Bristol Trees in Crisis – some personal thoughts…

Having spent 3 years as a climber in Bristol on the Council contract undertaking much of the pollarding work and as a current resident of the city I not only find this situation shocking but also very worrying.

At last night’s Bristol tree forum meeting it was finally officially announced by the deputy mayor that due to budget cuts, which now only leaves £53,000 per annum for tree management, the council will be no longer be undertaking any pollarding on the city’s population of street trees. There will also be a termination of epicormic removal which will now only be removed when reported on the grounds of Health and Safety. Later in the meeting the Highways manager when questioned several times finally admitted that this decision had been taken without any consultation or advice from the City’s Arboricultural team, which to me beggars belief.

These trees which are predominantly London Planes and Limes have levels of decay which you would expect to find but are no real cause for concern due to them being on 3/5 year pollarding cycles. There are many however that due to their proximity to commercial buildings and houses are on 2-year cycles as in the photograph below. The photograph below is in fact taken in my old road and by the time the 2 years was up the regrowth was practically touching our bedroom windows and gutters.

Pollarding Needed
Ready for pollarding…

The suspension of the pollarding program as was pointed out to the deputy mayor comes with many potential problems in the future. It was pointed out that there would be an escalation of claims to the Council for damage to property either through over grown crowns or root damage. There is the potential for an increase in limb failure due to excessive weight and god forbid serious injury to pedestrians from falling debris. One of the positives of the pollarding cycles was that the cities Tree stock was getting a full aerial tree inspection every few years with any defects monitored and managed. This will no longer be the case. One concerned resident stated that his house insurance policy is dependent on the tree outside his house being pollarded every 3 years.

As the meeting went on there was a call from Councillors for everybody to get their heads together and discuss a way forward and to come up with solutions to this big problem. Amongst other things suggested was the possibility of residents raising money and having trees pollarded themselves by fully qualified and insured arborists.
It’s all a bit of a mess and who knows where this will all end up but I am very interested in all your thoughts/ideas. Thanks in advance.

Sean Harding – A Bristol tree climber

Comments

‘That is one of the most short-sighted least thought through council decision ever… It will lead to a costly mess, unless they are planning the Sheffield fell everything strategy…’

‘Out of interest is there Massaria on the plane trees in Bristol? If there is, I suspect it’s possibly quite low in occurrence due to the previous regular pollarding, but that would change significantly if the trees become lapsed and develop larger older wood canopies where Massaria thrives. The potential risk of dead Massaria branches not being picked up via inspection and dropping on to target areas would likely increase significantly. What’s the geology in Bristol? Is there much clay around the streets? If there is, the council will not just get an increase in claims due to direct root damage to property but there will be an increase in claims due to subsidence. of course there would be a small positive in the increase of shade due to larger canopies (particularly in terms of urban heat island effect) but doesn’t sound like the tree stock could sustain that benefit for long. Frustrating to hear of the shortsightedness of this decision.’

‘This is some middle managers and some upper managers in the public sector doing what they do best: being absolutely diabolical at doing anything remotely useful.’

‘The public should not be or considering funding any council tree work. Even if it’s to maintain the pollarding cycle or tree health. As soon as they do the council will jump on this, appeal to the community spirit to get money’

‘How u meant to see decay fruiting bodies on base of a lime tree without the epicormic growth being removed.?’

‘So who owns the trees? Are they strictly municipal street trees? If so, seems to me the municipal government has a legal duty to keep the trees pruned so as to promote public safety. The trees are in the shape they are in due to past municipal pruning. If not, pruning them will knowingly increase risk. wouldn’t a pre-emptive lawsuit be called for in order to force continued pollarding? In the long run, injury suits could blast that budget number you stated right out of the water.’

‘There’s a blind spot in all councils at this level: they can hold a ballot on increasing Council Tax for specific things such as this.’

‘Sounds like we are going to have to come up with some kind of crowdfund/localised taxation system if you can afford it, messed up, leave the poor peoples’ trees to fall apart until someone is injured before any pollarding will take place.’

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s