Mike Ellison responds to Newcastle City Council 20.1.2012

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I am ashamed to say that once again my Council has treated an eminent expert shabbily.

As I said at the Fig Forum, there’s nothing to be gained and quite a bit to lose for arboricultural and risk experts to help Newcastle people try to preserve the Laman St trees.

I’m extremely grateful that such knowledgeable and respected experts as Mike Ellison have given us their time and advice.

I should not have been surprised that within the blink of an eye an internal memo critiquing Mr Ellison’s work appeared. I’ve reprinted the letter from Mr Ellison, with a link to the memo here. I wanted it to appear on the home page permanently, which is why it’s a page, not a post.

My favourite parts of Mr Ellison’s response are these:

‘…

the Council’s assertion that the root-plates of the trees are asymmetrical is founded on a very limited investigation, which excavated to depths of just below one metre on one side of the trees only. How this investigation can be used to justify the Council’s statement that the trees have ‘severely restricted root plates’ or asymmetrical root-plates eludes me’

and

‘It is suggested that “Council’s extensive body of evidence shows the figs pose a significant risk to life and property and, as a responsible organisation, Council cannot simply ignore this information”  If this is a reference to the Council’s ‘Case Studies’ document, this is nothing more than a record of tree failures, the causes of which are not known, but of which some possible contributing factors (such as restricted rooting) have been identified. There is no record of the magnitude or frequency of wind-loading that resulted in the recorded failures and as such the records have no value in informing consideration of the Laman Street trees. This document is a catalogue of assumptions.

‘I cannot leave the quoted statistics of historical tree failure without a mention for no reason other than the Council might infer that I accept them. I do not.

‘I find it disturbing that those affected by the proposed removal of the Laman Street fig trees might be bamboozled by Mr Cordingley’s interpretation of my report and trust that you will publish this letter on your organisation’s website by way of clarification.’

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I should have expected

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