June 29, 2008

Tree Management for Public Safety Comes Under Scrutiny

By Ibrahim, Magda

Balancing the value of trees with potential risks they might pose to public safety was examined by experts aiming to kickstart the creation of an industry standard on tree management. Figures from the arboriculture, legal and insurance worlds debated the need for a national standard that could guide the management of trees and reduce concerns over compensation claims.

Organiser and Treework Environmental Practice principal consultant Neville Fay said: "We need to ask how safe the environment is that we want to live in. and what the limits of expenditure are to ensure that safety."

He added that a national standard could lead to more confidence among landowners and arboriculturists in managing trees.

Middlesex University's senior lecturer in risk management John Watt said it was impossible to eliminate all risk.

"Are we getting it wrong and increasing management to the detriment of our resource base; are we effectively wasting some of our money? "he asked.

Hundreds of people attended the Tree Management For Public Safety conference in London on 29 May. with delegates including public sector workers as well as arboriculture consultants.

An electronic voting system was used at the event to gauge attendees' views on a number of issues - 75 per cent of the delegates saw trees as a positive asset, while only two per cent saw them as a serious liability.

Arboricultural Association director Nick Eden said: "There's the over-reaction that we must inspect everything and if anything looks slightly suspect we'll prune or fell it and there's the other side that says put your head in the sand and hope it goes away - neither approach is beneficial to society as a whole. Standards relating to tree management must be proportional to risk."

Lycetts Insurance director David Hewitt said education was key to tackling the issues, adding: " If we can come up with some guidelines for the owner or the person carrying out the inspection I think we've made a big leap forward."

The organisers of the event, including the chairman of the Tree Safety Group and Forestry Commissioner Sir Harry Studholme, said the discussions would inform the creation of an industry statement in the coming months.

Eden: standards should relate to risk

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Jun 5, 2008

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