Agenda item

NOTICE OF MOTION - TREE AND WOODLAND MANAGEMENT

Over 70% of Rotherham Borough is classified as Green and its many trees and woodland areas have positive environmental, physical and mental health benefits.  The Council is committed to planting many more trees to tackle the declared Climate Emergency and is responsible for the care and maintenance of tree stock and woodland areas.

 

Some residents have raised concerns that certain trees and woodland areas need to be more proactively maintained by the Council. 

 

There are trees in areas of our Borough that are of a disproportionate size and too closely located to residents’ houses and gardens.  Examples include those on Anston Plantation and The Steadlands, Rawmarsh.  Such trees have caused significant issues for residents, including blocking light and heat, interference with telephone signal, overhanging branches, undue leaf fall in gardens, and damage to properties, fencing and equipment from falling branches and trees.  Many are of a type and location that would not be permitted under current planting practices.

 

Many of these issues present a significant health and safety risk, highlighted during recent storms when several such trees fell, causing damage to properties and crashing into internal rooms.  They also cause residents undue stress and anxiety, creating noise in high winds, fear of injury, damage to property and undermining their quality of life.  The impact is more acute for many elderly residents, for whom this anxiety is coupled with a fear of slipping on an undue leaf fall and suffering serious injury, compromising their amenity.

 

The Council’s Tree Management Protocol and Guidance currently places a disproportionate emphasis on the arboricultural needs of trees.  It does not sufficiently consider the welfare, interests and views of residents living in close proximity and the exceptions to the policy of non-removal of trees are too narrow and inflexible.  Residents feel that their needs and views are not given appropriate weight in the decision-making process and the current Protocol allows for these to be ignored, providing an excuse for inaction.

 

A more proactive Protocol, that gives greater consideration and weight to residents’ concerns, would improve their health and safety and quality of life, cut the costs of reactive maintenance, and minimise property repairs and insurance claims.  It would also give the public a greater stake in tree management, improving engagement and public confidence and engendering greater support for sensible tree planting in line with the Council’s targets.

 

Therefore, this Council will:

 

·         Undertake a review of the current tree management Protocol and Guidance to ensure that it:

 

o   Follows best practice;

o   Maximises opportunities to seek the views of residents living in close proximity to trees and woodland;

 

o   Ensures RMBC always acts as a "good neighbour" when dealing with residents in connection with trees and woodlands, undertaking proper consultation, keeping them informed of actions, dealing with issues promptly and circulating the results of any tree and woodlands surveys to proximate residents;

o   Provides the flexibility to give appropriate weight to the nature and scale and resident concern and, where sufficient, attribute this equal or greater weight than the arboricultural needs of trees;

o   Recognises the potential serious impact poorly managed trees can have on residents’ quality of life, including through secondary burdens like heavy leaf fall, and provides flexibility to act on this basis;

o   Provide scope for existing trees and woodland that breach current planting and location practice to be actively managed back in line with this, including pruning, felling, re-siting and/or replacement with more appropriate tree types in full consultation with proximate residents.

 

Mover – Councillor Baum-Dixon                    Seconder – Councillor Thompson