One of the questions I put forward at the last Full Council meeting on 13th September was in respect of trees, as set out below:
Q Will the Executive member with responsibility for the Environment please consider instructing our Tree Officers to have some leeway in allowing our constituents lives to be made brighter where they are suffering from overhanging trees making their lives a misery, all over the city?”
A “Resources are allocated on an inspection and risk assessment approach which allocates a category to each tree that defines the timescale applicable for any work that might be appropriate. This in turn enables priorities to be determined in allocating resources to address any issues identified. The main categories and timescales, where applicable, are as follows:
Category 1: Emergency completed within 24 hours
Category 2: Urgent completed within 7 working days
Category 3A: developing risk completed within 6 months
Category 3B: developing risk completed within 18 months
Category 4A: trees affecting health and wellbeing
Category 4B: trees affecting quality of life
Category 4: no unreasonable risks and therefore no mitigation required
The following table provides analysis of typical work carried out in a given year by each category identified above:
This therefore means that there are 144 category 1 trees that were responded to within 24 hours and a further 238 category 2 which on average were completed within 7 working days. This leaves 951 category 3A trees and 339 category 3B trees which have target completion times of 6 months and 18 months respectively.
It is important to note that category 1 and 2 work is carried out first, before any lower category works are considered which can mean category 3 and 4 works are rescheduled as a result. Management of these lower category works is therefore based on identified risk in order to ensure that limited resources available are deployed to the maximum effect. In some cases category 3A work in particular may develop into a category 2 risk and therefore work is prioritised accordingly. Given the fluid dynamic of how risks develop on individual trees it is therefore very difficult to assess what might be called an average time to complete work across the whole tree spectrum.
Category 4A and 4B was originally introduced in April 2014 in response to concerns raised by council housing tenants that some trees in their gardens caused extreme shade or interference with TV/satellite signal that could pose a risk to health, wellbeing and quality of life. A decision was therefore taken to allocate £160k from the housing revenue account to address these issues under specified circumstances and subject to consultation with other residents that may be affected.
A report to the council’s executive board in June 2016 approved a mechanism whereby the council can approve works on category 4A and 4B trees provided that the interested party is prepared to fund all associated work. The criteria applied is the same as that used for trees in council house gardens and can enable private residents, local businesses or other organisations to pay for work should the issue be of sufficient concern.”
I also put forward a question about the amount of resource within the Forestry team and whether it was adequate to deal with all the outstanding tree work and was advised as follows:
“Currently the service is experiencing long term sickness absence which is impacting on capacity and service managers are seeking to address this.”
Unfortunately all this response did was set out what I was already aware of, it did not shed any light (no pun intended) on the issue.