Dangerous trees – meeting agenda published

Sheena Jackson with trees requiring maintenance in Otterwood Lane

The Council have now published a report which could lead to improvements in tree management work in the City.

It suggests updates to the ineffective polices decided 18 months ago which have seen the number of dangerous and overgrown trees in the City multiply

The Council has a map available which it claims shows all public trees and their status. (Click). However, this concentrates on those subject to Tree Preservation Orders or which are in Conservation Areas.

The bulk of complaints about lack of proactive maintenance concern other trees and bushes.

Fungal growth threatening trees in Foxwood Hill

The Council says that it only has resources available to address “emergency storm damage, road blockages, attending as necessary to make safe. In addition “very urgent. dangerous high-risk hazards” such as predicted imminent failures including “full collapse, limbs, decay, defects” are addressed within “3 months” of being reported.

The Council currently has 42 outstanding reports of dangerous hazards such as full collapse, limbs, decay and other defects which it hopes to address “within 6 months”.

So bad has the problem become in some areas, that ward committees have agreed to use part of their delegated budgets to address problems.

No list of outstanding work has been provided in the report but in the Westfield ward, for example, major issues are known to exist in;

  • Acomb Wood (Council owned section near Osprey Close)
  • Wetherby Road
  • Little Green Lane
  • Otterwood Lane
  • Foresters Walk

Nor does the report address the increasing problem of private trees and bushes overgrowing the public highway. In some cases, like Burgess Walk, street lights have been blocked by tree canopies – leaving footpaths dark and with an increased security risk

The report suggests changes to the tree management policy document. It is unlikely that these changes will go far enough to satisfy residents. The work backlog is simply too large.

The use of outside contractors may be necessary if resident’s safety concerns are to be addressed.

The report will be presented to a “decision meeting” taking place on Monday 18th December at 4:30pm. The meeting will be held in the Thornton Room at West Offices.

Residents may make personal representations to the meeting about tree issues but must register to do so before the meeting. The deadline for registering to speak is 5.00pm on Friday, 15 December 2017.  Residents may also submit written representations, but these must be with the Council by 5.00 pm on Thursday, 14 December 2017.

In both cases notice must be sent by Email to: fiona.young@york.gov.uk  or tel: 01904 552030

Tree map covers all of York. Interactive

Tree management – Council to review policies

Its nearly two years since the York Council changed its polices on the maintenance and management of the trees which grow on public land in the City.

At the time, the then Councillor with responsibility for the service, was told that officials had grossly under estimated the number of problems that were caused by overgrown trees and bushes in the City. He didn’t heed the warning.

Dozens of problem cases have since been reported to the Council with little response. Even when the Ward committee has responded to residents demands for action by making funding available for tree loping and replacing dead trees, progress has been ponderously slow.

Overgrown highway hedges are a problem in some locations.

In others private hedges are completely blocking public footpaths

Now we are promised a review of the policy at a meeting which will take place on 18th December.  A different Councillor is now responsible for this service so hopefully some progress will be made.

The notice of the meeting says that “experience has highlighted the need to include additional policy statements on trees in formal landscapes, woodland management and Ward funding for tree care and management”. Indeed.

But trees need to be loped and bushes removed during the autumn/winter period & that time is now upon is.

Vital road link resurfaced as wind brings down branches in parts of Westfield

The Council has finished resurfacing the carriageway linking Askham Lane and The Green. The road had become badly potholed with the road humps posing a particular threat for cyclists. The Council completed the resurfacing work this week

In the same area, residents continue to complain about vehicles parked on the bend. They obstruct traffic and cause sight line problems. The Council will be asked to consider introducing restrictions on this section of road.

Recent winds have brought down several branches from trees in the Wetherby Road and Askham Lane areas. The problems has been exacerbated by lack of routine maintenance to highways trees in recent years. In some cases branches are fouling over head communications cables while in others public footpaths have been obstructed. It is hoped that some maintenance work will take place this winter.

“Meet on the bridge” plan as Councillors seek residents views on Green Lane trees

A few weeks ago Westfield Councillors asked residents to fill out a short survey. The survey asked about attitudes to the height and width of the trees which grow in the verges in (little) Green Lane.

While there was a mixed response, the vast majority of residents asked for at least some maintenance work to undertaken on the trees.

There were complaints that the trees blocked both natural and street lighting or interfered with communications wires.

Some residents pointed to excessive leaf fall in the autumn. Some felt that this was responsible for blockages on the street drainage  systems.

To make progress on the matter local Councillors have organised a public “on site” meeting.

It will take place on the bridge near the school entrance at 5:45pm on Tuesday 26th September.  The results will be discussed at the meeting which is taking place later the same day at which a tree expert will be present.

The Council will be undertaking some work on trees on the west of the City during the autumn and the Ward committee has a small budget available which could be used to supplement this programme

 

Site visit to decide on pruning plan for trees in little Green Lane

Most residents, who responded to a survey conducted by local Councillors, said that they wanted the trees in little Green Lane (Acomb) lopped.

The trees hadn’t received any maintenance by the City of York Council for over 20 years. Now some are interfering with communication wires and several are blocking street lights.

Councillors have arranged to meet local residents on Tuesday 26th September st 5:45pm on the bridge at the school end of Green Lane.

It is hoped that a consensus will be developed on precisely how much work needs to be undertaken on each tree (there are about a dozen in the street)

It is hoped that a tree expert will be present at the site meeting, and later at the Ward committee meeting (see below), when the crisis in tree management in the ward will be discussed.

The Ward Committee has allocated over £3000 to pay for urgent works required to trim trees and remove self seeded bushes which are causing problems in parts of the Westfield area. This work is best undertaken in late autumn so decisions need to be taken quickly. 

Action on problems reported in the Westfield area

A tree in Cedarwood Close has been lopped by the Council following action by Cllr Sheena Jackson. Keeping trees and bushes away from the publc highway has been problematic this summer.

Cedarwood Close tree with Sheena 6th July 2016 Tree Cedarwood Grove

Elsewhere highways staff are to inspect the trees in Burgess Walk which are overgrowing the footpath. The Council claims the trees are in private gardens and it is for the owners of the houses to lop the trees. There are increasing concerns here because of the size of some rotten branches which are falling onto public areas.

Trees on Burgess Walk

Trees on Burgess Walk

On Osprey Close a hedge in now overgrowing the footpath. The street sign has almost disappeared. This is a longstanding problem as the hedge is in  “no mans land”. Apparently it was neither sold to the adjacent land owner when the estate was developed nor transferred to the Council for maintenance purposes.  The hedge really needs to be removed.

Osprey Close Acomb Wood Drive overgrown hedge 27th June 2016

Osprey Close

The second phase of the weed killing programme has started. We have mentioned several areas which need attention including Kitemere Place, Waterman Court and Walton Place.

Kitemere Place weeds

Kitemere Place weeds

Cllr Andrew Waller has reported problems with weed growth on Waterman Court

Cllr Andrew Waller has reported problems with weed growth on Waterman Court

Seems the weed growth on footpaths in Walton Place hasn't received attention yet. We've asked for the weedkilling team to return

Seems the weed growth on footpaths in Walton Place hasn’t received attention yet. We’ve asked for the weedkilling team to return

Andrew has also reported problems with dumping in the Lowfields Drive area

Andrew has also reported problems with dumping in the Lowfields Drive area

A team of volunteers will be out and about in the Lowfields area over the next few days surveying residents views on public service standards in the area.

Time for York Council to get out the pruning knife

A meeting on Friday will make a final recommendation on the York Council’s tree management policy.

click to read report

click to read report

The proposed policy was amended at a meeting last week but still fails to fully recognise the impact that 5 years of neglect have had on the City’s trees and bushes.

There are simply too many paths and roads obstructed by overgrown trees and bushes.

What is needed is a proactive management policy.

…..and where a dispute, between the Council’s staff and local residents cannot be resolved, then there needs to be an appeal process where conflicts can be settled as amiably as possible.

In the meantime the Council needs to get on and resolve some long standing issues
View from Askham Lane bus shelter. Reported two months ago the shelter is still engulfed by nettles and rubbish. It is impossible to see approaching busses from within the shelter.

View from Askham Lane bus shelter. Reported two months ago the shelter is still engulfed by nettles and rubbish. It is impossible to see approaching buses from within the shelter.

Rubbish accumulating in the shelter

Rubbish accumulating in the shelter

Detritus and weeds still a problem and Ridgeway

Detritus and weeds still a problem on Ridgeway

Meanwhile vandalised trees - which should have been replaced several years ago - are just ignored. This one is on the Tedder Road park

Meanwhile vandalised trees – which should have been replaced several years ago – are just ignored. This one is on the Tedder Road park

We've reported an uneven footpath on Ridgeway

We’ve reported an uneven footpath on Ridgeway

Trees before people? Pendulum needs to swing back

Additional trees have been planted on Chesney's Field

Additional trees have been planted on Chesney’s Field

It is perhaps a good time for the York Council to be considering its tree management policies. 

Good progress has been made in many areas with the tree cover in the City having gradually increased in recent years.

The Council has so far fought shy of establishing a new (rural) area of woodland but hopefully that may come with the publication of the new draft Local Plan.

In Westfield volunteers have resourced a wide range of schemes including recently a parade of new trees alongside the footpath link across Chesney’s Field

However, the other side of the coin is that some inappropriately planted trees have now reached a height and depth which represents a nuisance of many residents. What has happened is that some trees, which were appropriate specimens for a rural location, have been left to grow unchecked in an urban setting causing misery to nearby residents.

In some cases, trees block out neighbour’s light, in some cases tree debris falls onto gardens and the highway, in other street lighting and warden assistance wires are blocked. In one or two cases the tree overgrows the highway causing a potential collision risks for high-sided vehicles.

Tree blocking out street lights

Tree blocking out street lights

Tree Cedarwood Close

Tree blocking highway

That isn’t good enough and the York Council now needs to start proactively managing these trees. In many cases it will mean pruning branches. In some cases, it may mean felling the tree and replacing it with a suitable species.

The Councils recently published proposed new policy could actually exacerbate these issues.  It says that the Council will not prune, cut roots or remove trees for the following reasons:

  • ·         Encroachment into or over a neighbouring property (since the property owner already has a common law right to prune back to their boundary)
  • ·         To prevent roots entering private drains that are already broken or damaged
  • ·         To increase natural light or change the view into or out of a private property
Trees planted to close to paths cause trips

Trees planted too close to paths cause trips

  • ·         To reduce or remove the perceived nuisance issues caused by birds, insects, falling debris, leafs (sic), blossom and fruit, or pollen
  •  To make way for new highway cross-overs (drives) or front garden parking
  • ·         To address interference with solar collection, satellite dishes, TV reception or telephone cables
  • ·         A tree being perceived to be too large or tall
  • ·         A perceived risk that a tree could cause damage in the future
  • ·         Disturbance to pavements, kerbs, garden paths and walls. (In these cases engineering solutions will be sought in the first instance ensuing that the tree can be maintained)
  • ·         Neighbour disputes due to perceived nuisance from a tree

If adopted that would pretty much rule out proactive management of any tree in the urban area!

Residents generally regard the York Councils response to problems with overgrown trees and bushes as unhelpful, sometimes bordering on the obstructive

Our view would be that residents should have a right of appeal to a democratically elected body. There is already an appropriate one in place – the Ward Committee. Any resident who is unhappy with the ruling of the City’s arboricultural staff on a tree issue should be able to ask the Ward Committee to overturn the ruling.

Bus shelter overgrown

Bus shelter overgrown

We would also expect Ward Committees to allocate part of their delegated budget to fund the provision of additional trees as well as controlling the impact that overgrown trees and bushes have on a neighbourhood.

The Council will first discuss its tree policies on 13th June  A final decision will be taken by an Executive member on 24th June.

NB. All the trees in question are all in the “public realm”. There are 30,000 public trees within the City.  The Council manages trees adjacent to the highway, in housing estates and open spaces, including parks, gardens, amenity spaces, sports grounds, nature reserves, closed churchyards and woodlands.  The Council also assists schools in the management of their trees