With Bristol City Council’s budget cuts, two decisions have been made regarding the management of Bristol’s treescape that make no economic sense, and threaten the reputation of the City as a Green and pleasant place to live and locate a business.
Decision 1: Slashing of street tree management budget
- The budget for managing street trees has been cut by nearly 78% from £240,000 to £53,000.
- As a result there will be no pollarding of street trees or removal of epicormic growth around the tree.
- Emergency cover outside normal working hours is no longer being provided through the tree management contract, despite having no cost benefit.
- Tree management will be limited to felling to address safety risks, despite greater initial costs and the long term consequent loss of tree sites – felling costs the same as 16 years of maintenance. As a result, Bristol’s street tree population will rapidly fall into decline as they are steadily removed, never to be replaced.
Decision 2: No planting of street trees, either replacement or new, even when cost neutral
- Bristol City Council has operated a number of innovative schemes allowing residents or community groups to sponsor replacement or new street trees. Despite fully funding the planting, and maintenance for two years, such planting will no longer be permitted.
- At the moment, when a tree is replaced in an existing tree pit it costs £295. This covers regular watering until the tree is established and two years maintenance. If the trees dies whilst establishing itself, it is replaced at no extra cost.
- If the Council can be persuaded to change its mind about not planting new trees, then this cost could to increase to the £765 that developers are required to pay – the overall costs of planting a tree and maintaining it during its lifetime. Planting a tree at a brand new site could add around £2,000-£2,500 if a special tree pit needs to be installed.
- Currently there is huge support from the community for replacing lost trees. Around £200,000 of developers’ money is set aside for this purpose, Metrobus is committed to planting 200-300 trees as part of their planning condition, and Bristol University has donated funds to plant 60-100 public street trees.
- It makes little sense, in times of budget constraints, to renounce external funding sources that fully cover planting and maintenance costs.
These decisions are a false economy for Bristol City Council
- With no pollarding of street trees, increased tree growth will lead to more subsidence claims against the Council, and create more highway damage, pavement trip hazards, and infrastructure damage.
- New tree growth from previous pollarding points will become unstable, increasing the probability of personal injury and property damage claims against the Council.
- Just a couple of additional subsidence or injury claims could negate the Council’s entire “cost saving”.
- This short-term decision makes no sense – if a tree can be maintained for some 16 years – the one-off cost of felling it, then surely it makes better economic sense to spread this inevitable cost and maintain the tree rather than fell it as a short-term ‘solution’ – a ‘solution’ which loads all the costs up front and will lead to greatly increased and unavoidable expenditure in not very many years time?
These decisions will threaten Bristol’s reputation as a Green City
- Bristol currently has a great reputation as a Green City and a fantastic place to live.
- Bristol has variously been declared the World’s second Greenest city, the Greenest city in England, and the best place to live in the UK. This reputation hugely benefits the economy of Bristol, and ultimately the finances of City governance.
- Reputational damage will result from any decision that damages the Green environment of the City, particularly in the period following its place as the 2015 European Green Capital.
These decisions were taken with no consultation with stakeholders
There has been no consultation regarding these decisions with other Departments within Bristol City Council, who will have to deal with the foreseeable consequences, with insurers, who will face additional damage claims, Avon and Somerset Police, who will have to address public order consequences of mass felling, or Bristol Tree Forum, with its wide-reaching understanding of tree issues.