STAG Street Tree Manifesto for 2017 General Election

Produced by STAG to ensure that Parliamentary Candidates have an opportunity to make informed statements on the Street Tree problems in our city and how they relate to national politics.

Candidates responses are further down the page.

STAG Street Tree Manifesto for Parliamentary Candidates

The full manifesto above includes explanatory notes and supporting evidence, but here’s the front page:

Protect and Create Street Tree Canopy for Health
Large street trees make a unique and significant contribution to residents’ health (1). It must be a priority for National and Local government to protect established healthy Street Tree Canopy and have a comprehensive policy to plant new large crowned street trees across all our towns and cities, especially in areas of health inequality.

Include Trees in Air Quality Policy
There is a national crisis over dangerous air pollution. Street trees have been shown to mitigate such pollution, especially at ‘hot spots’ such as busy roads (2). Government must develop clear, evidence-backed strategies to conserve and create tree canopy where it will help deal with air pollution.

Stop Creating Private Monopolies over our Public Services.
The democratic crisis over Sheffield’s Street Trees is the direct result of awarding long-term control of our streets to a multinational company. Government must stop using risky, expensive and inflexible PFI contracts (3) and awarding local monopolies that allow powerful big companies to control public services for decades (4). Government must act to ensure that existing long term contracts do not prevent Local Authorities from responding to changing priorities (3,4).

Ensure Comprehensive Street Tree Management Strategies
Given the importance of Street Tree Canopy to health and wellbeing, both on the highway and on adjacent private land, Government must require local highway and planning authorities to have comprehensive strategies for management and further creation of street tree canopy, informed by the best arboricultural practice, taking account of environmental impact and financial value of trees and not compromised by highway maintenance, property development or other secondary concerns. Appropriate financial penalties should be in place for Local Authorities that do not conserve valuable street trees

Responses from candidates

We asked all the parties to comment on the manifesto but had a limited response, here’s the summary by party (in alphabetical order).

Conservative Party

No Conservative Candidate made a response to the Manifesto. The Conservative Party Manifesto does have a section on Street Trees that makes some very positive points, however it calls for authorities to consult before felling trees rather than setting out a more pro-active policy for management of trees and STAG supporters will be very aware that consultation is not of much value if there is no determination to learn from and act on it.

Green Party

Natalie Bennett (Sheffield Central) has written to us to say that she fully supports the STAG Street Tree Manifesto. We have not had a general response from the party or other candidates.

Natalie Bennett has been supportive of the campaign and Green Councillors have given a great deal of practical support and encouragement. At least two Green Councillors are very active members of STAG local groups.

Labour Party

One Labour Party Candidate, Jared O’Mara (Sheffield Hallam) made a response to the Manifesto. Although he did not specifically endorse any of our policies it was a generally positive and helpful response.

“Trees have a crucial role to play in biodiversity, pollution and public health. MPS can support local authorities by providing clear guidance and also,  crucially,  resources.
There are a lot of interesting ideas with merit in the STAG manifesto and I would commit to exploring these further.
In Hallam,  our local Cllr, Craig Gamble Pugh, has just been appointed Cabinet Advisor fir Green City,  and I have spoken to him about a number of new potential policies which he will be exploring.  These include increasing green infrastructure including additional street trees, in order to tackle Air Pollution especially in hotshots  and areas of greatest deprivation.”

Of our Labour MPs, Louise Haigh (Sheffield Heeley) has made good efforts to work with Tree campaign groups in her constituency and is negotiating with the council about trees on some streets. Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) has recently sent long messages to constituents who have asked him about street trees but these seem to be mainly  discussions of the Council’s response and do not address the National Parliament issues of Public Health or Monopoly contracts that are the main focus of our manifesto.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Party is the only one that has sent us a response on behalf of all candidates, the full text can be found at the bottom of this page.

Sheffield’s only Lib Dem MP, Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam) has been very supportive of the Street Tree campaign and Lib Dem councillors have given a good deal of practical support and encouragement.

It’s disappointing therefore that the party’s response did not really support our manifesto in any useful way. It appeared to be a ‘cut and paste’ of Lib Dem policies regarding trees but it did not address the particular issues of street trees and public health flagged up in the manifesto.

On the topic of long term contracts that give monopoly powers to big companies, the Lib Dems stated that they did not “take an ideological position on insourcing or outsourcing services.  We believe that under the right circumstances and with the correct management these types of contracts can deliver great outcome for citizens.” They do not seem willing or able to comment on the rolling disaster of PFI contracts that have damaged our public services, despite the criticism by the Treasury Select Committee that we referred to (and many other experts) It’s not idealogical to say that something is not working, and George Osborne did just that when he was in opposition and said that PFI needed major reform.

The Liberal response did call for transparency and the need for such contracts to be visible to the public, not secret like the Amey/SCC one.

The Liberals also criticised SCC’s contracts staff, saying, “We are of the view Sheffield Council has really poor internal contract management skills, which leads to poor implementation and compliance of some contracts such as the streets ahead one.”
Other politicians, including the Conservative Leader of Cumbria Council, have said that local authorities are in an impossible position in these huge contracts.

UK Independence Party

No UKIP Candidate made a response to the Manifesto. In the past UKIP Councillors have expressed support for our aims.

Full text of Liberal Democrat response to STAG Street Tree Manifesto

As you will be aware, over the past 2 years the Liberal Democrats in Sheffield have been working with local campaigners to oppose the Labour Council’s reckless tree felling policy. We have repeated called for a comprehensive tree strategy and for the Council to take a more common sense approach to the replacement of our mature highway trees.

If elected, a Liberal Democrat government would reverse the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next ten years, and protect remaining ancient woodlands.

Our children deserve to inherit a green and pleasant land; we have already taken great strides whilst in government to increase tree cover in England. Britain’s woodland cover had declined to an estimated 4-6%i by the beginning of the 20th century after thousands of years of forest removal for fuel, timber, industry, farming and settlements. It has been expanding since the 1920s as successive governments have encouraged new forest planting, and we want to continue to build on that success.

Planting a tree for every citizen will give them a unique sense of ownership over their natural environment. Trees can also play a vital role in keeping our air clean and alleviating the effects of flooding.

In addition, our ancient woodlands are an important cultural heritage which defines a lot of Britain’s landscape. Tree planting is a great way to offset an individual’s carbon footprint and become carbon neutral. Fruit trees can also serve a productive purpose in providing fruit and teaching children about where food comes from and the importance of preservation.

We will operate this policy through the Forestry Commission which have the expertise in site surveys and expert advice as well as providing seeds/ trees, planting materials, labour and maintenance. We will plant a tree for every citizen, and encourage more involvement from local authorities as well as third and private sector partners.

We will also encourage local authority Registry Offices to publicise this scheme when children are registered, to increase awareness of the scheme. Guidance for applicants stipulates that trees have to be planted in places where people live and work, and provide benefits to local people. Most sites, though not all, are on publicly-owned land.

The amount of CO2 a tree will offset through photosynthesis depends on many factors, such as the type of tree, where it is planted and the amount of room it has to grow. On average one broad leaf tree will absorb in the region of 1 tonne of carbon during its full life time (approx. 100 years).

This would build on the environmental successes of the Coalition Government, during which 1million trees were planted in the UK as part of the Big Tree Plant Scheme.

 The Liberal Democrats do not take an ideological position on insourcing or outsourcing services.  We believe that under the right circumstances and with the correct management these types of contracts can deliver great outcome for citizens. This should be decided on a case by case basis and appropriate checks should be put in place. We are of the view Sheffield Council has really poor internal contract management skills, which leads to poor implementation and compliance of some contracts such as the streets ahead one.

The Liberal Democrats have in the past proposed that Sheffield City Council take a national lead by making Freedom of Information laws apply to all new outsourcing of local services and to resolve that from now on, when new contracts are put out to tender from Sheffield City Council, service providers must agree to sign up to Freedom of Information rules. We also wish to do much more around getting value by trying to incorporate more mutual models of service delivery.