Purpose of the report: Scrutiny of Services and Budgets
To update the Select Committee on Highway Tree Maintenance.
Declarations of interest: None.
Jason Russell, Assistant Director for Highways
Lucy Monie, Operations Group Manager
Key points raised during the discussion:
1. The Committee were informed this item was an update following previous discussions with the Committee. The team were continuing to perform maintenance to trees which posed a risk to the highway and safety of residents, and with the threat of Ash Die Back in the South of England they were currently formulating an action plan in case there are cases in Surrey. Officers were continuing to have conversations with Boroughs and Districts regarding devolving tree maintenance, in particular with Spelthorne Borough Council.
2. Members queried why it appeared conversations regarding the devolution of tree maintenance with Boroughs and Districts now appeared to be not as successful as had been previously reported to the Committee. The Operations Group Manager informed the Committee that they were still in conversation with partners, however they often reached difficulties which they were attempting to overcome. Furthermore, some local councils had no interest in taking on tree maintenance.
3. The Committee felt that Members needed to be kept informed regarding maintenance work going on in their division so they are able to answer residents queries, as many queried when stumps would be removed. Furthermore, it was felt that there should be communication with residents to inform them when trees and the debris would be removed from the side of the road as it was often left for many weeks. Members were informed that the maintenance schedule was now part of the Highways Bulletin which should assist them to answer residents queries. The contractor would also carry out a letter drop and provide advance signing of tree works to let residents know what work would be carried out. Though there was a legacy of tree stumps which needed to be dealt with, in rural area these were often left for ecological reasons.
4. Members asked whether there was a procedure for dealing with private overgrown hedges on the highway as these can cause a risk. The Operations Group Manager informed the Committee that the landowner would receive a request for the hedge to be cut back, and if this was ignored there was a legal process which was followed, however it was often difficult to identify who the landowner was.
5. Members queried what was done with the tree remains as it was felt this could be a potential revenue source through recycling. It was stated that the tree remains were processed with some being recycled as wood chipping. The Cabinet Member informed Members that part of the Countryside plan was to develop two wood hubs in the county.
6. The Committee raised concerns that trees which had been found to be diseased were still standing after a year, with the disease spreading to neighbouring trees. The Operations Group Manager stated that the tree expert advised officers how long a tree can remain without posing a serious risk, however if the disease was spreading this would need to be looked at.
Actions/further information required: None.
Committee next steps: None.