STORM DORIS

The recent ‘weather bomb’ which hit the UK last week caused its fair share of loss, damage and disruption. The evidence speaks for itself…but what were the Arboricultural Impacts, and what can we learn from unpredictable events such as Storm DORIS.

Tree Risk Management

As was stated by a well known insurer last week “policies will cover storm damage….this is exactly the type of event that insurance is designed to cover…” [sic]

More often than not, however, there is a process to go through as described in your insurance policy small print. Insurers need to be satisfied that as the policy holder you have acted diligently, reasonably and sensibly.

Are your ducks in a row?

The general level of risk from trees is very low, BUT, limiting the risk of potential harm and making sure that you have behaved appropriately (as a responsible property owner) is ultimately the Duty Holder’s ‘get out of jail free card’.

In the event of trees falling and causing damage, ask yourself….have you managed tree-related risks such that they are ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable). Insurance is there in the event that otherwise LOW risks are realized by unforeseen circumstances such as Storm Doris.

PLEASE do not overreact to the sensationalist media coverage I have had the misfortune of reading over the last week – some of which I will put in another post. There is some very good, straightforward guidance freely available from the National Tree Safety Group about what you should be doing with regards your trees. The advice is proportionate to the risk posed by trees and defendable rather than defensive.

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NTSG’s guidance “Common sense risk management of trees” is for anyone involved in tree safety management.

Winter Weather Warnings

The recent and continued wet weather experienced across the UK and particularly here in the west country may pose problems for trees – the main concerns at this time of the year are the increased likelihood of winter storms and high winds.

Flooding can alter the soil structure by allowing the various aggregates to fall apart, thus resulting in a lack of, or reduced soil cohesion.  Saturated soils and high winds can increase the risk of trees falling over.  It is probably worth keeping an eye out for obvious signs/symptoms of damage; such as a leaning tree with recent soil or ground disturbance around its base.

Flooding can cause numerous problems for trees depending on the length of time the soil around them is saturated or submerged.  One such problem is the increased risk of water born ‘nasties’ such as Phytopthora which thrives in wet soils and has the ability to kill trees.

Tree growth in the following growing season may also be affected and soils which have been subjected to prolonged flooding may need to be decompacted or aerated and mulched with good quality organic matter to aid recovery.

It is important to be vigilant and to assess trees following any extreme weather event, but to also remember that the impacts of these events may be responsible for later symptoms of poor growth, decline or even mortality.

Aspect Tree Consultancy launches with training seminar

Welcome to the first blog posting by Aspect Tree Consultancy Ltd.

The company launched in November 2008 and combines the talents and experience of Dominic Scanlon, Jon Kiely and Chris Widdicombe.

On 4th February 2009 we ran our first seminar – Tree Risk Management for Housing Associations. The company has a policy of providing training and advice that will provide a public benefit across the South-West of England and beyond. The seminar was run in conjunction with Tor Homes, South Hams District Council and QTRA Ltd. A major part of the Aspect ethos is to work in partnership with other organisations and companies to make a real impact on tree care.

The event was a real success with excellent feed back from the delegates. There is no doubt in our minds that we got a great response because we made every attempt to make the day relevant to peoples actual jobs.

Many Housing Associations originated from Local Authorities but when they split they lost all the specialists that Councils have the benefit of. As a result many people responsible for trees have no training or experience in managing tree populations or managing the risk that they can pose.

Our event aimed to give the delegates an overview of tree management and how they can achieve sensible and affordable tree management – to suit their budgets. Trees generally pose a low risk of harm and managing the risk they pose should be guided by the location they are in and how frequently this is used.

The event started with Dominic providing an over view of tree biology and how poor pruning can increase management costs over the long-term.  This was followed by Simon Putt from South Hams District  Council giving advice on tree protections and tree work application procedures.

Quantified Tree Risk Assessment – an affordable system:

We promote the Quantified Tree Risk Assessment system and we had the honour of the systems author, Mike Ellison, giving a talk about QTRA. This was followed by a presentation by Rob Scholefield of Tor Homes who gave a working example of how he uses the QTRA system and how he has implemented a tree policy to ensure that he is spending his money where it is really required.

The benefit of this system is that is allows tree owners to identify the sites or areas that are most frequently used and then to focus their tree inspections to the areas of the highest use. By prioritising in this way tree owners can prevent expenditure on unnecessary inspections or overly detailed ones. There is also a reduced tree surgery cost compared to the works thrown up by the traditional survey method.

QTRA and Health & Safety Executive Guidance:

The QTRA system corresponds to the current HSE guidance and promotes sensible and simple methods for inspecting and managing trees.

Upcoming Aspect Seminars:

Aspect will be running another seminar to deal with Planning Applications and 1APP – to highlight what information applicants need to include with a planning application and why.  The seminar will deal with best practice and advice on how to minimise problems at the application stage.  If you would like to attendend this then please contact us to register your interest.