Letters: Utterly laughable consultation exercise

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I note Councillor Peter Price, the renowned vitriolic tub-thumper wrote to you last week to praise Dave Bocking’s “balanced” piece on the Streets Ahead fiasco.

I’m unsurprised that Peter liked the article so much as this, like the two previous double page spreads produced by Bocking, is entirely uncontaminated with any challenge to the council diktat and contains not a single reference to the storms of outrage from local and national conservation experts on the dunderheaded recklessness of the profit-driven assault on the street trees.

Price, a man who let us not forget once called United fans ‘animals’ and said their ‘pig muck’ would need clearing up, claims trees that are over-mature need choppIng down and replacing. Peter Price is 80.

Most of the trees already cut down were perfectly healthy and needed only one of the numerous pre-paid engineering solutions to be used to resolve any issues of discrimination. A bit like putting someone down rather than giving them an NHS hip insert.

He claims 60,000 new trees have been planted. The vast majority are under a totally different reforestation project, nothing to do with Streets Ahead.

He claims new surfacing has been done to roads and pavements when in fact the contract is hugely behind on both, including lengthy swathes of road with zero trees.

He claims improvements to gullies and drains. One hopes the capacities have been massively increased to take the extra 150 gallons per tree per day that will not be taken up by the removed mature trees. That’s a lot of flooded cellars otherwise.

He claims removing trees makes things safer for groups like the partially sighted.

Large permanent things like trees are far less of a hazard than temporary things like, say, wheelie bins left out all week long; yellow bikes strewn about town; or discarded Amey barriers left for weeks after work has been completed (I can see the reasoning, in that the original work is liable to have been so shoddy that it needs redoing in a matter of months).

Similarly the previously mentioned engineering solutions would get around the issues he claims wheelchair/pram users face.

He claims 6,000 trees have been identified for replacement but it is proven the contract with Amey requires ‘no fewer’ than 17,500 to go.

Despite their protestations this is not a target, the Council are bemusingly unable to explain how a financial adjustment would work if 17,500 are not removed.

As in not even able to explain in whose favour that adjustment would be.

As a professionally qualified senior government auditor, this contract, and particularly the utterly laughable consultation exercise frequently used by SCC to justify ‘public opinion’ is the most contemptible omnishambles I have witnessed in 22 years experience. As a keen amateur satire writer for The Rochdale Herald, I have simply started writing the slightly exaggerated truth about the Council’s quasi-Stalinist approach.

It’s so much more incredible than any satire I could come up with.

Sebastian Wiesel

Meersbrook

Campaigners don’t wish to stop improvements

Peter Price praises your ‘balanced article’ on the tree programme but then cherry-picks from it.

If your readers missed it, among other alternative views, it also said that; “the original 2007 consultant’s report suggested .. only 500 trees required removal” – savings are seemingly sought “in cutting back basic care and maintenance” on the others - “little input from tree experts at the time [the contract] was written” - “neither the council nor Amey seem to have any joined up strategy” – “it knocks major holes in other existing conservation strategies .. and is counter to the green policies and promises the council have made over thirty years” – “The proposals … take no account at all of public opinion’ – “Huge issues of lack of transparency and of accountability” – “the work is not in accord with agreed national strategies or standards” – “the behaviour applied to the situation by SCC and Amey has been .. totally unacceptable” – “tree experts (visiting) the city have been appalled at what they have seen”.

The council also seem to remain in denial about the contract documents they have been ordered to release by the ICO which apparently show that, despite all they have said over the past three years: there is no mention of felling ‘as a last resort’; no ‘6D’s’ felling criteria; and, they include no ‘engineering solutions’ to help save trees; but do include an unchanged requirement that 17,500 street trees shall be felled. And they have not explained how 20 years maintenance will be paid for, if any less than this ‘target’ is actually removed.

It is difficult to see how he thinks the resilience of our healthy mature broadleaved trees, with many years left of benefit-giving, is improved by chopping them down!

Diversity in species and age can be achieved by new planting in the hundreds of spaces left by previous fellings and in areas of the city presently without trees.

His new woodland planting is outside the road maintenance programme and away from where those trees being removed gave their benefits, right in the heart of the traffic-percolated residential areas.

And the reason there were no photographs of people struggling in wheelchairs is that there are few footpaths with such extreme circumstances that couldn’t be regraded.

They said this on my street, but the wheelchair-using member of the ITP didn’t agree nor, I understand, did other disabled community representatives – and neither did my disabled mother nor buggy-riding grandchildren!

No campaigners have wished to stop the many improvements brought by the Streets Ahead project – just the irretrievably damaging and unnecessary removal of healthy trees.

AR

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