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Tree Wardens' News - August 2015

Outsourcing of Greenspaces Services 

Despite being threatened by an increasing number of new pests and diseases, our trees and woodlands offer the ability to mitigate climate change. We consider that the management and expansion of tree cover in the borough should be a high priority to ensure a sustainable future and that the proposal to outsource responsibility for the maintenance of trees and woodlands within our green spaces to be a grave error. It is to be hoped that officers and Councillors alike will re-consider the wisdom of the proposed outsourcing. 

As the proposed outsourcing of parks maintenance may happen, the Tree Warden Group Merton's has sought to input into the specification for tenders, so the following was sent to Doug Napier and copied to Cllr. Judge.


“This document has been produced by the Tree Warden Group Merton (TWGM), in response to the request from Chris Lee and Andrew Judge for information to inform the LBM’s specification, which is being prepared before the intended outsourcing of maintenance of green spaces in the borough. 

At the meeting we had with Doug Napier, Andrew Judge and James McGinley, we were surprised they were not able or prepared to confirm that the management and maintenance of trees and woodlands in the borough would remain in-house. The following is worded in relation to this uncertainty. 

We are aware that contractors are employed by the arboricultural section of Greenspaces to carry out tree surgery, planting and maintenance works. We believe, it is essential that this continues to be the case, irrespective of how other green spaces’ maintenance is dealt with. We also believe that advice to other council departments should remain the responsibility of the Greenspaces arboricultural officers. This is necessary in order to:

- Retain in-house knowledge of the borough’s tree stock

- Protect against risk of unskilled works or inappropriate maintenance, aimed at making a contractor's life easier

- Protect and conserve the original landscape design of parks

- Protect and conserve old trees

- Protect the trees and woodland when future changes are considered

- Ensure a succession of tree planting for future generations

- Ensure adequate watering and management of new trees

- Ensure direction of management of tree canopy remains with the council, in conjunction with their ecological consultant and other interested parties, to ensure optimum habitat protection for wildlife (bats/birds/fish/invertebrates etc), for sustainability and to combat climate change

- Ensure that the council’s statutory responsibility of monitoring the condition of trees in the public realm, to ensure the health and safety of the public, is properly discharged and council officers and councillors are fully aware of their responsibilities in this regard

- Ensure any fallen tree is reported to the arboricultural officer for a decision on whether and who should cut and stack the arisings

Advise anyone it may concern against mowing under trees to protect the Root Protection Area (RPA) as described in BS 5837:2012 from compaction

- Arrange for trees to be protected when events are held in parks, to prevent cars parking under trees and compacting the RPA

- Ensure the continuation of use of local arboricultural contractors of known abilities to carry out work as they have local knowledge, retain skills and jobs within the borough and are likely to be more cost effective than an arboricultural service through a large maintenance contractor with greater overheads. 

TWGM has been involved by the arboricultural section, and also at its own direction, with much tree and fruit hedge planting around the borough. These community led projects should be included in the specification to ensure they are protected and managed to aid their establishment, to increase visual interest, biodiversity and canopy cover.

 Since 2010, TWGM has obtained trees, at no cost to the council, for all the projects listed, and the hours given by our volunteers has been calculated as 1,330 hrs in 2013. This funding and time should be included in the  outsourcing calculation, as the continuation of voluntary support cannot be guaranteed if/when the management of trees and woodlands of the borough is outsourced. 

We are concerned at the disruption to the ground staff service and the potential loss of staff who are skilled in their jobs and have extensive knowledge of the borough’s green spaces but we would be further alarmed if that were to include the arboricultural section, who provide the expert knowledge on tree matters within the council. 

As a minimum, we expect that the general condition, safety and level of maintenance of trees and green spaces should not fall below current standards. Despite the lack of certainty, we expect that the contractor should be contracted to liaise/meet with our group on a regular basis, whether through the council’s arboricultural officers or directly, to agree future maintenance plans and their delivery.  In the meantime, we will look forward to commenting on the draft specification before it goes out to tender”.


The Tree Wardens Group has yet to receive a response. 

Now with other Friends and environment volunteer groups, we are considering forming a “Merton Greenspace Forum”, independent from Merton council, to better engage with the council.

An inaugural meeting showed concern that a contractor will notcontinue the existing level of service, despite the promise made by the council. We have asked for early sight of the draft specification that preferred bidders are to tender against, in the hope of amending it to benefit the future of our well loved parks and green spaces.

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