STAG Steering Group meeting: 5 March 2019

1. Update on Inspections and recent conversations with Amey and SCC
1.1 Broadly positive feedback on new approach as all the Facebook updates etc show.
1.2 Amey drawing up recommendations to go to SCC. Most reports recommending to SCC that inspected trees are retained.
1.3 Even with the ones that can’t be retained by immediate solutions, Amey are generally recommending that trees be retained, should the Council agree to vary the contract specification.
1.4 Some solutions might require technical drawings which could delay decisions as they will have to be submitted to SCC Highways dept.
1.5 The main problem is delay on the SCC side on making any decisions official.
1.6 There does seem to be disconnect between the politicians and the officers, with the politicians believing that flexibility is being allowed and communicated to Amey whilst Amey operatives are telling STAG that this hasn’t been communicated to them. It would be helpful to clarify this at the next STAG/SCC meeting.
1.7 The very recent move by Amey to inspect all trees on a road (including phased felling trees and currently non-threatened trees) is broadly seen as a good thing. Amey’s aim is to put in place a “whole road solution” that saves all the trees in one location also ensuring that currently safe trees don’t get identified for felling later on. For example, a “whole road solution” for Rundle Road might involve bringing the whole kerb line out by a few centimetres.
1.8 Whilst this was recognised as a good idea there are risks if SCC do not agree. The inspection of currently safe trees on Rundle Road is identifying roots in the carriageway, potentially meaning they are added to the felling list, should SCC not allow the kerb line to be brought out or curved kerb lines to be implemented. This will be added to the list of things to be discussed at the next SCC/STAG meeting.
1.9 Agreed to target Hugh’s time at investigations to reduce strain on his time.

2. Street Tree Strategy
2.1 Meeting arranged with potential chair for meeting on Street Tree Strategy, Liz Ballard.
2.2 Some campaigners are very concerned about Liz Ballard being compromised and not a suitable chair for a meeting. The specific concerns are that the Wildlife Trust receives a small amount of its overall funding from SCC, and that it has to maintain good relations with SCC in the long run.
2.3 There was some discussion. A decision on the chair still hasn’t been made. Others have been approached, but none have yet shown interest.
2.4 An exploratory meeting with Liz is planned in the next few weeks where questions will be posed to ascertain her suitability as a chair as far as STAG is concerned.

3. Third party damage fellings
3.1 Four more third party damage trees have recently been notified to STAG by Amey, and their intention is to fell soon. Of these four, three are scheduled for simple third party damage, one for subsidence.
3.2 Heather pointed out that she and other Steering Group members had met Darren Butt in the late summer to discuss Amey processes around this. They were relatively confident about Amey’s processes around subsidence, as it involved insurers, and a proper monitoring and inspection process.
3.3 However they were not at all confident with the process Amey use to investigate simple third party damage claims. If a resident blames a tree for damaging a boundary wall, an Amey staff member visits, makes a judgement and a recommendation.
3.4 Steering Group agreed that this process potentially opens up many more trees for felling should residents make debatable complaints.
3.5 In the short term Steering Group agreed that these concerns needed to be expressed to Amey and SCC urgently at the next meeting.
3.6 In the longer term robust processes for Third party damage claims need to be reflected in the Street Tree Strategy.

4. Inquiry
4.1 There was a brief discussion. Currently no agreed list of the issues that need to form the basis of any inquiry.
4.2 Helen Kemp and Christine King agreed to work with Chris Rust on this. Paul Brooke said he’d contact Chris.

5. SCC Cabinet changes
5.1 it was noted that Cllr. Dagnall now has additional responsibilities following Cllr. Scott’s removal and that the Cabinet now has only 9 members.

6. Local Groups and the upcoming Local Elections
6.1 Local groups may wish to look at who they might want to support in their area.
6.2 Theresa Green has drafted some questions for local candidates. Local groups may wish to use these in their area. Paul S and Paul H happy to comment on these if required.

7. Roles and Responsibilities of local group representatives
7.1 The question was raised as to how much activity local reps should be organising. Agreed this was a matter for local circumstances to determine. Communication, via whatever means is most appropriate for each group, is the key responsibility.
7.2 SNET has an informative information dissemination mechanism and anyone who wishes to sign up can do so via the SNET website.

8. Facebook Group daily “Pink Boxes”
8.1 Agreed to continue sharing pink boxes on local websites despite one complaint. SG members encouraged to like and comment on these where possible and/or appropriate.

9. Saplings
9.1 STOMP have been measuring a large number of the replacement saplings as they believed they were smaller than the contract specification and not what had been quoted in multiple court cases. Their evidence from around 295 saplings is that 100 or so of them are indeed too small.
9.2 This is not just recent ones from the “dodgy batch” (see below) that Amey records acknowledge are too small, but also ones which Amey records say are the correct size
9.3 The “dodgy batch” of saplings are a large order of trees which Amey had mistakenly accepted and paid for even though they were the wrong size. Darren Butt has openly admitted to this error. No evidence that SCC have requested any action as a result.
9.4 Christine and Caroline agreed to work with Phil to come up with a simple document of evidence to be sent to Cllr Dagnall requesting answers and rectification.

10. Anniversary Celebration
10.1 Cecilie mentioned that she was organising a social to celebrate it being a year since the felling pause began. Agreed that this was a good idea, so Cecilie will continue arrangements.
10.2 Also mentioned that it was John Errington’s memorial party on 24 March.

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Posted in Minutes from official meetings

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