A significant value-add for both visual amenity and landscape character, trees are also generally protected by local government law to enhance sustainable urban design. This broad objective has undoubtedly important community benefit, but at what challenge to the manager of outdoor spaces containing those features?
Public safety, damage to infrastructure/buildings and ongoing property maintenance are all at-risk depending on the type and proximity of adjacent vegetation. Those risks can however be pervasive, which (evidently) makes them easier to tolerate until they become overwhelmingly problematic. The scale and complexity of these problems is also often underestimated, for which potential solutions can be the subject of fervent disagreement. Not to mention uncertainty about what really needs doing first! And is liability an additional concern?
All up a collectively onerous and time-consuming exercise, before having to fund the substantial cost of now urgent ‘reactive’ site works.
Alternatively, defining the full scope of both existing and likely problems across common areas will clarify a list of pragmatic actions required to mitigate those tree risks. Given the variety of technical factors, this provides an independent reference for decision-making structure which may include recommendations such as:
- canopy reduction/balancing/lifting/thinning.
- translocation of specimen.
- removal/replacement of specimen.
Based on the combined hazard-type, consequence and likelihood, recommended works for each tree are prioritised over a staged timeframe. This format also ensures a favourable Council permit for implementing the necessary actions without any legal and/or compliance breach. Cost-estimates for all individual works then deliver a budget-forecast which achieves efficient resource allocation on a medium-term project horizon.
For example, significant damage to underground water, sewer and power mains was caused by established trees at a busy tourism venue. The critical services required extensive repair and those trees also had to be removed then replaced. Had that glaring risk instead been ‘proactively’ identified, early installation and monitoring of a single, strategic root-barrier alignment would have avoided the otherwise considerable disruption and expense.
All of the above dotpoints can be similarly applied in a relevant commercial context.
A site-specific Vegetation Management Plan coordinates these advantages entirely within a single, working document primarily developed for reducing the administrative burden of providing safe, functional and high-quality outdoor spaces, whilst optimising a landowner’s investment-spend and ultimately asset yield.
This article was contributed by Mark Jones – Partner, Urban Forest Concepts