Bristol Tree Forum blog

Bristol Trees in Crisis III – BTF Emergency Meeting – 6.00 to 8.00 pm, Tuesday 4th July, Bristol City Hall

You are invited to a meeting at Bristol City Hall on Tuesday, 04 July 2017 between 6 and 8 pm.

The meeting will discuss and consider:

  • The Council’s consultation on its recent decision to stop maintaining street trees in the city.
  • The consequences of this should the decision not be reversed.
  • What solutions to this threat to Bristol’s street trees we can to offer.
  • To plan a way ahead.

We hope to hear from speakers from Sheffield, where the Council’s careless decision to outsource highway maintenance without considering the impact on its urban tree cover has and continues to result in the destruction of Sheffield’s magnificent street trees.

We also hope to hear from Birmingham Trees for Life, where, despite a similar decision ten years ago, they are still able to protect, maintain and plant trees in public open spaces.
More information to follow, but make it a date now!
In the meantime, please make your thoughts known by contacting your local Councillor and emailing the Mayor.
You can also Contact us here at Bristol Tree Forum to register your support and offer to help defend Bristol’s public tree spaces.
Please spread the word and forward this blog to others interested in saving Bristol’s trees.
AND FINALLY – Sign our petition!

Trees under threat at the Eastgate Centre – Comments so far…

Many thanks to all of you who have lodged comments on this application (nine so far). Here is one great example:

  1. This proposal flies in the face of the objective of the city council to double tree canopy cover in a generation.
  2. There is clear evidence that climate change is in part being driven by the city heat island effect. Bristol is already two degrees warmer than the surrounding area. A mitigation of this is to ensure that all car parking areas are shaded by trees- and not simply by a perimeter screen, but the use of suitable trees 20 metres apart to cover the entire area. This particular complex already has huge areas of unshaded car parking, and the proposal would only increase this.
  1. The Frome Valley is a key feature of the city’s biodiversity. It is one of a series of wildlife corridors that form a key feature of the attractiveness of the city to humans. This corridor is increasingly being eroded by development. As the River Frome has a huge water catchment area, which is increasingly being developed, creating much greater and faster run off, it floods rapidly and frequently. The fact that flood water is now diverted at the site of the Eastgate shopping centre into the northern stormwater interceptor will not prevent future floods upstream.
  1. Visually this remnant woodland of the Frome Valley is crucial it counteracting the utter ugliness and dreariness of the developed site. This of course originates from the original use of the site as a football and greyhound racing stadium. Bristol deserves better.
  1. What is desperately needed throughout this site is more trees being planted on the land owned by the various firms in the area, and not the destruction of the trees that by happy chance have survived.
  1. The wonderful veteran oak in particular, probably 300 years old, should become the centrepiece of a revival of this dreary area.

This is our earlier blog. Time is running out to lodge your objections. If you want to do so, please lodge your objections here in the Planning application comments section.

These are the Important dates:

Eastgate Trees3

Trees under threat at the Eastgate Centre!

Bristol’s trees are constantly under threat from development, especially when the commercial value of the land they grow on is so great and the public amenity value they offer is not thought worthy of consideration.

Here is (yet) another example.

An outline planning application – Number 17/01580/P – has been made to at the Eastgate Centre on Eastgate Road  for the demolition of the existing drive-thru restaurant. It will be replaced by new retail units with a health and fitness club above and a replacement drive-thru restaurant.

Part of this application will require the destruction and removal of a delightful stand of trees that grow on a triangle of land between the roundabout on Eastgate Road and the existing retail park. This is so that larger retail units can be built and goods vehicles can more easily gain access to the rear of the site. This is a plan of the trees affected.

Eastgate Trees

This is the proposal for what will be planted in their place – a souless echo of what is already there:

Eastgate Trees2

The Council’s own arboricultural officer has objected to the proposal. He advises:

“I have conducted a site visit and reviewed the supporting arboricultural documentation. The trees on site are located on the edge of the proposed development area and provide a significant screen to the already extensive retail development. The group of trees fall within 2 distinct age ranges, a mature group of ash, oak and poplar and a young understorey of secondary infill planting.

The mature trees are protected by TPO 282. The ash and oak are a historic remnant of a landscaped garden (Circa 1900) from the former gas works that occupied the site, the ash appear to of been managed as old pollards which have now grown out. They are historic trees with potential veteran tree characteristics that warrant the TPO status and must be retained. Due to poor management or lack of management the trees have a number of less than satisfactory defects associated with them that have in part been identified within the supporting tree survey from February 2015. The understorey planting appears to date back to the original development of the retail park, this understorey now has a more complex relationship with the larger TPO trees. They reduce the target area of people and property by the restriction of movement within this area and they also provide shade to the lower portions of the main stems which when considering the potential veteran tree characteristics offer significant ecological benefits. The management of this area for the benefit of the mature TPO’d trees would need careful consideration.

The supporting arboricultural survey is out of date and only provides basic survey detail that does not consider age and historic relevance of the TPO’d trees. The survey in not a full BS5387 report as required with DM17: Development Involving Existing Green Infrastructure.

The proposal seeks to redevelop the current Burger King site to increase the number of commercial units with associated HGV delivery bays to the rear.

This proposal would remove the vast majority of the historic TPO’s trees and associated understorey, This would be detrimental to the TPO status of the trees. The final design would be in constant conflict with the trees identified for retention leading to further applications to remove the tree following occupation of the individual units.

The Mature Oak T10 is a key amenity feature located in an elevated position over the roundabout at the gateway of the Eastgate centre; this is a TPO’d tree and no evidence has been provide to justify its removal.

I object to the proposed and would recommend refusal of the application on the grounds of a detrimental impact to the only green infrastructure on site and historic environment. Insufficient detail has been presented in accordance with BCS9, DM15 & DM17. There has been no consideration of the TPO status of the trees or their current or future management.

The arboricultural documentation is poor, out of date and insufficient to support an application, the tree planting plan produced to mitigate the loss of such significant trees has not considered the “Planning obligation SPD, Tree.” (Bristol tree replacement standard (BTRS). I hope you find these comments of use.

Matt Bennett Arboricultural Officer (Planning) City Design Group – Place Directorate City Hall.”

We agree with Matthew! We shall be lodging our objections.

If you also agree, please lodge your objections here in the Planning application comments section. These are the Important dates:

Eastgate Trees3

Bristol Trees in Crisis II

Bristol’s street trees saved?

We heard last night at the Mayor’s Cabinet Committee that the Council has agreed to consult about its decision the stop maintaining Bristol’s street trees. This will take place after the General Election has been held. Hopefully this means that the decision will then be reversed, though this is not certain.
As for tree planting, this can continue but it must now be ‘fully funded’. This means that the sponsorship cost will rise from £295 to £765. We are told that this is so that the tree can also be cared for over the next 15 years. If a tree is being planted at a new site (i.e. is not replacing another tree lost), then, if a specially constructed tree pit is required, the cost of this will also need to be funded. This could easily add another £2,000 to £3,000 to the planting cost.
This is good news, but it is likely that many residents are going to find the new cost prohibitive. It also raises the prospect that some street trees are being cared for while all the others are not, which seems rather ridiculous when you think about it!
If you agree, or want to be consulted, please make your thoughts known by contacting your local Councillor and emailing the Mayor.
You can also Contact us here at Bristol Tree Forum to register your support and offer to help defend Bristol’s public tree spaces.
Please spread the word and forward this blog to others interested in saving Bristol’s trees.

Bristol’s trees in crisis!

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.

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

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.

What you can do

  • Contact your Councillor and email the Mayor and demand that these decisions be overturned.
  • Contact us here at Bristol Tree Forum to register your support and offer to help defend Bristol’s public tree spaces.
  • Spread the word and forward this blog to others interested in saving trees.

Death by a thousand cuts

Without any public consultation, officers from Bristol City Council Highways department have decided to reduce the Council’s street tree maintenance budget from around £240,000 to just £53,000 – a cut of some 78%.

This is part of a overall package of measures that the council has adopted to enable it to cut its overall budget by £104 million by 2020, as required by the government.

As the consequence, the Council will no longer guarantee having staff available to respond to out-of-hours and non-emergency tree-related incidents, if at all.

The regime of pollarding street trees every two to three years has also been abandoned. The Council accepts that, as a consequence there is likely to be ‘an increase in successful subsidence claims brought against the authority’ as it will not have ‘implemented a reasonable cyclical pruning programme in accordance with prevailing practice…(Robbins vs London Borough of Bexley 2012). Have the Council’s lawyers been told?

The effect of this is likely to be that, if there are any safety concerns in future about a particular tree, then the default solution will be to fell it rather than proactively manage the tree by pruning or pollarding it.

The Council’s flagship tree replacement sponsorship scheme has also been abandoned so Bristolians will no longer have any way of replacing their lost street trees.

Bristol has more that 66,000 public trees, many of which are street trees. The inevitable consequence of the Council’s short-sighted decision can only mean that its population of street trees will, sooner or later, decline.

When challenged by Councillor Clive Stevens why these cuts were being implemented, the Council replied:

The council is facing significant budget pressures and has to cut back a number of services as a result of this…Tree roots can cause a trip hazard in the same way that a broken or loose paving slab can….The changes proposed largely bring Tree Maintenance in line with other highway maintenance routines, reacting to defects as we are notified of them. As with any asset there is a balance between short-term needs and expenditure and longer-term costs. With the highways maintenance budget as a whole we have tried to strike a balance for the needs of all asset types and likely costs of defects have been included in these considerations.

So there you have it, trees are just ‘asset types’ like paving slabs – subject to becoming defective, of no greater value and as easily replaced.

Really? Let’s hope our Bristol street trees have got the message and will behave themselves in future like their inert paving slab cousins!

Here are the details of the Council’s recent Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Commission  held last Monday, 24th April 2017 together with the Council’s answers to the questions raised. Here is the the Tree Forum’s Statement with Questions raised with the Commission.

Green space and our health

The evidence for physical and mental health benefits from contact with nature, such as reducing rates of non-communicable diseases is clear.

A range of bodies, including Government agencies, have promoted the potential physical and mental health benefits of having access to green spaces.

The evidence for physical and mental health benefits from contact with nature, such as reducing rates of non-communicable diseases is clear. So are the challenges for preserving and extending urban green spaces.

Green space is natural or semi-natural areas partially or completely covered by vegetation that occur in or near urban areas and provide habitat for wildlife and can be used for recreation. They are many and varied – from tree-covered streets & avenues to squares, play areas, schools, cemeteries, parks, woodlands, nature reserves and allotments.
Sadly, only half of us live close to green space. Green space is expected to decrease as urban infrastructure expands.

Key benefits include:

  • Physical and mental illnesses associated with sedentary urban lifestyles are an increasing economic and social cost.
  • Areas with more accessible green space are associated with better mental and physical health.
  • The risk of mortality caused by cardiovascular disease is lower in residential areas that have higher levels of ‘greenness’.
  • There is evidence that exposure to nature could be used as part of the treatment for some conditions.
  • There are challenges to providing green spaces, such as how to make parks easily accessible and how to fund both their creation and maintenance.