Letters: Makes no sense financially, to me!

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I think others are doing a better job than I could in showing how stupid and short sighted the council and Amey are being over our trees so, being an accountant, I thought I’d try to understand the finances.

From various sources one can find out the cost and length of the contract and the total miles of highway to be improved and maintained.

One can also find out how many trees there are and how many have gone or are at risk, but all the statistics that can be derived mean nothing unless you know how much it costs to resurface a mile of road/footpath, how much it costs to maintain it annually, how much it costs to remove and replace a large tree and how much it costs to maintain the tree and surrounding footpath if it is not removed.

One must remember that replacement trees will grow in 20 years and could, arguably, do more damage as they grow than a stable mature tree.

What makes no sense to me financially is that the relative cost of removing and replacing a large tree must be some order of magnitude greater than manually resetting kerbstones and levelling the footpath for instance.

On the one hand we are looking at a large gang of men with heavy machinery, road closures and safety zones for a substantial number of hours and, on the other hand, we are looking at a small group of men with a road drill, a shovel or two and materials for a few hours.

We are told variously that removing trees is only one of many options available within the contract, that there are no funds for “alternative engineering solutions” or that it will cost extra not to chop down and replace the trees on Western Road.

Can one conclude that Amey are being paid to chop down the trees but not to do the sometimes minimal repairs that would be quite appropriate?

If I was being paid a fixed sum per mile to maintain the roads, which allowed for chopping down and replacing trees, and then I found I didn’t need to, I think myself and my bottom line would be delighted. So, what sort of contract is this that only works to fund the most expensive option?

I conclude that what we are looking at is called “front loading”. Amey are being allowed to spend a large proportion of the contract value in sterilising the roads in the first few years on the understanding they will get it back over the next 20 years because all that will be needed will be some minimal maintenance and sweeping up far fewer leaves – until the new trees have grown enough that the whole cycle has to be repeated.

Even better if the council (ie us) have to pay extra not to chop the trees down, but without getting a refund for the heavy engineering and new trees not used.

Tony Ball

Sheffield

143 ‘unknown’ missing trees paving deal?

On January 4, 2016 a tree campaigner wrote to the Council to register a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request asking for the location of the 143 uses of flexible paving claimed by Coun Terry Fox (reported on page 9 The Star, December 28, 2015) to have been used to retain trees so far.

Initially the council said that it was not in possession of any such documentation

Then later said it would be ‘manifestly unreasonable’ to disclose this information

It had ‘outsourced’ to Amey to record such uses so could they be to blame?

And Amey’s notebooks are sometimes exposed to the elements including to dirt and rain.

Now did the council really think that the commissioner would not complain?

To find t records would take them many hours with closer and detailed inspection and it could cause ‘distress, disruption or irritation’ and even some vexation.

Well who could guess that an FOI request would cause the council such agitation?

However the commissioner insisted they must answer the FOI request within 35 days.

And as for their own record keeping, she suggested many possibilities to change their ways.

Yes, it is time the council kept such information ‘clean’, transparent and easy to reveal.

I note their 35 days have now expired, and they don’t seem to have asked for an appeal.

So perhaps even now 143 ‘unknown’ missing trees could get a flexible paving deal.

Footnote: The Council has now revealed that there are 29 uses of flexible paving within the city area, none of which appear to relate to retention of mature street trees.

Commissioners’ comments within it and the council’s response should be required reading for anyone interested in seeing how incompetent and misleading our council is in relation to street trees and the Streets Ahead programme.

JW

Street Tree Supporter

Air pollution will get even worse

If the round table discussion on air pollution organised by your sister paper the Star is to lead to improvements it will require joined-up thinking by the council. Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and sustainability, highlighted the need to change people’s ‘hearts and minds’. But we continue to see actions that do the opposite.

I recently went to the council’s economic and environmental wellbeing scrutiny committee. They were examining a report proposing changes to environmental maintenance services that will reduce clearance of fly-tipping and standards of cleaning maintenance still further.

Within those proposals is the removal of shrub beds along many city highways to make grass easier to cut. Numerous studies show that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulates are reduced significantly by well-placed shrubs and trees to remove them from the air. We need to be increasing tree and shrub ground cover in Sheffield, not reducing it.

Green councillor Rob Murphy asked for the report to be referred back to be reconsidered in consultation with the Director of Public Health so the impact of removal could be assessed.

Looking round the table he was the only councillor who voted for this to happen. The report was accepted and the changes will now go ahead.

Without thinking through and understanding how decisions made in one part of the authority affect other parts, air pollution will get even worse.

And the 500 premature deaths a year in Sheffield linked to air pollution will keep increasing.

Brian Holmshaw

Sheffield Green Party