Tree maintenance - Gautby Park

Waiting for an internal review by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council of their handling of this request.

John H Hutchinson

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,
I shall be grateful if you will respond to the following requests for information: -

1. What is the name of the officer who made the decision to fell the Gautby trees to ground level, under whose authority and according to which Policy was he acting?

2. Please may we see this Policy?

3. What was the financial gain to WMBC of tree maintenance at Gautby Park?

4. To what use was the Gautby Park timber waste put and where was this done?

5. Why was the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation not employed for the Gautby Park trees?

6. Why are tree stumps covered with thick debris?

7. By what means is Mancoed monitored to ensure compliance with the WMBC contract?

8. Please may we see the tree maintenance contract redacted so as not to show commercially sensitive data?

9. Why does the WMBC contract allow tree maintenance to be carried out in the breeding season?

10. When did WMBC conduct its most recent tree survey?

This list might be too long for a single person to draft the Council's response. If so, I shall be grateful if you will let me know so that I may split it into shorter parts.

Yours faithfully,

John H Hutchinson

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Hutchinson

Further to your recent request for information, please see the Council's response below.

1. What is the name of the officer who made the decision to cut the Gautby trees to ground level, and under whose authority and according to which was he acting?
The officer in question is a qualified arboriculturalist working with the parks team, he had the authority as part of his role to make this decision. That decision is supported by the Council as entirely appropriate.

2. Please may we see this Policy?
We do not have a tree management policy. There is a tree strategy which is available online at www.wirral.gov.uk

3. What was the financial gain to WMBC of tree maintenance at Gautby Park?
There is no financial gain to Wirral Council.

4. To what use was the Gautby Park timber waste put and where was this done?
All arboricultural arisings are the responsibility of the contractor to legally dispose of or recycle as best they can. The timber here being mostly decaying crack willow has no commercial value.

5. Why was the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation not employed for the Gautby Park trees?
We are unable to comment on historic management practice.

6. Why are tree stumps covered with thick debris?
This would have been done as part of the clear up of the site after the works, it should not inhibit coppice regrowth.

7. By what means is Mancoed monitored to ensure compliance with the WMBC contract?
We hold regular contract management meetings to discuss how the contract is performing.

8. Please may we see the tree maintenance contract redacted so as not to show commercially sensitive data?
Wirral Council are currently engaged with imminently issuing the renewal tender for the Arboricultural Tree Services contract and will shortly be issuing a high profile tender to award a 3 year Tree planting scheme. To ensure a legally compliant tendering process, we will not be releasing any information pertaining to the current Tree Service Management contract.

The Council considers that the disclosure of the information would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests both of the public authority and its suppliers as the information is commercially sensitive and, having given consideration to the fact that the information requested could be used/passed on to gain an unfair advantage in this imminent tender exercise, this part of your request is refused under the exemption contained in section 43 (2) of The Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Council considers the public interest in maintaining the exemption under s43 in this case outweigh the public interest in disclosure at this time. Upon conclusion of the Tendering processes in March 2021, the Council may be able to reconsider a new request if submitted after that time.

9. Why does the WMBC contract allow tree maintenance, and hewing trees to ground level, to be carried out in the breeding season?
We are unable to limit works to the few winter months when birds are not nesting.

10. When did WMBC conduct its most recent tree survey?
Surveys are constantly being carried out across the Council’s estate.

You have the right under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to ask for an internal review of the refusal of the information requested. Please direct any request for an internal review to [Wirral Borough Council request email] and your request will be allocated to an independent officer for review. You also have the right to complain to the information Commissioner, if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of any internal review, at www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Lynette Paterson
Principal Information Management Officer
Wirral Council
Treasury Building
Cleveland Street
Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH

Email: [Wirral Borough Council request email]
Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk

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Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Tree maintenance - Gautby Park'.

Council's response makes for more questions than answers but that at Items 7 and 9 are of great concern.
1. Accepted.

2. Are you saying that Council manages the tree in the Borough in the absence of a tree management policy?

A strategy is a plan of action whilst a policy is a set of rules and regulations that sets the day-to-day decisions.

3. Am I correct in understanding that there was net cost on the Tax-payer for the tree works undertaken?

4. I understand the responsibilities of a contractor. The ultimate responsibility lies with the contractee. Council must ensure that legal actions are taken. What does the Council do to monitor the actions of its contractors, the tree felling company, in this case?

5. I was not asking about the Council's past management practice.

I was asking why the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation was not employed for the Gautby Park trees?

Please will you answer the request?

Perhaps a tree management policy, if and when agreed, might include coppicing, which is common practice?

6. I note the use of the phrase "should not" allowing for the possibility of inhibition of regrowth.

What is Council proposing to do to allow for and encourage coppice regrowth?

7. Thank you, but I disagree. I asked that commercially sensitive information be redacted so as not to prejudice the commercial interests both of the public authority and its suppliers.

It is important for understanding that the overall works required to be done in the existing contract are seen to be relevant and proper so that future contracts will be improved. Knowledge of costs and prices is irrelevant to me, the requester. I shall be grateful for an internal review to have this question answered.

Council's desire to withhold information that will aid understanding of its operations is of great concern.

8. Accepted.

9. Is Council aware that under Section One of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), it is an offence to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built - which is also referred to as an 'active' nest?

10. Accepted.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Yours faithfully,

John H Hutchinson