Let us be clear about one thing, the whole tree felling situation is driven by Amey’s profit margin.
They signed a 25-year, £2.2 billion fixed price contract with Sheffield City Council to upgrade and maintain Sheffield’s highways.
Roughly half of this PFI contract is funded by private businesses and half by the council (ie ratepayers’ money).
Because much of this contract is redacted we are not allowed to see the exact details, even though we are paying for it, but often these contracts are specified in terms of outcomes and don’t specify the processes used to achieve these outcomes.
This means Amey can use whatever (legal) methods they want to do the job.
Also, there will be penalties built into the contract if the council insists that Amey do things in a different way.
This is why, despite campaigners showing the council cost-effective methods of pavement/highway improvements used by other local authorities throughout the country, without the felling of so many trees, they have not seriously considered these.
They even reject the proposals by the Independent Tree Panel because they know it will incur additional costs, as admitted by Councillor Bryan Lodge on Radio Sheffield on November 18.
One obvious way Amey are maximising their profits is to reduce their maintenance costs.
This is achieved by the felling of mature trees and replacing them by young trees, which will take more than the remaining 21 years of the contract before they grow to a size when they need serious maintenance work.
An example of this is the elm tree on Chelsea Road. The council/Amey said it would cost £70,000 to retain this tree.
After an independent highways engineer quoted a figure of less than £4,000 it was explained that the £70,000 included Amey’s maintenance costs over the lifetime of the project.
So, based on the independent figure and rounding things a bit, let’s say £60,000 was for maintenance for the remaining 20 years – £3,000 a year.
So far, Amey have felled almost 4,000 mature trees. Even if Amey are saving on average £1,000 per tree per year on maintenance this means overall they are saving £4 million a year.
Amey are being allowed to destroy our environment while making a huge profit.
Because of the contract the council signed they can’t do anything to stop this.
The only way to save our roadside trees, and there are potentially between 18,000 and 27,000 trees at risk over the lifespan of the Amey contract, is to stop the felling and renegotiate this contract now before more damage is done.
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