STAG Steering Group meeting: 3 December 2019

1. Matters arising

1.1 TPO – Paul passed round a brief note that will form the basis of this ongoing work.1.2 Loan to Sarah Deakin for merchandise approved.

2. Pro Active Legal Work

2.1 Paul S updated on this.

3. Review meeting with Councillors Jones and Bishop

3.1 This is still yet to happen at time of meeting.

4. Draft Tree Review Document

4.1 Final draft awaited for distribution.4.2 Also still to be run past key personnel in the Council.4.3 Publication date before Xmas likely.

5. People’s Inquiry

5.1  No further progress

6. Tree Disease Conference

6.1 No further news. Heather volunteered to assist Caroline.

7. National Lottery Climate Fund

7.1 Approach from Regather and Sheffield Climate Alliance re this funding.

7.2 Currently we’re not set up as an organisation in any official sense but no reason why we couldn’t be. 

7.3 An Expression of Interest could be submitted.

7.4 Paul B to take forward and potentially attend Sheffield Climate Alliance.

8. Petition for Street Trees on Abbeydale Road

8.1 A trader has set up this petition. Paul B to respond and offer assistance or engagement from STAG.

9. Tree Planting Update

9.1 STAG bought 2 trees for this initiative by Green City Heritage – a Sessile Oak and a Field Maple. Planted at Townfield Head Farm.

9.2 The Tree Charter Principles may form a template for a future STAG organisation. Heather to follow up with Woodland Trust representative.

9.3 Andrew and Russell still looking for suitable sites. Response so far has been slow. 

9.4 After delays surrounding the GCH initiative because of the actions of certain Councillors, Parks and Woodlands have now contacted us with a more positive approach.

9.5 The owner of Townfield Head Farm has proposed the use of some of their land as a potential community tree nursery.

9.6 Has anyone any space or contacts with space where whips could be planted? All SG members asked to look at this.

10. STAG Future

10.1 For info – Amey now have more detailed info on all street trees including CAVAT and itree information. Done for them by a separate company.

10.2 Noted that other Councils have started to resolve issues around street trees with “Tree Forums”. Not recommended that any similar body in Sheffield be called that owing to issues with previous incarnations.

10.3 What might a future organisational structure for STAG look like? It seems at present we are effectively an “Unincorporated Association”. If we wished to be “Incorporated” as a charity or a “Community Interest Company” that carries some legal advantages around liability. there is also the possibility of a new crossover – a “Charitable Incorporated Organisation”. Paul B will send round information he has gathered on the different models.

10.4 However, in all cases, any future STAG would need to have individuals willing to take on the leadership role. We would need some clarity on who that might be.

10.5 An open meeting to discuss the future is a possibility.

11. AOB

11.1 Paul H thanked those who had expressed willingness to assist the former Chair of Friends of the Botanical Gardens with information to assist her in writing an article.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Minutes from official meetings

STAG Steering Group meeting: 5 November 2019

1. Tree Disease Conference

1.1 Caroline Millman met with Ian Rotherham to discuss ideas. He agreed he would be willing to help STAG organise the conference.

1.2 The exact nature of the conference remains to be decided but main priorities are to build a consensus view on how to deal with the Phytophthora outbreak in Lime trees and how to ensure Amey take a sensible approach to Ash Dieback, rather than felling all Ash trees at the first sign of disease.

1.3 Paul Selby took an action to begin a thread on the STAG Steering Group Facebook page to allow consensus building on the nature of the conference.

2. Tree Preservation Orders

2.1 This was a topic that Paul Brooke had raised at the previous SG meeting, but which we didn’t have much time to discuss.

2.2 The initial idea was to begin sending in many TPO applications for all sorts of urban trees, not just street trees, to get wide community participation in this and build a media campaign to put pressure on SCC.

2.3 However, following discussion, a better plan is to start by asking SCC to put a blanket TPO on all trees in the SCC geographic area, as part of the climate emergency.

3. Joint Investigations and the Review document

3.1 Re-drafting work continues but Paul Brooke still believes this will be published before Christmas.

4. Outstanding fines owed to SCC

4.1 SG members continue to support individuals in dispute with SCC over outstanding fines and sensible ways forward continue to be sought.

5. Legal Update

5.1 Paul Brooke and Paul Selby updated SG on conversations with legal advisers about potential future actions.

6. Further Legal Update

6.1 Paul Brooke will contact Rebecca about the action agreed some time ago.

7. People’s Inquiry Update

7.1 At the last meeting SG confirmed STAG’s support for Alan Story’s approach.

7.2 The launch of the General Election campaign means this is on hold until January

7.3 It was noted that separately Cllr Mark Jones is meeting with Bishop Pete in the next few weeks to discuss a potential “Truth and Reconciliation” project.

8. Tree Charter Tree Planting Event

8.1 The approach has changed in the last month, with the plan now being for Tree Charter week to be launched in a different way by Green City Heritage, with STAG in a supporting role.

8.2 More will be announced soon, but it is likely to be 30th November at Manor Hills.

9. Proposed Tree works on Ecclesall Road

9.1 Amey notified STAG on 4th November of potential fellings of 3 trees they are classifying as “dying” on Ecclesall Road this weekend.

9.2 STAG have opposed this approach given the short notice and the absence of any suggestion that the trees are currently dangerous. The short notice means that no independent advice can be sought.

9.3 These trees are also supposed to be subject to joint investigation work.

9.4 Amey have been informed of STAG’s view but have not yet responded.

9.5 UPDATE post meeting – Amey have decided not to proceed with any fellings on Ecclesall Road for the time being. 

10. Future of STAG

10.1 No further progress to report.

11. Tree Numbers

11.1 Christine is trying to get Amey and SCC to confirm how many street trees Amey will hand back to SCC at the end of the contract, plus how many it took over in 2012, and any explanations for differences in numbers.

11.2 However she is acting on partial information that doesn’t include all the data from Helen Kemp. 

11.3 In addition the situation is confused by Amey and SCC rounding up numbers and SCC’s inconsistent answers to enquiries.

11.4 The action was left with Christine to formulate a clear idea of what she needs to know, then to pose those questions clearly to SCC. Finally to take up with Paul Brooke and Tree Strategy group if she isn’t happy with answers received.

12. Request for a loan

12.1 Sarah Deakin approached Chris and Paul to seek a loan from STAG of £1000 to fund the production of 100 more Heartwood poem glossy framed pictures to generate funds in STAGs name for Indian tree planting initiatives (one of Robert Macfarlane’s ideas).

12.2 Steering Group approved provisionally, subject to Chris confirming he was content to make such loans as STAG Treasurer.

13. Dead Trees notified by Amey

13.1 A month ago Amey notified STAG of around 80 dead trees they intend to fell.

13.2 STAG SG members have inspected every one and accepted all are dead apart from 6 where we have asked for further information.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Minutes from official meetings

STAG Steering Group meeting: 1 October 2019

1. Treasurers Update

1.1Chris Rust, STAG Treasurer, attended the full Steering Group meeting, and provided a verbal financial update. All supporters loans have now been repaid.

2. Merchandise Sales and Documentary film funding.

2.1 There was a long discussion about the agreed donation of £500 to Jaq Pitchelwitch’s documentary film on the campaign and whether it should be increased and whether another filmmaker’s documentary should be supported. It was agreed that the donation to Jaq’s film should remain at £500 and that no other films would receive funding at this time.

2.2 it was also agreed that Cecilie should continue selling STAG merchandise with funds to be directed to Jaq’s film and that this arrangement could continue until further notice

3. Joint Tree Inspections and the Review

3.1 The draft of the minutes and lessons learned from the Review meeting are undergoing final re-drafting, before it is published on the Council website.

3.2 It is agreed that it is an excellent document at the moment, and contains things that could be useful in future dealings with the Council.

3.3 Helen Kemp’s photographs and evidence will also be included in the document.

3.4 Joint Investigations remain on hold. But this is acceptable for both STAG and Amey because the Review document includes lessons learned that will allow Amey to save trees more easily and in better ways, once the investigations re-start

4. Future of STAG

4.1 An initial session had been held on this topic at the June meeting but no progress has been made since then.

4.2 SNET have made some progress on future legacy issues at their meetings and this has prompted STAG Steering Group to add this back to the Steering Group agenda. 

4.3 It is also the case that most other local groups have become somewhat moribund. Bearing this in mind, Paul Brooke proposed that STAG aim to become a city wide tree action group with membership and a constitution, inviting members of local groups across the city to become members.

4.4 There was a debate about what would then happen to the local tree action groups, with the general consensus being to “mothball” them, not wind them down, so that they were ready to spring up again, should conflict with Sheffield Council ever return.

4.5 All of this should not be fully implemented until peace with the Council and Amey is fully signed up to, likely possible date being Spring 2020.

4.6 Paul Brooke agreed to draft a proposal document that could be used as a consistent message to all local groups, when consulting them.

5. Legal Update

5.1 Paul Selby provided a very brief update, which was that Ben Manovic (pro bono solicitor and STAG supporter) is still looking at the legal questions Paul Brooke and I asked him.

6. LGO complaints about injunctions

6.1 This was something Rebecca had agreed to take forward but no progress as yet to report. Action agreed for Rebecca to begin a draft complaint letter that could be used as a template.

7. People’s Inquiry

7.1 Paul Brooke and Paul Selby updated Steering Group members on the proposal that Alan Story has made to hold a People’s Inquiry into the Sheffield Street Tree Crisis. It would be modelled on something Huddersfield is currently doing, hiring a retired Judge to chair an Inquiry into a hospital closure.

7.2 As nobody else was doing anything serious to start an Inquiry it would appear that either somebody else needs to lead on getting one, or STAG needs to lend our support to Alan’s proposal.

7.3 The consensus in Steering Group was to support the initiative, but that it would benefit from being officially independent of STAG, even if Steering Group members sat on the organising group.

7.4 Chris R had completed an action he began in the Spring to create an easy to use repository, where any member of the public could submit evidence for the Inquiry. He now will write up simple to understand guidance

7.5 Paul Brooke agreed to speak to Alan, confirming what STAG Steering Group had agreed.

8. Tree Disease Conference

8.1 It was agreed back in April/May that STAG should organise one, with the main topic being the Phytophthora disease of lime trees, and what to do about it in an urban environment. Some STAG Steering Group members had agreed to take it forward but, for a variety of reasons, there has been no progress.

8.2 Caroline Millman agreed to do what she could, and Paul Brooke agreed to send her a “brain dump” of his thoughts to date.

9. Tree Planting

9.1 Russell Johnson and Paul Brooke updated everyone on continued progress towards their goal of lots of STAG organised tree planting during the last week of November. Publicity will be going out soon.

9.2 Steering Group members approved funding of up to £1000, should it be needed.

9.3 Combined with the tree planting, Russell talked about a potential social event on the evening of November 23rd.

10. New Trees Listed for Felling by Amey

10.1 Darren Butt had notified Helen Kemp of a new batch of 80 Dead/Dying/Diseased trees which Amey want to fell in the coming weeks.

10.2 Steering Group members volunteered to inspect some of them, and divide the rest up on the Steering Group Facebook Group post Helen had made.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Minutes from official meetings

STAG Steering Group meeting: 3 September 2019

1. Matters Arising
1.1 Paul B approved payment to Jaq Pixelwitch for her film about the campaign.
1.2 Rebecca/Paul B still looking at framework complaint letters for people to use.

2. Tree Review with SCC/Amey
2.1 Hugh, Paul B, Heather, Christine and Helen have attended.
2.2 In the case of trees for potential felling now or in the future SCC have said they won’t approve any without evidence of investigations having occurred and photos.
2.3 For discriminatory trees they have confirmed that they don’t require a wide
pavement on both sides of the road.
2.4 Helen showed attendees a slideshow of example trees which proved that the ITP was right on numerous occasions where they recommended that a tree could be saved.
2.5 There are examples of trees where a kerbstone has been left out and these were shown.
2.6 The review group are now looking at how the first draft will be written with examples of lessons learned and actions for the future. Likely to be by subject or theme, eg, kerbline.
2.7 Paul B will send the draft round to SG for comments in due course.

3. Legal Update
3.1 An update on meetings with legal representatives and potential future steps was given.

4. Tree Conference
4.1 PB has contacted the University via Ffion. She has suggested contacting Nigel Dunnett and Ian Rotherham, PB will send emails to these contacts. Lee Armstrong will send PB details of other possible contacts.
4.2 The Street Trees and politics conference is in a couple of weeks.

5. Joint Investigations
5.1 Currently paused. Some of the Amey team with experience have left or are unavailable. There will be a need for others to be brought in who can learn the methodology before a restart can be made.

6. Street Tree Strategy
6.1 STAG has produced some documentation in preparation which has been sent round.
6.2 The next meeting has been delayed but others have been scheduled for the next few months.

7. SCC Cabinet changes
7.1 Cllr Mark Jones has taken over the remit and has been contacted by Paul B and Christine. He has responded positively.

8. Tree Planting
8.1 Scheme preparation is up and running. PB has followed up with Woodland Trust and Trees for Cities are also interested. Councillors could be contacted for possible locations.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Minutes from official meetings, News

STAG Steering Group meeting: 13 August 2019

1. Heritage Walks
1.1 Paul Brooke updated members on the request/invite to STAG from Sheffield Heritage Week to organise tree/protest related walks.
1.2 Paul S and Jim Clarke will be leading a number of walks during that week, mainly in the Nether Edge area.
1.3 There is a surprising interest in what our campaign achieved in the Sheffield heritage community.

2. Joint Investigations
2.1 There was a discussion about the disorganisation at Amey. Many of us commented how it is now really stretching it to describe the investigations as “joint” given the short notice we are given, and constantly changing plans.
2.2 Paul Brooke and Christine will be raising this and a number of related matters with Darren Butt later this week in a meeting with him and Mick Croft (Paul Billington’s replacement).
2.3 Despite the Amey chaos, the Amey work is still producing the sort of outcomes we would want, putting in place simple solutions that should lead to nearly all the threatened trees being retained in the end.
2.4 There was a clear action point for all those who still had outstanding reports from Joint Investigations to submit them to Helen Kemp.

3. Poor Amey Practice
3.1 Christine reported back on some shockingly bad practice by Amey subcontractors on Rivelin Valley Road pavement resurfacing work. Not only were the subcontractors blatantly violating NJUG guidance, but the Amey supervisors were fine with them doing this.
3.2 Worse, there was a serious breach of health and safety, over a full morning, involving a child in the safety zone.
3.3 Hugh Clough and Christine have put in a catalogue of serious complaints to Amey, and Hugh has reported the H&S breach to the HSE.
3.4 This will be a topic of conversation between SCC, Amey, Paul and Christine at their meeting later this week

4. Sheffield Council rubber stamping Amey recommendations to retain indefinitely
4.1 Mick Croft seems much happier than Paul Billington to allow the STAG reports on the joint investigations to be included in the document Amey are submitting for each tree, so that he and his team can see the two pieces of evidence together.
4.2 Dates are now being looked into to book in a full day meeting between STAG, SCC and Amey to review the first proper batch of trees for likely final decision by SCC

5. Forestry Commission Investigation
5.1 Paul S updated STAG Steering Group on ongoing conversations with the Woodland Trust about the national implications of the FC report.
5.2 The Woodland Trust believe it is already causing other local authorities to stop and think and change their actions around the felling of street trees.
5.3 The Woodland Trust and others believe that it would now be difficult for SCC or Amey to fell more street trees in Sheffield without applying to the FC for a licence, unless there was evidence of obvious danger/obstruction/serious damage.
5.4 SG discussed the legal implications of the report and potential future actions.

6. Tree Disease Conference
6.1 Shelley and Christine had agreed in April to begin to organise a conference in Sheffield to focus on Ash Dieback and the emerging Phytophthora threat to Lime trees. Time had not allowed further progress. Lee volunteered to take this forward.

7. Organised Tree Planting
7.1 Paul Brooke talked about Tree Charter Week coming up in November, and how as a Tree Charter branch (as well as for legacy reasons), it would be really good if STAG could lead a large tree planting campaign that week, building on the success of Calvin and Paul Powlesland’s efforts last year.
7.2 He had already approached Andrew Stringer to lead this, and who was keen. But he wanted a STAG Steering Group joint lead too. Russell volunteered. Paul will now meet with Russell and Andrew, before handing this task over.
7.3 It is likely that all local groups will be asked to support them, particularly in identifying sites such as community ground where people want trees to be planted, and it is legal to do so.

8. Inquiry
8.1 Paul Brooke and Russell reported that there had been an interesting change of tone from Lewis Dagnall and Olivia Blake about this at last months Cabinet meeting.
8.2 No date in the diary yet, but Lewis had agreed to meet with Paul to discuss, once the holidays are over.
8.3 Rebecca had already done some thinking about what the three “killer reasons” were for an inquiry. She agreed to share with Steering Group members.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Minutes from official meetings

Forestry Commission Report July 2019

In 2018, the Forestry Commission launched an investigation into the legality of Sheffield City Council’s actions regarding the felling of street trees. Their decision has now been published:

“Alleged illegal tree felling investigation report – Sheffield’s Streets Ahead programme”.

Read STAG’s response to this publication here.

 

 

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Legal notices, News

Sheffield protesters ‘vindicated’ after council u-turn on axing 200 trees

Fresh inspections of over 200 trees that Sheffield Council had claimed had to be chopped down from city pavements as a “last resort” have identified just one that cannot be saved – leading anti-felling campaigners to say today their protests had been vindicated.

In March 2018, work to remove thousands of street trees in the city and replace them with saplings as part of a £2bn highways contract with Amey was put on hold following increasing protests against the strategy and national political condemnation of the use of dozens of police officers and private security guards to support operations.

At that time, around 300 trees earmarked for felling during the first five years of a 25-year contract had still yet to be removed after about 5,700 trees had been axed already. Campaigners argued many healthy trees could have been saved but the council repeatedly said removals were only carried out as a “last resort”.

Sheffield Council blames ‘exceptional’ pressure for misleading residents on tree-felling work

But following months of mediated talks with campaigners, a new approach was introduced this year designed to reduce the number of trees being removed through increased use of other solutions such as kerb repairs.

A report going to Sheffield Council’s cabinet next week says 191 of the 309 outstanding trees will now be “retained on a longer term basis”, with 26 requiring “bespoke solutions” to be saved and a further 91 trees awaiting investigation.

So far, just one tree previously listed for felling has now been deemed unsaveable.

Police’s secret media strategy with council on tree protests revealed

Paul Brooke, co-chair of Sheffield Tree Action Groups, said the new approach showed it had always been possible to prevent vast numbers of fellings using solutions that were always available within the terms of the contract.

“It is vindication for the campaign, it is exactly what we said to them all along,” he said.

“Over the last few months we have been able to observe Amey workers doing simple highway repairs to a good standard, such as fitting thin kerbs and removing old built up tarmac.

“The announcement that 62 per cent of the 309 trees, that we due to be felled ‘as a last resort’, can now be retained indefinitely is great news but no surprise. It is what we campaigned for.

“We look forward to reviewing the lessons learned and publishing the joint assessments with the council. We are confident this will show that very few healthy trees needed to be felled in order to complete the Streets Ahead road scheme. At some point in the future I have little doubt that we will reflect on how we as a city got this so wrong.”

No proof for ‘lurid’ allegations against tree protesters

As part of an agreement reached at the end of the mediated talks, a new Street Tree Strategy for the city is to be developed and the council has announced that Liz Ballard, Chief Executive of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, has now been appointed to the role of independent chair of a group including campaigners and council officials which will oversee the development of the strategy.

Councillor Lewis Dagnall, cabinet member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change at Sheffield City Council, said: “In recent months the Council has been working closely with both Amey and representatives of STAG to enable work on the Street Tree Strategy to begin.

“Simultaneously, significant activity has been underway across the city to assess individual trees. As part of this process, a specialist team, made up of tree and highway specialists from Amey, has been exploring possible solutions to retain trees, considering all viable options and often, carrying out suitable remedial works in the same day.

“The availability of alternative solutions funded by Amey, combined with adjustments to the council’s specification around some trees, has allowed us to make significant and positive progress, with the support of all parties.

“I have every confidence that the new group will navigate through what may, at times, be complex matters and arrive at a suitable, and satisfactory, resolution so that we can continue taking positive steps forward.

“Whilst it’s recognised that there are still challenges to overcome, we hope that by continuing to work with stakeholders and affected residents in an open and structured way, we will agree on a long-term solution for the benefit of everyone in the city.”

Mr Brooke said: “We hope that the development of an exemplary Street Tree Strategy will protect the future of our much needed urban forest and will result in an increase in the street canopy cover with all the health and environmental benefits that brings.”

A Forestry Commission investigation into the legality of the fellings that were carried out which was launched last year is understood to be close to completion

Posted in Uncategorized
Crowdfunder: street trees legal fund

We are currently collecting to support the small number of campaigners who are facing court costs after cases brought by Sheffield City Council.

Heartwood TiCL trail

Walk the Heartwood Trail and find Robert Macfarlane’s beautiful charms against harm hung from some of Sheffield’s threatened Street Trees. Designed by Jackie Morris.

Follow STAG on Twitter