• Welcome to the LTOA website

    Welcome to the LTOA website

    The London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) constitutes the professional & technical voice for London's trees & woodlands Read More
  • Become a Sponsor

    Become a Sponsor

    The LTOA relies on subscriptions from its members and sponsorship to operate. Read More
  • CAVAT

    CAVAT

    Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees (CAVAT). CAVAT provides a method for managing trees as public assets rather than liabilities Read More
  • How to Become a Member

    How to Become a Member

    Members can attend, for free, the the LTOA meetings which are held four times a year and cover a wide range of tree related matters. Read More
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  • Welcome to the LTOA website

    Welcome to the LTOA website

    The London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) constitutes the professional & technical voice for London's trees & woodlands Read More
  • Become a Sponsor

    Become a Sponsor

    The LTOA relies on subscriptions from its members and sponsorship to operate. Read More
  • CAVAT

    CAVAT

    Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees (CAVAT). CAVAT provides a method for managing trees as public assets rather than liabilities Read More
  • How to Become a Member

    How to Become a Member

    Members can attend, for free, the the LTOA meetings which are held four times a year and cover a wide range of tree related matters. Read More
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  • 2
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  • 4

The London Tree Officers Association

Welcome to the LTOA website. The London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) constitutes the professional & technical voice for London's trees & woodlands. Its aim is to enhance the management of the Capital's trees.

We hope that you find the LTOA website both interesting & informative. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

This was written by Gary Meadowcroft, Tree Services Manager at London Borough of Southwark for the Arb Magazine in Issue 177, Summer 2017.

The role of a tree officer or tree manager is not well known outside our industry. Granted, those familiar with the arboricultural profession can differentiate between the roles of arborist, consultant and arboricultural officer, but for the majority of people, including services within local authorities, the responsibilities of arboricultural officers and the work we do are not well understood or publicised. When I tell people what I do for a living they look at me blankly until I expand a little, and even then I don’t think they actually get it. I also spend a lot of time speaking to people who have a voice for trees, and often they are suspicious about the local authority and its management of trees, failing to appreciate the work we do to protect the environment.

Arboricultural officers cover a range of disciplines in much the same way as consultants, with the principal arb officer/manager responsible for the management of the strategic and operational service. A key difference between these roles is the volume of trees arboricultural officers are responsible for in a small geographical area.

The arboricultural team at Southwark consists of two arboricultural officers, an ecology officer and the tree services manager (me). The borough is approximately 17 square miles and has 57,000 trees covering parks, housing, highways and footpaths. This figure does not account for trees in woodlands, and adding those to the total would see it rise exponentially. We are quite a small team for the number of trees we are responsible for, although I am sure many other local authorities are under similar pressure.

In the public eye

Managing trees in a public environment is a tough job since everything you do is in the public domain and up for scrutiny. We could liken Newton’s Third Law of Motion to the management of trees – ‘for every action there is a reaction’, but rather than motion we’re talking about emotion, and rather than equal or opposite forces, we’re talking about the opinions of the public on every decision taken by a tree officer. 

By the time we come to undertake work on a tree, we will have gone through a systematic  process of identifying the problem,  the risk, the mitigation and what we can reasonably do to retain the tree rather than lose it. But the perception is that we just turn up and fell trees.  The fact is we manage trees for the benefit of the environment, the green infrastructure, amenity, and as social and economic assets, to name just a few of the considerations, and in order to do that we manage risk. Naturally there are times when it is necessary to remove trees because other management options and risk mitigation measures are not appropriate, but again this follows a decision-making process, with felling being the last resort.

Wide-ranging

As tree officers/managers we work on a wide range of issues, including:

  • pests and disease
  • subsidence
  • hazard surveys
  • regeneration
  • development
  • arboricultural impact assessments
  • planting
  • woodland management

For all of the above, a large volume of work is undertaken by committed and passionate officers to address the problems, liaise or consult with the public and ensure that the decisions we take are the most suitable for the benefit of the trees and the public.  We use a range of sophisticated tools to assess the health of trees such as decay detection devices including the Picus Sonic Tomograph 6/12, PD series resistograph and motion sway sensors.

We also have a Cabinet Approved Strategy and are members of the London Tree Officers Association (for which I sit on the executive committee, the Biosecurity Working Group and the Canker Stain of Plane Working Group). As an organisation of tree officers and consultants we produce a range of documents for tree professionals to aid them in delivering tree management within their boroughs, something which could be better advertised in the public domain (see John Parker’s article on trees and footways, page 53). The general public is often not aware that we are working for the benefit of protecting the environment and trees, and that a lot of officer time is committed to producing such documents.

Working on the big picture

I recently met with a group of people about contentious trees in one of our parks. I had taken the decision to remove some trees on the grounds of safety as they were in poor condition and located on the edge of a footpath with a high foot and bicycle traffic fall. Following the assessment of the trees and careful consideration (including options for retention), I decided removal was the best approach and site notices were erected to inform the public. What followed was a string of emails and requests for a site meeting so that I could explain my decision. But if the role of the tree officer was better known then there would have been a sense of comfort that we are working to protect the environment. Removal of trees often creates opportunity for replanting to create a sustainable landscape with an uneven age tree mix that gets away from monoculture and enhances diversity, thus providing more resilience and longevity. During the meeting it was intimated that what I was actually doing was destroying the amenity of the area by removing mature trees and replacing them with young trees. However a mature landscape started life as a young landscape. It was hard work convincing them otherwise and they couldn’t see the risk I could see, regardless of the explanation. This, I think, sums up the general experience of tree officers as there isn’t the information or exposure to our jobs as tree specialists.

Some of the work we do can play a big part in the wider issue of tree management and the health of trees across the UK and beyond. Take canker stain of plane for example (CSP): this pathogen poses a  threat to the planes of the UK if it reaches our shores, and based on what we know, this is most likely to happen from infected tools being brought back in to the country by arborists working abroad. I work as part of a team headed up by John Parker in London to monitor the pathogen. This work is important not only to protect the trees but also to provide important data to the Forestry Commission on potential sightings. So our work extends outside of the borough.

I was lucky enough last year to attend the first international workshop on CSP in Padua, Italy, organised by Treework Environmental Practice and Lucio Montecchio (see ARB Magazine 175, pages 64–69). This study tour provided invaluable information for the detection of CSP which I and others have since brought back with us to implement within our boroughs. This was an opportunity for tree officers and tree consultants to work together for the benefit of trees in the British Isles and is another facet of our work that generally goes unnoticed.

Promote the profession

Frustratingly, people seem to notice our work when a tree is removed or pollarded – and certainly in Southwark when the tree is linked to a case of property damage. The public perception will be that we have undertaken work which appears drastic and, in the residents’ eyes, unwarranted. So, what’s the answer to this? Consult? Notify? As a responsible authority we will notify and consult through different mechanisms including a Tree Management Strategy, which clearly sets out our aims and objectives, but this doesn’t always help because of the suspicion that we are overzealous in removing or pollarding trees as a precaution to avoid financial risk and property damage. The reality is we are very thorough when assessing a claim to ensure the right management approach has been implemented for an implicated tree. 

We need to better promote our profession and be seen as the advocates for trees and the environment that we are. Perhaps these days social media is an obvious platform because it is instant, accessible and often gets shared, ‘liked’ or ‘re-tweeted’ to name a few, and I think a good mechanism for starters is the communications team within a local authority who can promote the good work being done. After all, we are managing vast numbers of trees and making complex decisions whilst maintaining best urban forest practice and working with a diverse range of clients.

I think as an industry we can do more by building on the positive reaction by tree officers to the 2016 National Tree Officers’ Conference, working with national bodies like the Arboricultural Association and the Institute of Chartered Foresters, promoting the role of arb officers as the professional group who manage the largest urban forests in the UK and just as importantly, promoting collaboration with other organisations at a local and central government level.

 

In Barcelona at the European Forum on Urban Forestry (EFUF) John Parker, Chair of the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) was awarded the title of European Young Urban Forester of the Year 2017. This prestigious award is a reflection of John’s ongoing hard work for the LTOA and Transport for London (TfL), where he is Senior Technical Specialist – Arboriculture & Landscape. It is particularly in recognition of his efforts to bring together arboriculture and urban forestry across Europe.

John said “winning this award is an unbelievable honour for me personally and a fantastic acknowledgement of the national and international work that the LTOA has been doing. EFUF and the LTOA are two amazing groups which I feel have a lot in common and which are both very close to my heart. Tree officers deserve all of the recognition and support they can get and it is a privilege for me to be able to represent them at EFUF.”

 

Kelly Suvari, Arboricultural Officer at London Borough of Camden, tells us about her experience of presenting at the National Tree Officers Conference (NTOC) in 2016.

Why did you decide to submit an abstract?

When I first heard about the National Tree Officers Conference, I was interested to attend but I never thought I would end up presenting to such a wide audience of tree professionals. At the time I had been working on creating an internal procedure for tree officers in relation to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. The aim of creating this document, was to give some clarity and method when dealing with this legislation.

I thought this subject might be of interest to other Tree Officers, and for me to get some feedback on how they deal with different situations that arise. For these reasons, and encouragement from my colleagues, I decided to submit a paper.

How did you plan your presentation?

I get very nervous when it comes to public speaking, and I have only ever presented at team meetings, therefore the idea of presenting to such a large audience was very daunting for me. However, I believe if you plan well and practise your presentation you will overcome your nerves.

When I was preparing my presentation I prepared the main topic points within my PowerPoint notes section, to ensure I did not over complicate things for myself and the audience. I used bullet points to prompt me and this kept me focused. I found using diagrams also helped me to explain processes more clearly, rather than getting tongue-tied trying to talk about everything.

What did you learn from the experience?

It was a great experience to speak at the National Tree Officers Conference, it has given me the confidence to present to a large audience again in the future. I found the feedback after my presentation to be really useful. If I was to do this again, I would allow myself more time to practise, elaborate more where needed, practise my timing and rehearse out loud with a smaller audience.

The submission period for abstracts to be presented at the National Tree Officers Conference 2017 is now open and it will close on Friday 12th May 2017 at 17:00hrs. For further information click here

 

The Institute of Chartered Foresters Professional Member Andy Tipping MICFor, Trees & Woodlands Manager at London Borough of Barnet, tells us about his experience of presenting at the inaugural National Tree Officers Conference (NTOC) in 2016.

Why did you decide to submit an abstract?

We had recently let new tree contracts and challenged the usual setup to try and make our contractors more specialised to and add performance management which tied in with Social Value. I thought that the topic was interesting and wanted to let others know that, far from being the harrowing experience I had anticipated, this situation should be looked on as an opportunity to change things that don’t work and enhance those that do.

How did you plan your presentation?

I learned a long time ago that PowerPoint doesn’t help me – it’s usually been more of a distraction than anything else. In my presentation, I wanted to engage the audience and get the steer from them, so I used a flip chart and got people shouting up answers from the floor, which seemed to liven things up!
What did you learn from the experience?

That we can all learn from each other. The conference was great because it simply provided a platform for Tree Officers from all over the country to get together and talk about their daily working lives. This style is very inclusive and so no one should feel deterred from speaking. In fact, I would recommend the experience to any Tree Officer – especially those from outside the M25! If you want to gain some public experience, you couldn’t ask for a better baptism of friendly fire.

What positive impact did it have on you?

I have been attending conferences for many years and lately, most of these have had an emphasis on Urban Trees, their significance and management. And yet it is remarkable how rarely you get a presentation by a Tree Officer – someone who is actually managing the urban tree stock professionally. The idea of hosting a National Tree Officers Conference which brought these professionals together in the middle of the country to exchange their ideas made this day one of the best conferences I have ever attended – a sentiment echoed by many I spoke to afterwards.

The submission period for abstracts to be presented at the National Tree Officers Conference 2017 is now open and it will close on Friday 12th May 2017 at 17:00hrs. For further information click here

 

National Tree Officers Conference 2017

The National Tree Officers Conference will be held on 8 November 2017 in Telford, Shropshire with speakers sharing their experience and best practice within Local Authority Arboriculture. Anyone is able to attend and booking information is available here.

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How to Become a Member

Members can attend, for free, the LTOA meetings which are held four times a year and cover a wide range of tree related matters.

Click here to find out how to become an associate member