Health and Safety Executive (HSE) releases ebulletin following death of child from falling tree

Following a court case where a council was heavily fined following the death of a schoolgirl who had been hit by a falling tree, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued an ebulletin entitled ’Safety of trees on school premises and playing fields’ in January 2023. Rather than setting out what it believes the legal requirement to be, the ebulletin dictates not only what should be done, but how and by whom. This seems to go far beyond what might be expected from the regulator. The key good practice guidance for the management of risk from trees was produced by the National Tree Safety Group (NTSG) in 2011 https://ntsgroup.org.uk/guidance-publications/ and is currently under review. Being a broad-based stakeholder group headed by the UK Forestry Commission, NTSG can be relied upon as well-informed risk management guidance for trees, whereas I am not aware that HSE employs any tree specialists.

For more than four decades, Cheshire Woodlands has been managing tree safety on school sites and other educational establishments. Being the originators of the universally applied Quantified Tree Risk Assessment method, we are probably better placed than anyone to provide proportionate and cost-effective surveys and advice.

Sometimes trees just have to be felled…

But we need to engage with stakeholders early to explain why

The dispute between residents and Sheffield Council over the proposed felling of 5,000 street trees is rolling on. The tree felling is part of the council’s £2bn road improvement works, ‘Streets Ahead’, a five-year project being carried out by Amey.

In the latest turn of events the council, along with some union members and university professors, has written a letter explaining that “Sheffield has an estimated two million trees within its borders, giving it a strong claim to be the greenest city in Europe. The council is proposing felling and replacing 14 per cent of the 36,000 street trees, or 5,000 in total. After this process is complete, Sheffield will still have a strong claim to be the greenest city in Europe.”

This comes after the tree felling programme was stopped when the High Court granted protesters a three-month injunction, in response to which the council organised an event at the Town Hall to communicate its new ‘Tree and Woodland Strategy’, seeking to win over support.

Mike Ellison from Cheshire Woodlands said:

“It looks like Sheffield Council left it a little too late to fully engage with the public. This happens surprisingly often and it’s something many councils and large social landlords often have to deal with.”

“Residents can become very protective of trees in their area and organisations need to communicate well in advance of any felling.”

“Usually local people just want reassurance that a reasonable and balanced approach is being taken and that trees will be replaced for future generations. Many in Sheffield are outgrowing their situation or coming to the end of their lives so this course of action seems perfectly reasonable. We just need to remember that people love their greenery and so need to be given all the facts in a timely way.”

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