The true cost of saving trees?

You recently ran a story where the council said it would cost between £14 million and £26m to save all the healthy street trees.

Tuesday, 10th May 2016, 6:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2016, 7:20 am
Sheffield Council and amey have been examining tree roots on Rustlings Road.

Many questioned this enormous figure which refers to just a potential 2,000 trees where engineering solutions may be considered.

But now that further details are emerging, even more queries appear to arise.

We are advised this includes 100 trees for which there is no alternative to felling, (so no cost included for them). Surely though, this must mean that there must be a way to save all the rest – or were we being misled when told that ‘felling is always the last resort’?

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We are advised that a further 1,000 plus 700 would need medium engineering, (eg affecting kerbs and footways), and low-scale engineering, (eg footway ramping), solutions respectively.

However, Steve Robinson, who announced himself as SCC head of highway maintenance and responsible for the Streets Ahead Project, advised the second Highway Tree Advisory Forum that “Engineering and tree-based solutions come at no extra cost to the council; the tax payer does not pay if an engineering solution or a tree-based solution can be applied – and the reason for that is that the Streets Ahead project is a highway maintenance project; and engineering and tree-based solutions are highway maintenance solutions.” (ie the first 14 of the much quoted ‘25 engineering solutions)’.

So, that is £5.7m, (their estimate), that should not be included.

We are advised that a further 200 would need large-scale engineering solutions which are outside the remit of the contract and which, at £100,000 each, make up the remaining £20m.

However, many of the mock-ups presented as examples at the Forum were so extreme, (eg reducing road widths; closing a road to traffic; digging up, rerouting and grassing over footways; etc), that they are fairly rare non-starters. This figure should be hugely reduced.

However, we are also advised that the above ‘costs’ would be increased by a number of items, including the following, by which it now seems to be confirmed as not included in the contract: assessing the trees for an engineering solution, time for engineering design, time for its construction, construction in a way sensitive to tree retention and hand digging.

So, were we also being misled when we were told that engineering solutions are always considered before a tree is proposed for felling?

Rustlings Road resident

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