Personal communication with Amey

Correspondence between Martin Pickles, a STAG member, and Amey

Martin Pickles has shown dogged persistence in his quest to visit examples of Amey’s ‘Engineering Solutions’ in Sheffield. We hope you will understand why (with minor edits) we have reproduced this correspondence in full.

Why not make a cup of tea and allow the story to unfold?

1st February 2017 –  Martin Pickles wrote to Streets Ahead:

“Dear Amey

…I’m particularly interested in the corrective measures undertaken by Amey when a street tree is damaging a pavement or kerb in Sheffield….Please could you provide me with a link to where I can find examples of such work undertaken by Amey in Sheffield.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Pickles”

9th February 2017 – Streets Ahead wrote:

“Dear Mr Pickles

Thank you for your email dated 1 February 2017.

…Evidence of engineering solutions being used across the city will be visible on all roads where we have successfully carried out the highway upgrade works around the existing highway trees.

Kind Regards,
Customer Services (Amey)”

9th February 2017 – Martin Pickles wrote again requesting specific examples.

7th March 2017 – 
Streets Ahead wrote:

“Dear Mr Pickles

…Please see below a list of 5 locations where we have used engineering techniques to successfully work around existing trees.

1. Carter Knowle Road – hand digging techniques were used to allow us to surface around a number of trees

2. Sandygate Park Road – hand digging techniques were used to allow us to surface around a number of trees

3. Meersbrook Road – hand digging techniques were used to allow us to surface around a number of trees

4. Carrfield Avenue – hand digging techniques were used to allow us to surface around a number of trees

5. East Bank Road – hand digging techniques were used to allow us to surface around a number of trees, but outside the school we created tree pits around the trees.

I hope that my response answers your request fully.

Jeremy Willis,
Operations Manager,
Customer Services (Amey)”

9th March 2017 – Martin Pickles wrote to Jeremy Willis:  

“Dear Mr Willis

Thank you for your email of the 7th March 2017 listing five locations where engineering techniques have been used around existing trees.

When I received the email, I must admit I was quite disappointed that apart from the creation of two tree pits outside the school on East Bank Road, all the other examples you gave were of “hand digging techniques used to allow us to surface around a number of trees”.

…Nevertheless, I went out yesterday afternoon thoroughly inspecting the locations over three hours. Starting at East Bank Road, I found the tree pits (photos 1 & 2) and an example of a hand dug surface (photo 3). At Meersbrook Road, I found it hard to find examples of hand dug surfaces. The most promising contenders for this description can be seen in photos 4 and 5. The pavement surface has been broken so that water can get to the tree roots however the bases of these trees are scruffy and present obvious tripping hazards

…Though I found it difficult to find evidence of hand dug resurfacing on Meersbrook Road and Carfield Avenue, I did discover a fairly fresh example of badly improvised tree base engineering amongst the mossy pavements on Carfield Avenue (see photos 7, 8 and 9). I understand that tarmacing right up to the base of trees is a disciplinary matter.

…I want to see real examples of Streets Ahead solutions to serious pavement and kerb damage caused by trees in Sheffield.

Included in the Streets Ahead contract are options for Flexipaving and ramping/re-profiling of footway levels over roots. Where are the wonderful examples of this kind of work? It seems that solutions for Sheffield’s problematic trees take a mighty leap from hand-dug resurfacing and tree pits straight to felling. The Streets Ahead website proudly claims: “Street trees are only removed as a last resort” and this has been often repeated by Councillor Bryan Lodge. Without the examples I’m asking for to prove otherwise, it’s impossible for me to believe this statement.

Yours sincerely,
Martin Pickles.”

PS. I did go to Carter Knowle Road and Sandgate Park Road too. At Carter Knowle Road, I found some minor hand dug work of little consequence and at Sandgyate Park Road, I traveled the length four times unable to find evidence of any work.”

All Martin’s photos can be seen on his Facebook page.

There was no reply to Martin’s email.

10th April 2017 – Martin Pickles wrote again to Jeremy Willis:

“As you have already had a month to consider my last email, I hope that you can reply to me soon.

…I’m curious as to why you gave me such frankly pathetic and irrelevant examples to go and inspect when if the “last resort” statement is true, you should have an overwhelming catalogue of impressive tree-related engineering work to show me.

Yours sincerely
Martin Pickles”

24th May 2017 – Streets Ahead wrote to Martin Pickles:

“…Approximately 70% of the city’s pavements will be resurfaced or reconstructed during the initial Core Investment Period of Streets Ahead. Therefore, given that there are 36,000 highway trees, it is fair to say that Amey have already encountered approximately 25,000 trees in delivering the current programme to date.

Of the 25,000 trees encountered, only 1858 have been identified for replacement with more suitable trees, for either discriminatory reasons, or for damaging the highway network or third party private properties. This means that by default, engineering measures have been employed around all of the other trees for retention. In the vast majority of cases, tree retention can be achieved by very subtle or non-visible measures such as engineering solutions 2, 3, 6, 10 and 12. In some selected areas, engineering solutions 4 and 5 have also been employed.

Unfortunately we do not keep a formal record of why or how trees have been retained we only record why trees are replaced. As such your previous responses have been based on officer recollection rather than formal inventory data.

I am sorry for any confusion this may have caused.

Kind Regards,
Streets Ahead”


24th May  2017 – Martin Pickles wrote to Streets Ahead:

“Dear Streets Ahead

…I must say I’m surprised at the “we do not keep a formal record” reply. I’d say this is unusual working practice. I have worked in a job, coordinating engineers and all activity and materials were recorded and monitored as a matter of course. With regard to the controversy surrounding the fate of healthy but damaging trees, I would have thought Streets Ahead would be very mindful of keeping records of the engineering measures undertaken to save such trees so they could defend their position. If such work is simply improvised as Amey work their way round the streets of Sheffield, how do you know what you will require? How do you know how much (or little) flexible paving to order, for instance?

It is clear from this ongoing correspondence that Streets Ahead are unable to give me actual examples of engineering solutions employed to retain healthy but damaging trees. The real reason? They haven’t got examples; not because they haven’t recorded them but because they haven’t done the work. Amey are not implementing the engineering solutions which they are contractually obliged and paid to pursue in the Streets Ahead Plan and Sheffield City Council are (for some unknown reason) extremely reluctant to make them comply. Healthy but damaging street trees are not being “only removed as a last resort” but mostly as a first resort.

One final thing … I’ve noticed your replies have changed from being signed personally (by Jeremy Willis) to being signed ‘Streets Ahead’ this time. I must admit I appreciate a more personal touch but can easily understand why no one would want to put their name to yet another fudged response.

Yours sincerely,
Martin Pickles”

Here the correspondence ended.


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