Jan 17 2014

Leader’s Blog: Keeping our Borough Green

susan_hall_pinup-150x150WHILE I write this during a mild spell, it was only last October that storm winds ravaged the country, blowing over 400 trees in Harrow in the process.

You will remember it took more than 120 of our officers an intensive 48 hours to get on top of the damage – clearing away fallen branches and checking possible structural damage.

In Harrow we are rightfully proud of our reputation as a green borough – as well as our parks and open spaces, we have 18,000 street trees that soften our urban landscape. I am pleased to say that we are putting an extra £100,000 into doing two things to preserve that green heritage.

The first is that we are about to replace those trees lost during the storms of October and, to a lesser degree, the high winds on December 23rd. We hope to have replaced 250 trees by the end of March.

So how do we know where these trees are? Well, calls from the public are clearly a critical guide. The council received 639 calls over storm damage involving trees, and our replacement programme will be based on these reports plus other information from insurance claims and inspections. Our local papers carried stories where trees had crashed into walls or houses, and these kinds of reports will all go into the mix.

Going forward, it is essential that we start a proper maintenance programme – including pruning – especially for our street trees. This issue will be addressed in the weeks and months to come. In practice, this means that council staff will be able to move from just intervening to deal with dying or potentially dangerous trees to tending and pruning back those that might now be partially eclipsing lights or street signs. I hope people living in Harrow will see and enjoy the difference in our green spaces and streets.

Of course, nobody can legislate for extreme weather – and I suspect the winter has a sting in the tail yet to come – but we are lucky in Harrow to have a team of environmental officers who largely live locally and know the patch well. When road and public transport becomes difficult during these stormy weather episodes, they can usually get to the office quickly and then get to work equally quickly on clearing away damage. It is impossible to continue in this breath without mentioning the tragic loss of our council colleague Donal Drohan, who was killed in a freak accident last October when a tree fell on his car in Watford. You will remember that despite Donal’s death, his colleagues at the depot pressed on with true professionalism to clear our borough up.

As we all know, council finances are under intense pressure and we quite rightfully have to justify any extra investment. I am sure you will agree with me that protecting the green heritage of our borough deserves that. Tree maintenance is a long-term policy and the steps we are putting in place now will, I believe, pay dividends in years to come.

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  1. John Clement

    If Labour get back in they will be keen to do deals with developers to build on all of this green space.

  2. Melanie

    The leader’s claim to “green credentials” would be credible had she followed through on her deputy leader’s promise to register Whitchurch Playing Fields as a village green. As she has reneged on a promise made by her “work husband”, a promise she was fully aware of, I no longer believe a word out of her mouth.

  3. Cllr Willy Stoodley

    Melanie that is utter tosh-I sat on the committee that made that decision and the very very simple fact is that your application did not meet all the criteria required for a village green. I repeat – REQUIRED. As in NOT optional. Susan Hall had absolutely nothing to do with it. In fact, after all that pallava the decision rested with 3 people only – John, Ajay and myself.

    John – so howcome the Tory Environment Minister signed off a directive to pay people to pull trees OUT! Now a big cause of flooding.

    And spare a thought for the under 30s – if no homes are built where are they going to live? Hmmm I seem to recall we one had a planning application for a caravan site – perhaps we could offer them Whitchurch Playing Fields in return for some temporary council accomodation?!! lol

  4. j p hobbs

    Well we are finding hundreds of thousands of places for people from all over the world to live most who have never put a penny in so maybe we should use the same effort for our own , I had to start work at the age of fourteen to help out my dad who served abroad thru WW11 , yes from the age of fourteen , at the age of about 30 ish i had become self employed , it was a bit of a struggle at first ,then i had a letter from the dept of pensions asking me to come in for a chat , two people talked to me very friendly and suggested i would be better off paying a lesser stamp so i took this advice for a couple of years , then i got an accountant who paid thru the self employed system of the time on my behalf advised by the dept of pensions , i worked on until i was 66 just 7 years ago , i then was told as i had paid the lesser stamp i was only entited to 73 £ a week total to live on and i have done so for a long time , now with help of age concern i have got a little more bringing me up a little over £100 yet these people come over and get so much having paid absolutey nowt
    so basicaly i am living on my life saving thru hard work for all those years , Thanks UK Bastards .

  5. j p hobbs

    I have learned one thing for sure you cant shame our politicians they are like stones , without shame and many without feelings ,

  6. Harrow Dude

    Susie you say “Going forward, it is essential that we start a proper maintenance programme – including pruning – especially for our street trees” This mean that we currently do not have proper maintenance in place. Can you explain to us the residents of Harrow what the £300k+ a year the council spends on trees has been used for. As a resident it is evident by your statement it has not been spent on maintaining trees and a walk down Alexandra Avenue, Eastcote Lane or Somervile Road will prove that. Of the £100k how much will be spent on the 250 trees?

    So where has it gone Susie? Can you tell us without descending into your dark art of answering without answering?

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

  7. FOI's R US

    Suggest you make a FOI request via the council website

  8. Susan Hall

    The 300k has been used for emergency maintenance only and replacements. I don’t have the details, don’t forget we only took control 4 months ago.

    With regard to the 100k I am looking at what the requirements are before committing to the specific split. I am aware however that the borough needs a proper pruning schedule and I will find the money for it going forward.

    Hope this is clear enough for you and not deemed to be evading the question. I could of course ignore all comments on here but I do attempt to answer where I can and when I have time to do so.

  9. Harrow Dude

    Susie I realise that that you only took control 4 months ago but that £300k+ cost has appeared in the council’s annual financial report for at least the last ten years and cover a period when the Conservatives were last in power. My question for you is what counts as emergency maintenance because if you drive along any of the major transport routes all you see is “Danger overhanging/low trees” placed by TFl. If it takes £300k+ just to deal with emergency maintenance how far will less than £100k go in providing proper maintenance

    Can you tell us how much has damage to vehicles caused by trees cost the Council. A yearly average for the last 10 years would be helpful.

    Thank you for your previous answer.

  10. Susan Hall

    Harrow Dude, I know when we were last in control I found extra money for trees and I will try and find those details for you. I will also find out about the insurance. I completely agree with your comments and am trying so hard to deal with the many issues I have picked up. I will get back to you as soon as I can

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