Today’s columnist, Sean Harding: Fight to keep what we have

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I have been following what is going on in Sheffield for quite some time now and it is breaking my heart.

To see so many beautiful and beneficial trees being removed is a tragedy.

I live in Bristol, a city which like Sheffield prides itself on being ‘green’ and has a large population of urban trees. I know what my feelings would be if what was happening in Sheffield were to happen in Bristol.

As a tree surgeon working for a council contractor my colleagues and I were generally under enormous pressure from the minute we got out of the truck in the morning until home time.

We would generally be in a team of three with our list of jobs for the day. We were expected to ‘earn’ a set amount of money per day. This would vary from company to company and city to city, so as an example I will say £500 per day for a three-man team. On our list of jobs would be a list of prices. This is where it would often go pear-shaped and we would be put under too much pressure to earn the money.

Because contractors were so keen to win a council contract the tender they put in bordered on the ridiculous.

Some days it was impossible to earn our money and we would be £300 short of our targets because the prices per tree were so low.

When tendering for the contract the contracts manager had seen a tree and nothing else, not the logistics involved to do it.

We would therefore get it in the ear on our return to the yard from the supervisor, who in turn would get it from the contracts manager for not achieving our money for the day.

As a result standards of work would go down.

Unfortunately, I had an accident earlier this year which has left me disabled. The accident was a result of carrying out tree work incidentally but I have lost none of my enthusiasm for trees.

What it has done however is made me see what a nuisance trees can be.

I have cherry trees outside my driveway which fruit profusely. They go over the car and squash all over the wheels of my wheelchair. They go all over my hands and over everything else.

Do I want these trees cut down? Of course I do not, they are sacred, they are beautiful. The benefits far outweigh the negatives.

When I go down the shops I have to encounter the pavement lifting due to tree roots.

These can sometimes prove to be a problem but do I want this tree cut down? Of course I do not.

I deal with it, sometimes by crossing the road to avoid the more obstructive.

I have lived in roads where the front garden in autumn is a foot deep in leaves. Did I want the tree in front of my house removed? No.

We are more educated now about the benefits of trees than ever. It makes me furious to see what is going on in Sheffield.

I am fairly confident that a large number of the trees being removed are unjustified and an alternative form of management could have been used to retain the tree.

We as tax-payers and residents have our own parts to play.

Stop complaining about the exposed and raised roots, about the leaves, the fruit, the sap. Start appreciating what we have and the important roles our trees play.

But fight to preserve what we have and do not let these councils and big contractors get away with environmental murder.

* Sean Harding, former Tree Surgeon for a Council Contractor