The true value of the trees around us is often overlooked, because the services they are performing for us are invisible to the naked eye. Their impact on the environment is huge, but is often not appreciated until it is gone. The Tree Charter seeks to ensure that this hidden value is recognised, and that people at all levels of society cooperate to ensure that trees and people stand stronger together. In Sheffield local residents are up in arms because healthy street trees that enhance their lives are being cut down as a money saving measure. Ian Dalton, a Tree Officer in London, explains how and why he has stepped into the fray to help residents demonstrate the financial value of what is being lost.
As a Local Authority Tree Officer I act as an advocate for the trees that I manage.
Urban trees require careful management to make sure they are kept in good condition and we have to carefully balance the risks they pose with the many benefits they provide. We do this by applying our knowledge and experience in Arboriculture with a view to retaining urban trees for as long as possible. We recognise the importance of healthy, mature urban tree populations and are given the responsibility as Local Authority representative to act in accordance with best practice which I take pride in doing.
When people call me to complain about a big tree outside their house for dropping leaves, or blocking light, it’s my job to do what I can to help where possible by arranging for pruning work to be carried out, or simply by reminding them why trees are important when they want their tree to be chopped down for causing a nuisance.
I was therefore deeply concerned when I first heard about how Sheffield City Council are felling thousands of healthy trees. As I delved deeper into the situation I became more and more concerned as I became aware of the spurious reasons they were giving to remove these healthy trees. Almost 3000 healthy trees have been felled since the beginning of the disastrous Private Finance Initiative being led by Amey PLC as part of the ‘Streets Ahead’ program for simply displacing kerb stones and cracking pavements.
Highway repair work around trees takes place every day all across the country without consequence, without removal of the tree being considered. So why were these reasons being cited by Sheffield Council to remove perfectly healthy trees? The answers apparently lie within a highly secretive contract between Amey and Sheffield City Council, the details of which are hidden from the public eye, with a highly redacted copy of the contract that was released as the result of an FOI request from campaigners.
Something has gone terribly wrong in Sheffield, a mass scale ecological disaster is playing out against the advice of both a multitude of independent experts – and the will of the people of Sheffield. Calls for discussion and resolution have fallen on deaf ears and the council press on defiantly with their mass scale felling program. Instead choosing to take costly criminal proceedings against the very people they entrusted to serve, which resulted in an injunction being served to prevent peaceful, lawful direct action. Direct action that the campaigners felt compelled to take part in as a result of being backed into a corner and left with no other option.
In the hope of highlighting the scale and impact of the tree felling, I compiled a report which set out to value the healthy trees being felled using a system called CAVAT (click here: CAVAT report). I enlisted the help of two prominent arborists and some willing volunteers from the Sheffield Tree Action Group. I hope to spread the word the PFI does not work for trees to prevent the downfall of good tree management in the UK and I hope that the Tree Charter gains the support it needs to offer trees the protection they deserve and so desperately need. Our trees cannot afford to be the victim of any more PFI contracts. They give us so much and they deserve to be given more respect than they receive through cold, uncompromising and profit driven corporations who will view them as nothing more than a drain on the bottom line of a financial spreadsheet.
“Using the approved CAVAT calculation spreadsheet, published by the London Tree Officers’ Association, under the guidance of the system’s creator, Christopher Neilan, I have calculated that the current asset value of the 448 trees is at least £11,400,000. Extrapolating this figure out over the other (2,147*) trees lost so far as a consequence of the Streets Ahead program in addition to the 448 due to be removed, we have an estimated total value of at least £66,100,000 in lost assets.”
Ian Dalton Dip Arb L4 (ABC) TechArborA
Extract from CAVAT valuation report on Street Trees in Sheffield
Read the full Sheffield Threatened Trees CAVAT report
The Charter for Trees, Woods and People will guide society towards a future in which trees and people stand stronger together. Help give it strength: Sign the Tree Charter
Addressing threats to woods and trees through good management
Enhancing new developments with trees