1. Joint Inspections with Amey
1.1 SG members involved in the talks updated SG on the conversations held with Amey followed by questions and discussions.
1.2 Chris Rust and Paul Brooke updated SG on the meeting they had held with Darren Butt that day to finalise details of the joint inspections.
1.3 A briefing session will be held on Thursday 10th January where the Amey team, STAG representatives and the independent highways engineers (if available) will meet and be briefed on health and safety issues, and the process that will occur each day.
1.4 The joint inspections will begin from Tuesday 15th January onwards. The announcement of all the details will be made this evening.
2. Joint inspections of the 60 trees due to be felled in 2019.
2.1 Some of the 60 trees due to be felled in 2019 under the SCC plan will be inspected according to Darren Butt.
2.2 However he has also suggested that some don’t need to be inspected because STAG and Amey are agreed about the visible problem. The issue then becomes that the Council will not allow the STAG proposed solution.
2.3 Paul Brooke and Chris Rust have pressed Amey on this. They have reiterated what the joint declaration stated about all trees being reviewed jointly, prior to them being felled.
2.4 Given the points above the ball is now clearly in the SCC court in terms of how they want to proceed and the consequences that will follow from that.
3. Straight Kerb Lines
3.1 Paul Selby updated Steering Group about ongoing conversations with Paul Billington about strict straight kerb line specifications and the political issues that continue to prevent further progress on this issue.
4. Forestry Commission investigation and DEFRA consultation
4.1 Paul S updated SG on the ongoing Forestry Commission investigation. Not much has changed in the last four weeks owing to the Christmas break.
4.2 He also updated people that he had requested a face to face stakeholder event in Sheffield for the DEFRA consultation, as the consultation document had suggested this may be possible.
5. Local Group consultation about the Council proposal
5.1 It was confirmed that all local groups had either had (or planned to have) meetings or other consultations to discuss the Council proposal.
6. STAG Legal Group
6.1 Chris Rust and Russell Johnson had discussed the STAG legal group. It was confirmed that it continued to exist but was currently inactive and would remain so until such time as any actions were needed.
6.2 In consequence it wasn’t felt appropriate for the Legal Group to continue having any representatives on STAG Steering Group.
7. Co-Chair resignation
7.1 Chris Rust had resigned as co-chair with effect from the end of December 2017, but had agreed to stay on for a few months, whilst Paul Brooke settled in to the role. One year on, Chris confirmed he really did need to leave the role now.
7.2 He would remain as Treasurer and as a member of the Media Group, but would not attend STAG Steering Group any more.
7.3 Everyone thanked Chris for his dedication over the last 3 and a half years.
7.4 Paul Brooke then asked all Steering Group members to think about putting themselves forward to support him as co-chair.
8. Supporter Conduct
8.1 There was a brief conversation about supporter conduct, particularly about the ongoing airing of dirty linen on the STAG Facebook page, and how it was not helping the campaign.
8.2 Paul Brooke politely asked all Steering Group members to give a lead and ensure any heated discussions took place in private if they even needed to happen at all.
8.3 He also reminded everyone that no one particular line of campaign activity was responsible for the strong position we were in currently and this statement was concurred with by SG members.
8.4 It was also agreed that there would be an agenda item about STAG aims and objectives at the next Steering Group meeting to assist manage this issue.
8.5 The moderating rules on Facebook have also been recently refreshed to cover off some of the recent poor online behaviour.
9.1 There was a brief discussion about how “saved” trees could be signposted without removing the yellow ribbon. Local groups were asked to discuss options, and to come back with ideas which could be adopted city wide.
9.2 All SG members marked a sad loss to the campaign following the recent death of John Errington. It was noted how much he had done to protect street trees and advance the aims of the campaign, particularly in the early days and in his local area.
Very interesting morning observed by a happy crowd. So what was the issue with this tree?
Before starting any work we discussed the displaced kerbs and cracked and raised tarmac around the lime tree. Amey felt that it was likely that a significant root had forced out previous kerbs and the thin kerbs fitted a few years ago had collapsed. Amey concerned that it may not be possible to put a sufficient foundation in place for any new kerbs. Our engineer felt that even if this was the case, there would be options such as forming a concrete kerb on site but we needed to excavate first.
Amey crew decided not to wait for the compressor and airspade (that hadn’t arrived) and decided to get on and remove kerbs and soil by hand to see what was what. 10 minutes later they had found a perfectly intact concrete foundation and scraped back soil to discover that there was plenty of room to reinstall a full standard kerb. Blimey.
Later, after tarmac removed and the airspade was used to clear soil, it was also evident that the main tarmac lifting and crack in pavement was as a result of a root 10 – 15cm below the pavement height and that new tarmac could be relaid easily.
Agreed solution? Reinstall standard kerbs bedded on cement, supported on roadside by cement fill and backfil with mulch. Couple of minor small surface roots 1-2cm diameter removed by the supervising arbs. Enlarge tree pit and re tarmac pavement.
Nothing technical, nothing unusual. Exactly what campaigners have been saying well before the conflict on the streets brought things to a head.
This is what SCC and Amey based their original felling decision on – taken from the data they published. “Kerbs, f/w and edgings all disrupted. No repairs visible”
All in all it took 4 hrs, of which 2 hrs, were waiting for things to arrive and marshalling the Pink Panthers (pictured in fetching pink hi-vis jackets). Couple of hours work to complete the tarmac tomorrow.
The finished kerb line.
How do we feel? Happy that 1 tree has been retained and furious at the 6 lost there and the 1,000’s needlessly felled for the failure of SCC and Amey to do reasonable on-site investigation.
Supporter Neil Furmidge who attended the inspection comments:
“…at some point the pit has been tarmacced over. The other interesting thing is that at some point someone has replaced the kerb stones with half width kerb when there was absolutely no need to do so. If they had cleared the soil (with a normal spade!) they would have seen that there was plenty of space for a full size kerb properly set on original cement foundations that were in perfect condition. The trees have done well given bad surfacing work and have been blamed for the poor condition of very poor work in recent past.”
STAG’s campaigning efforts have been recognised by The Big Issue in their list of Top 100 Changemakers. You’ll need to take my word for it as the print on the cover image is too small to read.
We are all extremely proud to be part of a citizen-powered environmental movement that has had positive impacts reaching far beyond Sheffield. So much so that we have even started to influence national policy.
Happy New Year and here’s to a year without mindless destruction of perfectly healthy trees, talking of which………
Upcoming joint inspections with Amey
As you will (or maybe will not!) know, there will be a process of joint inspections with Amey for a significant number of the currently threatened trees over the next few weeks.
It has now been agreed that these will begin on Tuesday 15th next week. The full text of the announcement from Paul Brooke (co-chair of STAG) is as follows:
“IMPORTANT STREET TREE Joint Investigation/assessment – DUE TO START TUESDAY 15th Jan
There are a total of 45 trees that, as per the Council’s new proposal, are listed for ‘reinvestigation’ and are due to have an on-site assessment/investigation to see if an engineering solution can be applied. There are a further 60 trees that they say they need to fell in 2019 and these will also be subject to an on-site assessment/investigation. There are some WW1 memorial trees that are now ‘retained’ but that will need some investigation work to identify the appropriate engineering solution.
We have been in discussion with Amey on the process as set out in the Joint Statement and we want to assure you of the following;
1. Amey will notify residents adjacent to any trees due for investigation with a hand delivered letter.
2. Amey have assembled a ‘specialist team’ to carry out investigation works in public and in liaison with independent highways engineers offering their support to STAG
3. NO decision or action to fell a tree will be taken during the investigation. The crew will not have a chipper on tow.
4. If the crew can use an engineering solution and repair the kerb/pavement to the standard required by the Council, they will complete the work that day or the following day depending on time available.
5. If they are not able to fix the problem they will discuss this with our engineer and we will produce a joint report setting out what Amey and what our engineer recommend.
6. If our Engineer is not available on the day Amey inspect the tree, Amey will remove the kerb/tarmac as required and leave the site exposed (protected by barriers) so that our engineer can assess when available.
7. If Amey conclude they cannot resolve the problem and after our engineer has assessed the site, Amey will make the site safe with a temporary repair and refer the tree to SCC for a decision. We are in discussion with SCC about how this information, including the CAVAT value and cost/benefit of works will be published.
8. People are encouraged to come and view works. STAG reps and local residents are able to enter the workzone if needed to photograph and view works when safe and by arrangement with the site crew. Safety wear can be provided.
It is our anticipation that more trees will be retained indefinitely as a result of this work and we want to support and assist the site crews to be creative and effective in delivering sensible solutions.
Planned work schedule:
Amey are not sure how long works will take as they will be learning as they go!
We think they will be able to do 1 or 2 trees per day. Look out for daily updates in the coloured Daily Alert Box on the main STAG Facebook page here:
We encourage as many of you reading this as possible to turn up to show we haven’t gone away. But to do so peacefully and calmly as we believe that close to 100% of the trees will ultimately be saved indefinitely.
DEFRA consultation about street tree protection
Recently we made reference to the DEFRA consultation about street tree protection, here is a bit more supporting info for you
Firstly, whilst the results of a central government consultation can be ignored, they are a matter of public record. The aggregated and anonymised results are either published or can be accessed by freedom of information (FOI) request. So if 100% of responses said one thing, but DEFRA did completely the opposite, that would be on the public record, potentially embarrassing, and would have to be justified. So the consultation is not pointless at all, it is a genuine opportunity to share your views with DEFRA.
Secondly, if you’re not sure what to say when responding, here are a few pointers:
a) Consultation can be risky. Popular opinion is swayed by many other factors, including a general lack of knowledge about the positive benefits of living alongside street trees vs the inconveniences they might cause e.g. leaf litter. Therefore opinions offered through consultation may be far removed from evidence-based decisions.
b) The definition of what an acceptable consultation is needs to be defined, give specific evidence about the flaws of the unmarked brown envelope used in Sheffield’s ITP process, plus many other specific details
c) The reasons for deciding to fell need to be detailed and transparent – Saying a tree is “Damaging” is not sufficient. Why can’t simple virtually costless patch and repair solutions not be used
d) That in no circumstances should they be exempt from consulting – even with emergency fellings, councils should be forced to give transparent retrospective justification
e) We’re glad that there will be duty to report on all tree felling in relation to their street tree stock – Transparency is the greatest form of disinfectant
g) We’re glad there will be guidance on what constitutes a good Tree and Woodland Strategy
h) That the proposals still don’t go far enough. The current interpretation of the Forestry Act (1967) and how it relates to the Highways Act (1980) gives too much freedom to fell street trees without proper justification. Either that same legislation needs reinterpreting, or changing, to strengthen street tree protection.
It has been a while since weI mentioned complaints about Amey. Back in April 2017, an organisation called Sheffield Residents Holding Amey to Account (SRHA) was established to make it easier for residents to make genuine complaints about the shoddy work of Amey in Sheffield. The reason we did this was because it was really hard to navigate the Sheffield Council website to find the way to complain. So the website http://srha.site was established as an easy to use form to make a complaint.
Since then, our estimate is that around 10% of all the complaints made about Amey in Sheffield have been directed through our site. Even as early as one month into the site being live, Amey workers were heard talking to themselves about how they’d better be more careful in their work as more complaints were being made by “tree huggers via their new website.”
So we’d just like to re-promote this site, and encourage you all to use it to make genuine complaints. They don’t have to be tree related, although some are (issues with saplings or tarmacking up to tree trunks). Many in the winter are about the dangerous slippy new surfaces. What about the fact that Amey seem to be only sweeping leaves once a year, or only after people complain? Are you happy about that? Or the constant no parking notices that never turn into actual street work? Or the shoddy new road surfaces on some roads? Or the surfaces that break up after less than a year? Or blocked drains? Or street light issues?
We walked down Montgomery Road last week, which is only about 450 metres long, and counted 20 separate issues worthy of complaining about. It is the same on all roads.
But are you actually complaining? Are you holding Amey to account for its shoddy work?
Making the initial complaint via http://srha.site takes less than 5 minutes. You’ll then need to keep on at Amey, when they eventually respond to you, which should be within 5 days. They may try to fob you off. Don’t give up, keep escalating the issue if you aren’t happy. Copy in your local Councillors or Cllr Lewis Dagnall if the issue is dragging on. Keep on at Amey and make sure your complaint is resolved to your satisfaction.
It’s Our City!
We’’ve been flagging the efforts of It’s Our City since it launched its petition in late August. Whilst not a street tree campaign, many of the leading members of the organisation came from the street tree campaign, and set the organisation up when they learned just how Sheffield Council worked (or didn’t work). In these quiet times (for some!) with no felling going on, we encourage all who have the time to get involved in It’s Our City. Signing the petition is easy, if you haven’t already, see the link below. But even better would be to get more involved and join in efforts to encourage more people to sign.
The petition is still live. If you haven’t yet signed the petition, then can we politely ask that if there is one thing you do this weekend, please sign it if you haven’t already! You can do so at the following weblink:
1. Matters arising
1.1 Leaf clearing – Darren Butt has offered to provide large sacks to any groups of residents who wish to do their own leaf clearance on their roads.
2. Talks with SCC and Amey
2.1 The latest version of the statement is now available.
2.2 Figures from SCC/Amey indicate that 83 trees have been saved. 49 are earmarked for further investigation. 173 are phased fellings to be done over a number of years. 60 of these are for felling in the first 12 months.
2.3 Given timescales and the promises made to talk with residents and allow joint investigations into those trees earmarked for phased fellings at present, this proposed process by SCC/Amey at least gives time to work with Amey staff to potentially make additional progress on removing some more of these trees from the proposed fellings lists.
2.4 The promise of a proper street tree strategy was welcome.
2.5 It is highly regrettable that SCC have refused to hold an independent enquire into events up until now. Questions on this will continue to go to SCC.
3. Consultations with Local Groups
3.1 Groups need to be informed of he categories and the phasing proposals.
3.2 The lists of trees in each category needs to be made available.
3.3 Consultations should make people aware of the different categories and their meanings and also that the phasing proposal means that local groups have the opportunity to influence the future.
4.1 Chris gave a report on the current financial position.
4.2 The hard work of various individuals in organising events and merchandising has brought in additional income lately.
5. Supporter conduct
5.1 A suggested new process for dealing with harassment was discussed.
5.2 Paul B and Chris will find some people who can take a balanced view on proposals and take forward.
6. Forestry Commission
6.1 Investigations continue.
6.2 The Woodland Trust will be in communication with the Forestry Commission about the matter.
1. Talks with Amey/SCC 1.1 A statement on the talks has been issued. Further announcements are expected soon. 1.2 A confidential discussion on progress took place.
2. Forestry Commission Investigation 2.1 Paul Selby gave a further update.
3. Fellings owing to Third-party damage claims 3.1 Meetings have been held with SCC concerning this. 3.2 According to SCC, assessments for third-party damage are done in two ways. Firstly, a full assessment over time. Secondly, through an assessment of direct damage. The second method is problematic because it doesn’t take account of the value of the trees. 3.3 According to Paul Billington’s figures 48 trees have been taken down for third-party damage. The discrepancy with figures obtained through FOI request is being pursued. 3.4 It is likely that some campaigners would protest at some of the more contested fellings in this category. Therefore it has been decided by SCC/Amey to only fell those in the emergency category for the time being until such time as there is a street tree strategy in place so decisions can be defended.
4. Malicious damage 4.1 It has been reported that person/s unknown have privately cut some branches off a street tree. Rebecca will check. Please encourage people to report any such occurrences.
5. AOB 5.1 Russell reported on an event to distribute a flyer “The 12 days of Amey” on the morning of 15 December. 5.2 The cabinet member will be meeting the public in the Winter gardens on 28 November at 6 pm. 5.3 there will be a stack stall at Sharrow Vale Christmas market on 2 December and Nether Edge Christmas market on 9 December. 5.4 One day conference on street heritage being held at Hallam University on 1 December.
Following more than two months of very detailed discussions between SCC, Amey and the STAG Steering Group, Sheffield City Council have announced a new approach to managing street trees within the 25 year ‘Streets Ahead’ highway management programme operated by Amey.
A joint statement by SCC, Amey and STAG can be seen here.
The scheme will see fewer trees felled and other condemned tree fellings ‘phased’ over the next 10 years. Amey have undertaken to implement a wider range of engineering approaches to retaining trees and ‘phased’ fellings will be reviewed before they take place. Amey and STAG will jointly investigate trees that are planned for felling, with the involvement of local residents and SCC will publish the outcome over the coming months.
STAG has not agreed to any particular plan or list of fellings as we believe it is down to local groups and individuals to assess the scheme on its merits. We are not a formal membership organisation but a forum for various informal local groups so we are not able to form agreements on behalf of the wider tree campaign.
Before the talks started, STAG had four main aims, based on consultation with tree campaigners across the city:
1. An end to the unnecessary felling of healthy mature trees.
SCC’s scheme goes part of the way towards achieving this and further work by Amey and STAG may improve the picture. We welcome the commitment to reviewing phased fellings, giving everyone a few years to reflect before most of the decisions must be enacted or changed. In the end, if Tree Campaigners feel that valuable trees are still being felled without good reason they will continue to oppose the work.
2. An exemplary Street Tree Management Strategy.
We welcome the plan to develop a new strategy over the next few months in collaboration with several partners and under the guidance of an independent chair with relevant expertise. This will be a great opportunity for public policy to be debated and for everyone to develop a better understanding of the complex issues. It will be a great success if Sheffield ends up with a strategy that has widespread approval and other parts of the country will want to adopt for themselves.
3. Using External Expertise.
We welcome the commitment to working together on assessing trees at risk and we hope that the new street tree strategy will provide a reliable framework for this. Amey have committed to involving STAG and local residents in their investigations and STAG will be bringing in external experts in engineering and tree management to inform the process.
4. An inquiry into what went wrong.
Given the many serious questions that have been raised about SCC processes and decisions over the past 10 years we regret that SCC do not wish to do this. We believe that learning from what has gone wrong is vital for the success of future projects in the city as well as being an opportunity for reconciliation between all parties involved in this difficult dispute.
The Schedule of retained trees and proposed phased fellings can be seen here. (Excel Spreadsheet)
Sheffield City Councils Press Statement about the nes scheme can be seen here.