STAG Steering Group notes: 7 April 2020

1. Amey continuing to work during the “lockdown”

1.1 Concerns were expressed about Amey continuing to do various non-essential work during the “lockdown” period. This includes working practices that allow for no social distancing, two people in the same van, etc.

1.2 There have also been instances of felling dead saplings. STAG have no issue with the fellings as such. However, these are clearly non-essential work and it wouldn’t be a problem to leave them for another few months.

1.3 Paul Brooke and Christine have therefore drafted a letter to send to the Council expressing STAG concerns. 

2. Street Tree Strategy Update

2.1 Christine and Paul S gave an update on the latest Street Tree Strategy meeting, which was held on Friday 3rd April.

2.2 The Strategy work is now moving into the delivery phase. Steering Group members confirmed they were content for Christine and Paul S to continue to sit on the Delivery Group for the Strategy for the next 12 months.

3. Legal Work

3.1 Paul S had volunteered to take on the legal work as sole lead. Regrettably he no longer has the time to continue this at present owing to workload issues in the day job and elsewhere. 

3.2 Therefore the legal work has now paused, with nobody else able to take it forward at this time.

4. Tree Disease Symposium

4.1 Caroline has had to cancel the face to face Symposium she had been arranging with Jeremy Barrell and Ian Rotherham because of the current lockdown.

4.2 It is possible she may be able to rearrange something virtually after September. Plans are far enough advanced, and people keen enough, that she really does want to take it forward when it is safe to do so.

5. 1000 Oak Trees

5.1 It had been noted from Facebook posts that various tree nurseries are having to destroy 750,000 unwanted 2 year old oak saplings because of Covid19 and the lack of fulfilled government orders.

5.2 One nursery is selling off batches of 1000 saplings for £200. It is not accepting smaller orders and, if not bought in the next week, they will be destroyed.

5.3 Following debate on the Facebook page and discussion at Steering Group it was decided that STAG would buy a batch of 1000, for sale/gift in November 2020 Tree Planting Week.

6. STAG Facebook Group moderators

6.1 The moderators are feeling under pressure both because of the current situation and because of all the non-tree posts on the STAG Facebook Group page (lots of Covid19 issues and 5G conspiracy theories).

6.2 They recommended changing the posting rules, so that posts only go live if a moderator approves it. Steering Group accepted the recommendation.

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STAG Steering Group notes: 3 March 2020

1. Tree Huggers Celebration event.
1.1 In total around £350 to £400 was raised from the Pizza company, donations on the night, and sales of merchandise.

2. Street Tree Strategy.

2.1 Paul S gave an update. The draft document will be published next week for Cabinet scrutiny.

3. Trees identified for felling in 2020 by Amey.

3.1 All but 9 of the 193 trees identified have been visited by STAG SG members to confirm or query Amey recommendations. The remaining 9 will be done shortly.
3.2 Of the 184 viewed, we’ve asked for further information about 17%. The rest are not being contested as are clearly dead or seriously compromised.

4. Hanover Way Cycle Crossing.

4.1 This is not a specific street tree led issue, albeit 5 street trees will be felled.
4.2 STAG have formally disagreed with the proposal and suggested an alternative solution.
4.3 The Council have however decided to proceed. As mitigation, they have agreed to plant 15 new big trees nearby to compensate for the 5 to be felled.

5. Trees listed for felling for subsidence on Canterbury Avenue and Wisewood Avenue.

5.1 The consensus was to raise serious concerns with SCC and Amey about these proposed fells. There appears to be no real evidence that the trees are causing subsidence

6. Legal Case.

6.1 Little progress since last month. Paul S kindly offered to take the work on solely rather than working with Paul Brooke as he is currently overloaded.

7. The DEFRA Environment Bill and the “Sheffield clause”.

7.1 The draft Bill includes a “duty to consult” on street tree felling, which has been dubbed the “Sheffield clause”.
7.2 There was a debate about what it really meant, as the legal wording of the proposed bill hasn’t yet been published. It was agreed that, depending upon the drafting, it may align with our views.

8. LGO work.

8.1 No further progress.

9. Tree Disease Symposium.

9.1 Good progress has been made. Date and location firmed up and it will soon be advertised.
9.2 Jeremy Barrell will be the keynote speaker

10 Court Cases.

10.1 There was a discussion about the implications for the campaign of a particular case.

11. Implications for STAG of SNET planning to close the Nether Edge Tree Fund Account.

11.1 Paul S outlined how SNET planned to close the account at some point in the next 12 months as SNET morphed into the new local environmental group
11.2 This increases the pressure on STAG to set up its own account, with a constitution and trustees.

12. City wide TPO application.

12.1 Paul Brooke updated on progress. It will be sent in the next week or so.

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STAG Steering Group meeting: 4th February 2020

1. Joint Investigations

1.1 Restarted this week. A new team is working on Kenwood Road and seem to be doing a good job. Pace is slow, roughly two trees a day, only non-threatened trees so far.

1.2 Likely to take a very long time to go through all the remaining threatened trees.

1.3 The Council process to formally sign off the trees already investigated and “probably saved” is glacial. This will be raised at the next joint meeting.

2. Legal Update

2.1 Paul Brooke and Paul Selby updated STAG Steering Group on proactive legal work with Ben Manovic.

3. Annual Tree Management Plan

3.1 Amey shared this with STAG last week. It includes all pruning plans, planting plans, and lists 193 trees they intend to fell in 2020 which are dead, dying, diseased etc.

3.2 Various Steering Group members have already visited around 120 of them, to give an opinion. The other roughly 70 need to be visited urgently, so that comprehensive feedback can be given. Steering Group members should try to check some of the remaining trees and feedback to Helen K. Keep an eye out for lapsed pollards designated as “structural integrity.

3.3 Most of the trees visited so far really do need to be felled. However, there are a few which we are questioning.

4. Tree Disease Symposium

4.1 Caroline and Heather have made good progress working with Ian Rotherham to make proper plans for a Tree Disease Symposium, ideally in early June.

4.2 It will be focused on new tree diseases, and specifically how to deal with them in an urban environment, with a particular focus on phytophthora of Limes, and Ash Dieback.

4.3 There will be a requirement to video record the conference for the record.

4.4 Thoughts were shared on possible attendees including Jeremy Barrell, Joe Coles, Kate Spicer.

4.5 Costs – Hallam to provide free space. Other possible contributors are STAG, Amey, SCC.

5. Public Meeting and Celebration Party

5.1 STAG will hold a Public Meeting and Party on the evening of Saturday 22nd February at Theatre Deli.

5.2 The Public Meeting element will be focused on the future of STAG, consulting on the aim to turn STAG into a membership group, for the whole city, for the first time. Also on having a proper constitution, the potential for an elected committee, and its future aims.

5.3 The celebration will include turns from Calvin and Simon, Benoit, Break a Leg, and a DJ.

5.4 To be free but ticketed via Eventbrite and looking for voluntary donations towards Jaq’s film.

6. Hanover Way Cycle Crossing

6.1 Paul Brooke has responded to the details behind the proposal to fell three trees to allow for an upgraded cycle crossing of Hanover Way. In our opinion, at least two of the three trees don’t need to be felled.

6.2 STAG have also been asked about a suggestion to remove a tree in a planter near the Crucible. Trees in planters generally don’t do well and it is proposed for 2 replacements to be planted in the City Centre so it doesn’t seem appropriate to object on this occasion.

7. Inquiry

7.1 Paul B has contacted Alan Story but no further progress to report.

8. Abbeydale Park Rise

8.1 Amey is hosting a Public Meeting with APR residents, with support from Ann Anderson, consulting them on the plans to plant additional trees, and to remove five trees that are diseased/dead/damaged – all were agreed by us

8.2 Ann is relieved with the complete change of attitude from Amey. They have offered 8 additional trees to be planted to replace any removed. There are some issues to be resolved over the species of trees proposed.

8.3 Works due to commence 24 February for 3 days. To be followed by pavement and road resurfacing.

9. Street Tree Strategy

9.1 Paul S very briefly updated STAG. 

9.2 Draft posted on FB page. Any feedback to Paul S.

10. Blanket TPO for all Sheffield Trees

10.1 Draft on FB page. The letter proposing this will soon be sent to Sheffield Council.

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STAG Steering Group meeting: 7th January 2020

Actions from Last meeting 

There has been a submission of a letter of interest to the lottery climate fund and there has not yet been a response. 
There is a petition for the trees on Abbeydale Road started by a resident but it is widely recognised that Amey and Sheffield Council do not want any more street trees as they will cost money to maintain and become a liability. 

Pro-Legal Work 

A working document has been started which contains the key challenges and gripes. We have 5 days per month of pro-bono legal assistance and it was recognised that this should be used effectively.  

Tree Investigations 

Nothing has happened and there is no indication as to when this will resume. 
The tree review has been published and Stanley Rd has solutions defined for all trees except the bottom one. 
Action – Mark Jones (SCC) to be formally asked as to when the investigations will be re-started. 

Abbeydale Park rise 
There has been no reply to an email sent to Mark Jones (SCC). The Dore and Totley group have had a meeting with Mark Jones.  Amey have indicated to the residents that there is a solution for all trees and they can all be retained. 

Philip Beecroft, Head of Highway Maintenance at Sheffield City Council, still clearly believes that phased felling is still necessary even though the trees are healthy and they are not actually causing any damage that cannot be repaired.  There are still 306 trees on the felling list.  

Street Tree Stategy 

There was a meeting on the 20th Dec 2019 and there are three more meetings scheduled.  The document is reported to be going to the Council scrutiny committee; there is a deadline of the 17th
There is a meeting on street tree sustainability and Liz Ballard (SRWT) has nominated a STAG member to assist. 

Tree disease Conference 

We have a meeting with Ian Rotherham in Jan 2020 and the format is moving towards being a symposium. We need to create a definitive list of people we need in the room to make it a success. We also need some papers. Action – There is some Forestry research that needs to be forwarded to Caroline.   

Any Other Business 

Paul B will share in the next week the details of a TRA. 

Tree Planting Update 900 whips need a good home. Russel to talk to Andrew at the cricket club and Darren Butt (Amey) for suitable sites.  STAG still has funds so will provide the supports. 

STAG Future 
We should plan an open meeting in Mid to Late Feb 2020 to discuss the future. We should plan for 50 people and Shelley will help. It should be a weekday evening and we could use the Union Street café or the Quaker meeting house.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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