The Independent Tree Panel (ITP)

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The Panel

In November 2015, Sheffield City Council set up it’s Independent Tree Panel to advise on the street tree replacement programme.

The Process

The council sent out a survey letter to each household on streets where tree felling had been proposed. The letter contained brief details of the planned works and requested that residents complete an online survey to indicate if they agreed with the council’s proposals. If over 50% of the responses from each street disagreed with the proposals, then the plans for the street would be referred to the panel.

Unfortunately the council chose to send this important survey out in plain brown envelopes addressed to the householder and there are wide reports of houses that either never received a survey letter, or not surprisingly, assumed it was junk mail and binned it.

Summary Of Results

Sheffield Council has released the latest Independent Tree Panel recommendations, and the Council response to those recommendations. Adding these to the previously released information, here are the summary statistics:

150 roads have been referred to the ITP, but so far the ITP recommendations have only been published for 99 of these roads. These 99 roads had 461 trees for consideration.

Of the 461 trees considered:

  • 26 (5.6%) were dead or had already been removed;
  • 90 (19.5%) were dying or diseased so the ITP agreed with their removal
  • 339 (73.5%) were perfectly healthy so the ITP seriously considered them.

Of the 339 healthy trees the ITP recommended:

  • Saving 146 of them (43.1%), suggesting using one of the 14 free engineering solutions;
  • Saving a further four trees (1.2%) as special cases (The Vernon Road Oak, a rare Italian Alder on Kenbourne Road, a “magnificent” London Plane on Vainor Road), and one on Spring Hill Road, using one of the additional engineering solutions;
  • Felling 189 of them (55.8%) as the damage to the road or pavement was too substantial
  • The ITP advice was missing for a further tree

Of the 150 trees that the ITP recommended saving, the Council ignored them on 131 trees (87.3% of the time).

Of the 19 trees “saved” by the ITP process, five trees were incorrectly identified or listed by Amey and were therefore administrative errors, so only 14 are “genuine saves.”

In nearly all cases where the Council decided to ignore ITP recommendations to save, they have been vague about why, and have seemingly accepted Amey advice, unquestioned.

Extrapolating these numbers across the 6000 trees being felled in the first five years of the 25 year PFI contract:

  • 4602 would have been healthy, 1398 would have been dead, dying, diseased, or already removed
  • 2186 of the 6000 trees are being unnecessarily being felled

In summary:

  • Despite the lack of transparency, the ITP did at least at first seem to be genuinely independent;
  • The Council have questionable engineering expertise, and so are pretty much forced to accept Amey advice above the ITP advice;
  • So far the process has only saved 19 trees (4.6%) out of the 412 considered, only 14 of which (3.4%) is a genuine saving.
(as of 16.06.2017)

Results Published (…so far)

Council’s Final Decisions (…so far)

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