced some approximate figures looking at the cost of alternative engineering solutions not provided for within the Streets Ahead contract. Implementing these would cost the council thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands of pounds, for each tree.
· We have just had to save another £50m from our budget as a result of Government cuts, on top of a further £300m since 2010. With this scale of cuts such additional costs are not affordable. If the opposition parties think otherwise, we expect to see these costs accounted for in their alternative budgets.
· The estimated cost of implementing engineering solutions on all the trees that require them is £14-25 million
· Here is a breakdown of the estimated costs:
- approx 100 that just can’t be worked around as it would leave too big a step or drainage issues to properties
- approx 200 that would need a significant solution, possibly including design work: £50,000 – £100,000 per tree
- approx 1000 that would need a medium solution affecting kerbs and footway: £3,000 - £5,000 per tree
- approx 700 that would need a low solution of footway ramping: £1,000 per tree
4) Sheffield’s Lib Dems are guilty of barefaced hypocrisy over this issue
Plans to replace highway trees as part of Sheffield’s Streets Ahead project were first drawn up by Liberal Democrat Councillors when they were in control of the council in 2009.
A specification document outlining the work Lib Dem Councillors wanted completing was drawn up for potential bidders for contracts.
The document which includes a forward by former Lib Dem Leader of the Council Paul Scriven, said that the Lib Dems wanted to see:
“A significant improvement in the standard of tree maintenance ……, with large numbers of over-mature trees being replaced by more appropriate species, and others pruned, crowned or otherwise maintained in a safe condition. The Authority will require the overall number of highway trees across the City to be sustained at current levels and the highway tree stock returned to a more balanced age-profile during the course of the Project.”
The report also goes on to say “The Project is fully supported by the Authority’s majority Liberal Democrat Party”