FOI Disclosure Log

Customer Request Details

08 July 2019

Under freedom of information legislation, I am seeking the following information:

 

The number of trees chopped down in your area between June 30, 2019 and January 2014.

 

I require this information broken down by years and how many had preservation orders on them or were classed as exceptional due to age, size of historical significance.

 

Also during the same period how many trees have been planted - again broken down by years.



East Herts Council Response

08 July 2019

I am writing to acknowledge your written request for information.

Your request is being considered and you will receive the information requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Environmental Information Regulations, subject to the information not being exempt or containing reference to a third party.

The Act defines a number of exemptions, which may prevent release of the information you have requested.  There will be an assessment of your request and if any of the exemption categories apply then the information will not be released.  You will be informed if this is the case, including your rights of appeal.

If the information you request contains reference to a third party then they may be consulted prior to a decision being taken on whether or not to release the information to you.  You will be informed if this is the case.

There may be a fee payable for this information, this will be considered and you will be informed if any fees are payable.  In this event the fee must be paid before the information is processed and released.  The 20 working day time limit for the response is suspended until receipt of payment.

If you have any queries about the processing of your request then please do not hesitate to contact me.

It is important that you include the above FOI reference number on all correspondence related to this request.

Your personal details will be held within out Information Request case management system, and only used for the purposes of evaluating and processing your request.

While details of your information request may be published on the council website, your personal details will never be published or released to anyone outside the council unless it is required by the Information Commissioners Office.

Thank you for your request.



East Herts Council Response

06 August 2019

Thank you for your request for information, this has now been processed and the information that we hold is enclosed.

The number of trees chopped down in your area between June 30, 2019 and January 2014.

April 2014 – March 2015  - 211

April 2015 –March 2016 -  237

April 2016 – March 2017 - 248

April 2017 – March 2018 - 157

April 2018 – March 2019 -213

I require this information broken down by years and how many had preservation orders on them or were classed as exceptional due to age, size of historical significance.

See notes below

Also during the same period how many trees have been planted - again broken down by years.

2013 - 2014 - 125

2014 - 2015 - 14

2015 - 2016 - 325

2016 - 2017 - 880

2017 - 2018 - 100

2018 - 2019 - 539

The Council does not monitor or record the number of trees felled on private land, only on land for which it is responsible.  We are not responsible for any highway street trees. 

 The Council does not serve TPOs on its own tree stock as there is an expectation in law that Local Authorities will manage their own trees to these standards.  We would not prune or fell any tree that could not be justified under Town and Country Planning Act regulations.   We have not had the need to fell any trees during this period that we would define as exceptional due to age, size or historical significance.

The Council has followed a tree planting programme for at least 20 years, gradually building up the tree stock in our parks and open spaces. There are only finite opportunities for tree planting given the type and use of our parks.  The number planted in any given year will therefore not necessarily equal or exceed those felled.  As noted below, we are still in the process of thinning relatively recently planted woodlands as part of our professionally conducted woodland management programme.

 We operate an independent tree risk management inspection programme to inspect our trees regularly and diligently.  Where our inspections reveal there is any cause for concern regarding the safety of trees, we endeavour to take appropriate action.   We investigate each request we receive and refer to the findings of the latest inspection as well as considering the position of the trees in relation to customer’s properties.  We prioritise the budgets available to manage our entire tree stock to prune or remove those trees which present a risk, ensuring that the most urgent cases are dealt with first.

The guidance we receive from our expert consultant does not conclude that all large trees near to buildings must be removed or reduced in size.  We reassure our customers that carrying out unnecessary heavy pruning to trees is not recognised arboriculturally as necessary to prevent a tree from falling.  Some pruning may be required for example where a tree has been unexpectedly exposed to the prevailing wind or where it has developed a weakness or disease.  In some instances heavy pruning can in fact cause structural weaknesses in the tree that can create problems in the future.  Where a tree is healthy it is far better to monitor it and carry out work in response to regular inspections.

The Council values its trees across the district including those on its own land.  We recognise that actions taken need to be proportionate to the actual risks involved and the importance of trees in our environment.  Our inspection regime is thorough and carried out by specialist arboriculturalists qualified to undertake risk assessments.   Management decisions are taken in light of the wider benefits of trees; aesthetic, ecological, environmental and sociological.  We aim not fell any trees without sound evidence that the tree is likely to cause damage or injury or where for conservation reasons, its removal will benefit the wider environment. We will not fell a tree because it is dropping seeds or leaves.  This would set a precedent which could result in the loss of thousands of trees growing in our urban areas.

Many residents have concerns about the amount of light they feel is obscured from their property by vegetation.  The only practical solution to this would be to either fell a huge proportion of trees in our woodlands or to commit to a long term exercise of reducing the height of thousands of trees at the cost of many thousands of pounds every year.  This would be to the detriment of the trees and the woodland.  We advise all customers there is no legal entitlement to light in this respect.  There are common law rights relating to developments which might affect an uninterrupted use of something for a number of years such as the building of a new extension.    This does not however relate to trees present in the landscape.  We can only consider the effects of trees or shrubs with regard to any physical effects that they may have to properties.  Our view is that it would not be fair to all residents for the Council to spend a high proportion of funds on ongoing pruning or felling that is not necessary for the health and safety of the tree but only to afford light.

Woodlands adjacent to properties often provide an important wildlife habitat and an attractive natural backdrop for local people to enjoy.  It would be incongruous with our commitment to manage our parks responsibly for both wildlife and people, to consider removing woodland trees unnecessarily.  We manage the trees and woodlands in our parks carefully and in line with good practice.  We commit to a programme of woodland management which will often include thinning (removing a number of trees) where they have been purposely planted too close together.   Woodlands are often planted at a high density in the knowledge that some trees fail and to provide the opportunity to choose the best trees to reach maturity.  This sort of work is carried out in line with good practice and with the benefit of expert advice.

If you have any queries or complaint about the processing of your request please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Alternatively for more information on the Freedom of Information Act contact the Information Commissioner at:

Information Commissioners Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Telephone 0303 123 1113

https://ico.org.uk/

 

It is important that you include the above FOI reference number on all correspondence related to this request.

 

Thank you for your request.