Planting and replacing Bristol’s street trees with Section 106 money

There are some 38 s.106 agreements worth more than £400,000 available just for planting trees in Bristol.

BCC Area 01

Section 106 (of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990) agreements are private agreements made between local authorities and developers. Some Section 106 agreements are specifically made to replace trees lost because of development. In Bristol, these agreements are made under the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (see pages 20 & 21). They often also require that trees be planted within a one-mile radius of a development site. The current total value of these funds is more than £400,000.

There are also another 27 agreements that relate to ‘Parks & Open Spaces’ valued at more than £450,000, some of which might also be used to plant trees, but subject always to agreement with Bristol Parks Forum and other local ‘green space’ community groups.

Here is a summary of the current tree-specific agreements grouped by Ward and the new BCC Administration Areas:Ward S106 fundsBackground Notes

Of the 52,017public trees and tree sites managed by the council, a third are street trees. Across the city there are 944 vacant tree sites, 542 of which are places where street trees once grew. Bristol Tree Forum is negotiating to have these sites made available for sponsorship. The remainder of these tree sites are in housing estates, parks, cemeteries, amenity areas and many other green spaces.

None of these sites is available to sponsor but there are currently another 707 sponsorship sites, of which 246 are in streets. These figures constantly change as trees felled are added and sites sponsored are removed. Figures for sponsorship sites where a sponsor has come forward, but the tree has not yet been planted are not published.

These sites could also be funded by Section 106 money. This makes 1,651 sites across the city where trees could, potentially, be replanted. Of these some 1,198 lie within one or more of the areas specified by these Section 106 agreements and 417 of them are on streets.

Replacing all Bristol’s lost trees using only Section 106 agreement monies would cost £765.21 per tree. Planting trees in new sites (sites where there was never any tree) may be more expensive: £3,318.88 per site if the pavement must be lifted, services are disturbed, and a specially designed tree pit installed. If all Section 106 agreement funds were used to replace just lost trees, then some 540 trees could be replaced – 45 per cent of the total number of sites available.

Figures available for tree planting on streets show that 608 street trees were planted between 2013 and 2018, an average of 122 per annum (We are happy to provide the reports and data upon which this table is based on request).Trees Planted tableWe have now been able to establish that the Council felled 1,304 trees over the last three years. We have not yet been able to find what sort of trees they were or where they we located, but it is likely that most were located on streets. 363 street trees were planted over the same period.

* This figure constantly changes. As trees are felled, they are removed from the main BCC asset register. The site disappears until a new tree replaces (if it ever does) the one lost. Trees are usually planted during the winter months when most trees are dormant.

Here is a pdf of this blog.

Towards a Bristol Tree Strategy

Representatives of the Woodland Trust, The Bristol Tree Forum, The Forest of Avon Trust and Bristol City Council met last Thursday 1 March to start the process of developing a Tree Strategy for Bristol.  This is the first tentative step in a process which will include consultation and involvement of all those groups and individuals who have an interest in Bristol’s trees.

The process of developing a strategy will need a lot of thought: Bristol has woodland trees, park trees, trees on private land, street trees and trees on corporate land (including university trees).  In each case, the costs and benefits and what we would like to achieve are different, as are those we would want to involve.  The idea is to start a “conversation” which would include an online platform, a number of exploratory meetings with key partners and then, in June, a public meeting which would be convened by the Woodland Trust, the Bristol Tree Forum and the Forest of Avon Trust in collaboration with Bristol City Council.

Without pre-judging what might be in a tree strategy, these are some of the considerations:

Bristol already has a lot of good practice in place, both at a policy level and through individual case studies.  The idea would be to collate all this together with a clear approach to improve the management of existing trees, the planting of new trees and to increase community engagement in tree management.  Inevitably we will need to bring funding to Bristol to meet these goals and a good tree strategy will help with this.

The initial discussion was very positive – it is something we have talked about for some time and I am really pleased that there is now the momentum to carry it forward.

Vassili Papastavrou,

Vice-chair Bristol Tree Forum

Please contribute to the Sheffield Tree Action Group Legal fund

The Sheffield Tree Action Group or STAG is urgently fundraising to support the legal fees of eight of its members.

The fund has reached nearly £21,000 (as of 23 July 2017) but it is likely that the legal costs will be double that for the three day hearing that starts on 26th July.

They have been taken to the High Court by Sheffield City Council in order to intimidate them and other protesters.  Sheffield City Council is hoping  that the court will issue injunctions against the protesters, claim huge damages and prevent them and others from opposing the felling of trees in future. One Councillor is amongst the eight.

Graham Turnbull from STAG spoke at our 4 July Bristol Tree Forum meeting.  The situation in Sheffield is shocking, with whole avenues of street trees being removed as part of a PFI agreement with Amey to manage Sheffield’s streets for 25 years.  Quite simply, it is cheaper to remove most of the street trees and replace them with small saplings than to maintain the existing stock of trees.  There have been 5 am dawn raids and arrests under obscure anti-trade union laws – although the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges against protesters. Now the council has decided to invoke civil law where the standard of proof is lower.

The problems Sheffield residents are facing are not unique. The outcome of their protests will determine whether other councils decide to embark on wholesale felling as a way of cutting costs. From a wider perspective, their council is seeking to outlaw peaceful protest. We should all help for those very reasons.

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.’

 

Bristol Trees in Crisis – Notes of 04 July public meeting

Notes of a public meeting of the Bristol Tree Forum held in the City Hall, Bristol on July 4, 2017 

Bristol City Council Attendees: Deputy Mayor Asher Craig, Cllrs. John Goulandris, Liz Radford, Mike Davies, Olly Mead, Clive Stevens and many senior officers. 

At 6.00 pm The Chair, Peter Harnett, moved the meeting into the main Conference Room, as some 80 people had gathered. He read out a short statement from Cllr. Anthony Negus, Chair of Neighbourhoods Scrutiny (see below) who could not be present. He argued that the cuts to street tree maintenance would create long-term problems.

He then called on Cllr. Clive Stevens, who argued that the Tree Forum since 2008 had built up trust between the public and the council, and that the recent cuts had destroyed that relationship.  Trust is very important to the Council, especially where they aspire to commercialise services and so need a trusted brand name people can buy into.  BCC had, with BTF, been deeply involved in the creation of the Bristol Tree Replacement Policy, which had helped to ensure that where trees were felled they were replaced. Of around 16,000 street trees, 4,000 are pollarded and there are some 1,200 stumps awaiting replacement.

Note: – Trees of Bristol has logged just over 66,000 trees – some 67,300 when stumps are counted – of which some 16,000 are street trees, covering 1,062 species, varieties and cultivars in 2,310 sites.

The Chair then read out the statement of Margrit & John Waldron (see below).

The Chair then asked Vassili Papastavrou to read a statement from Prof. John Tarlton (see below), who had persuaded the University to put substantial sums into new tree planting. He suggested that the increase in the price of new trees from £295 to £765 would simply ensure that all private sponsorship would dry up, and that as a result tree stump sites would be permanently lost.

Graham Turnbull from the Sheffield Trees Action Group then spoke about the way in which the Council had handed over responsibility for road maintenance to a private firm under a PFI initiative, who had then begun a massive tree felling programme on the grounds that trees damaged pavements. A council attempt at a public survey had been grossly mishandled, and the Sheffield Trees Action group was set up via Facebook with 6,600 members across the city who began direct action to protect trees, which led to arrests, and nationwide adverse publicity. He made the point that a PFI contract ends democratic accountability, and that the entire city Tree department had been outsourced.

After questions the Chair invited the deputy Mayor, Asher Craig to respond. She stated categorically that that Bristol is not looking at any PFI contract that would include street tree maintenance. The financial crisis had forced an immediate cut in the budget, and the need for longer term change. A cut in the Highways budget of £1.66 million had resulted in the reduction of the street tree management budget from £187,000 to £53,000.  She emphasised that the risks from street trees would continue to be assessed and action taken if needed. For example, where epicormic growth becomes a health & safety issue, the council will act. Only dead or dangerous trees should be felled. She wanted to rebuild the trust, to work with communities, and set up some kind of charitable trust scheme, perhaps involving the Woodland Trust, the Civic Society and the Forest of Avon, which would be able to tap into funds not available to the Council. A meeting of interested parties should be held as soon as possible.

During questions from the floor a number of issues were raised including the problems of epicormic growth, and whether voluntary action could help; pollarding is a skilled, technical job which should be done by experts; the house insurance issue when a policy issued to an individual owner would depend on the pollarding regime; whether Bristol City Council would be able to defend itself from subsidence, flooding or tripping claims in the future without a reasonable pollarding regime in place (just one or two successful claims could wipe out any savings made by cutting the budget); the need for continued climbing inspections of street trees, rather than street level judgement, as an end to pollarding would create dangers which would start to manifest themselves within two to three years, but which might not be visible from the pavement; the need to increase tree inspections has not been costed; and the need to put Bristol’s problems into a global perspective, with the need to increase local and national tree canopy cover. For example, one mature tree can sequester some two and a half tonnes of carbon.

The Chair then called on Peter Mann and Shaun Taylor of the BCC Highways department, who stressed that statutory and health & safety obligations will be met. They were challenged on the issue that short-term measures would lead to long-term problems, and, in response to a question from the floor, stated that the BCC Tree Officers were not asked prior to the decision to cut the budget what the effects of the reduced maintenance budget would be.

Finally, the chair sought suggestions from the floor for possible solutions. There were contributions from the Woodland Trust, Forest of Avon, Birmingham Trees for Life Trust amongst many others, and a suggestion that Trees in Cities could be involved. The Deputy Mayor drew attention to a meeting on July 20th of the Community Network.

Possible solutions discussed were:

  • Partnering with other like-minded organisations to set up a charitable trust to take over the management of street and other public trees.
  • raising funds through accessing grants from other charities, lottery or other public money or crowd funding. It was noted that raising funds for revenue expenditure (annual maintenance costs) can be very difficult.
  • Encouraging local volunteers to help care for and manage local trees – a bit like the snow warden schemes set up across the city.
  • Copying other solutions around the country – such as Manchester City of Trees or Birmingham Trees for Life.
  • Install rain catchers in parks and other public spaces with trees and encourage local groups to use them to water newly planted trees.

The meeting closed at 8.10 pm.

Statement of Councillor Anthony Negus

I’m sorry I can’t be with you today but have been active in highlighting and supporting this cause since it became apparent.

This Administration passed swingeing budget cuts to services earlier this year. I was one who persistently warned of the unforeseen or even foreseen consequences when these headline numbers became defined losses in service. Some of these are not easy to track but when part of the highways savings morphed into reduction of the maintenance of our street trees by 78% the immediate effects were plain and stark.

Bristol is wonderfully endowed with street trees. Quite apart from the well-being and environmental richness they support, mocked by some, they are sunshades and regulate drainage and pollution.  But they grow, and in an urban setting this needs to be controlled. Without this, branches reach windows and fall on people and vehicles, and roots can damage structures and footpaths, increasing the risk of personal injury. This will lead to more expensive insurance claims and the offending mature trees, and probably others, will be cut down though perfectly healthy, adding to the total of stumps in the city. Increased planting charges will make their replacement with saplings much less likely.

This policy, seeking savings, will not secure them. If followed-through the loss to our city’s appearance, the environmental benefits and our reputation as a green capital will be immense and last for at least a generation. It is possible for councils to accommodate long term necessity, even in this period of austerity. I urge the Bristol Tree Forum and the wider population who appreciate the real value of trees to strongly and actively support efforts to stop this short-term vandalism.

Please help. Thanks.

Statement of Margrit & John Waldron

We feel privileged by the foresight of previous generations in leaving such a legacy of street trees in our City and are committed to leaving to maintaining this heritage for our successors.

Street trees are a ‘common good’ that should be paid for the community at large, however in the light of the current financial emergency facing the City we propose that those who enjoy them and have the means to do so should make a nominal contribution of £10 per person towards an emergency tree fund to help maintain and enhance this heritage.  This could possibly raise a fund of up to £1m to be spent in consultation with local communities.  We enclose our initial contribution of £20.

Statement of Prof. John Tarlton

Alongside concerns regarding the cut in the maintenance budget which will inevitably lead to a loss of existing trees, it is also proposed that the cost of tree replacement will be more than doubled from £295 to £765 to cover maintenance costs to 15 years.

The financial argument for this is unsound. The current cost of £295 includes an amount for the additional 2 years of watering. Beyond this, the maintenance of the new tree is covered by the existing maintenance budget for the earlier tree.

By increasing charges prohibitively, it is likely that potential sponsorship offers will dry up. Also, by delaying planting at an “existing” tree site (at a cost of £295), later planting would incur the full cost of a new tree, at £3000. If the council ultimately aim to recover these lost sites, the cost to them will be many times what they are trying to save with this short-sighted policy.

Hilary Green, who attended the meeting but had to leave early, has asked for her planned contribution to be added. Here it is:

Isn’t it about time Bristol looked at a congestion, or perhaps more pointedly, a pollution charge?  This would at least help to pay for some of this – and perhaps also contribute towards an environmental fund, which could help fund street trees and more.

I was in Ljubljana on business this year – Green Capital in 2016.  They had closed off the whole of the city centre to traffic (except for early morning deliveries).  People walked, cycled, or used the (free!) electric mini-buses, leaving the streets safe for people and free from traffic fumes and noise.  It was also bustling with street life and the shops and restaurants were doing great business.

I appreciate that different cities have different configurations and pressures, however I am sure there is something we could learn from Ljubljana, if only that we need to find a way to deter traffic from unnecessarily entering the city centre, and find a way to provide clean, cheap public transport.

Bristol Trees in Crisis – Agenda for tonight’s emergency meeting

Meeting of the Bristol Tree Forum – 6.00 pm to 8.pm Tuesday 4th July, The Writing Room, City Hall, Bristol

6.00 Introduction. (Peter Harnett, Chair, Bristol Tree Forum)

6.10 Written summary from Anthony Negus, Chair of Neighbourhoods Scrutiny

6.15 Concerns over the BCC decision (Cllr Clive Stevens)

6.25. Peter Harnett. Concerns.

6.30 The situation in Sheffield. Graham Turnbull: Sheffield Tree Action Group

6.45 Questions to Graham Turnbull

6.55 The Council’s response to concerns. Cllr Asher Craig.

7.00 Questions to Asher Craig.

7.15 Responses from the Highways Department

7.20 Questions to Highways Department

7.30 Finding solutions: Questions to members of related organisations

7.55 Close

Peter Harnett

Chair, Bristol Tree Forum

 

 

Urgent help needed to water new trees

Lots of newly-planted trees on The Downs and elsewhere are suffering from lack of water in this unusually dry weather.  Many trees are dying.

The soil around the roots of each tree was so dry that (despite the recent rain) it would now take a lot of water to become hydrated.  Your help is urgently needed to water any of these trees that you see.  Even if they look nearly dead, with a lot of water they may come back to life.  These trees were paid for by members of the public and local organisations.

A number of people have raised concerns and Bristol City Council has said that it will now water each tree twice a week.  Some are in good shape – one sponsor has been watering her own tree.

IMG_0446
Just about hanging on…

Last year, the same thing happened and after six months of raising concerns with Bristol City Council, they said that last year’s problems would not happen again and watering would be sorted out for this year.  Much of the cost of planting a new tree is to cover sufficient watering for the first couple of years.

Clearly, it is a terrible waste of trees, time and effort and upsetting for the sponsors for the trees to die.  The Bristol Tree Forum  will keep raising this problem so that future sponsors can be sure that their trees thrive and that dead trees from this year and last year’s plantings are replaced.  A proper guarantee needs to be obtained for the future.

IMG_0454
Too late – these trees on Redland Green are dead

If you know anyone who sponsored one of these trees alert them and encourage them to water their own tree.  If you see a new tree that is dead or dying please email us a location and photo.

Vassili Papastavrou