Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission, publishes tree pest and disease alerts and advisory notes in the form of bulletins and handbills, showing signs and symptoms of tree pests and diseases and advice on what to do if you suspect the pest or disease is present. This bulletin is a lighthearted parody of their pest and disease alerts, it’s intended to make us think how we would react if Private Finance Initiatives, or PFI, were a destructive insect or other animal that was having a similar impact on the city’s mature trees.
As an arboriculturist I’m unsentimental about felling and replacing trees when needed. I appreciate it’s a tough job managing an urban forest with a limited budget, and hard-nosed decisions must be taken. Indeed, ‘the right tree in the right place’ has been the mantra of arboriculturists and landscape professionals for many years. And much of the felling and replacement of lower value trees, even if they are ‘healthy’, can be seen as implementing this strategy.
However, an aggressive and inflexible approach has seemingly been taken on even Sheffield’s highest value heritage trees. This approach has seen the recommendations of the Independent Tree Panel largely ignored. Some of the decisions to remove these high value heritage trees borders on the perverse. Had the advice of the Independent Tree Panel been heeded, and the tree replacement numbers better reflected the size of trees removed, the wider programme of tree removals and replacements would have been much less controversial and the negative national media attention could have been largely avoided.
This hard-line approach has caused significant damage to the ‘brand’ of Sheffield. After the ‘steel-city’ one thing the wider public associated with Sheffield was a ‘green-city’ – trees form a key element in making Sheffield a place where people would want to live, study and work. This perception has unravelled over the last few years. Sheffield is now the city of the chainsaw massacre.