Standardising rates of payment for land management is a grey area. And whilst the FC guidance lists for standard rates is a good guide to costs re forest operations it is just a guide and a very useful one at that. But the recognition of the constraints on individual sites is all important and it is the realm of the practitioner to decipher these constraints and apply them to the quotation for possible work.
In May last year, the Woodland Trust published the report ‘Trees or Turf?’ written by Land Use Consultants and based on FC research. The main ethos is great – look towards trees as a cheaper solution to the usual council / developer solution of turf. True, but little account is taken of the diversity and complexity of sites across Britain.
Last years publication of the latest UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) saw the removal of the appendix which included the following text: ‘Forestry in the UK covers a very diverse range of forest types, from young plantations to ancient semi-natural woodlands, reflecting a wide variety of management objectives and local considerations. This complexity of forest types and changing circumstances means that there can be no unique solution to specific issues’
Whilst the UKFS specifies in some detail the need to recognise many factors relating to a site, this removal of a ‘disclaimer’ was worrying as I wrote about at the time for SOW
When considering urban or peri urban sites, which invariably include many additional considerations – particularly with soil which can change characteristics so considerably metre to metre, the absolute need for a disclaimer to protect practitioner decisions is assured. The WT report heads off in the opposite direction and the costs used to determine ‘flat rates’ of planning, planting and future maintenance, (which can easily be argued as inherently far too little), are a further barrier to practitioners in their place belaying the realities of certain sites.
The research just simply isn’t in place to blindly assume that trees are better than turf for all three pillars of sustainable development equally, or even cheaper! And as we witness year on year increases with young tree mortality we are a long way from being able to assume a ‘beat up’ rate at any percentage when based on such low planning and maintenance input as that suggested in the WT report (10% is way below the estimates of urban and peri urban tree deaths - and this is research we really need to understand the scale of the problem at the moment, but which no one seems to be prepared to look into - why not?).
And what is worse is setting a precedent by publishing unconfirmed and dubious finances that we as practitioners may be beholden to! This accelerates young tree death as we as practitioners simply cannot afford to carry out the necessary tests to ensure or guarantee the benefits of trees over turf if pressurised to stick to such budgetary assumptions. The WT enjoys a base of voluntary assistance which could offset additional cost, most councils, businesses or individual practitioners are unable to compete against, how dare they assume rates and maintenance, which cannot be based on site specific research which potential clients may use as an assumed budget.
The standardisation of costs and ideals in land management planning across the UK is wrong and directs us towards a car crash if accepted. Lets get some standardisation of good practice, before even considering anything else and let this good practice be written by practitioners in their place.
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