Peer reviews are applied to many professional documents these days, from scientific papers and academic courses to technical reports. To successfully complete a peer review is generally recognised as an indication of quality. I have successfully completed peer reviews for both my BS5837:2012 report template and the template that I use for expert reports. Both were thorough processes, the latter being co-ordinated by Cardiff University. For both, I appreciated that my work was being assessed by reviewers who are expert in their own fields.
Posts By: Mark Chester
Regular readers may be familiar with my interest in the value of amenity trees. Whilst we can apply a financial value to a tree, in truth, some are priceless. I feel the same applies to some of our landscapes, including woodlands. The challenge is highlighting this value, especially in the face of pressure to develop from those who, in my mind, don’t ‘get it’.
A valuation of Britain’s woodlands has been announced this week. One can only hope that it affords them greater appreciation and protection. I have found the science, or perhaps art, of valuing amenity trees to be fascinating. I was raised, professionally speaking, on Rodney Helliwell’s method of allocating points in order to calculate a possible visual amenity value.
Providing tree reports in connection with planning applications is a key part of the workload for many tree consultants, so I suppose we shouldn’t complain about some of the seemingly spurious requests. However, I do wonder at times who is setting the parameters, and whether the planners would be thus minded if they were the applicants rather than the decision-makers.
What does it take to be a tree consultant? In one sense, it depends on the role and the interaction that the individual has with the public. I am recognising that there are many arborists in roles where they are proving a consultancy and advisory role perhaps unware of this. Inspecting trees and providing recommendations for action, or none, is the fundamental basis of consultancy. We can then develop our technical knowledge and understanding through training and academia to enhance our skills.
I have considered professional membership to be an important element of my career progression. I joined the Arboricultural Association as a student in the 1990s, with membership of the ISA (UKI Chapter) following. Professional representation within arboriculture is too fragmented. At times, it must seem like the professional arborist is a nesting bird in the spring, faced with a nest of hungry young, each presenting their request for the food parcel about to be allocated.
I have been very fortunate for most of my professional career to be able to attend numerous seminars, workshops and conferences which have enabled me to explore and keep updated with best practice. This has been alongside vocational training to degree level. As one who had only limited mentoring, and has needed to do much of my learning under my own steam, the opportunity to develop my technical knowledge has been especially important.
Tree Preservation Orders have been part of my professional life since the early days as a tree officer in the planning department at Dudley Council. I did benefit in those days from being guided by an experienced colleague through the core requirements of the documentation. I am increasingly encountering situations that indicate a worrying limit to this knowledge, both among administering officials and consultants.
It is very easy to criticise. When standards fall, how often do we seek someone to blame. How often do we blame those who administer the management of trees, especially in the context of planning? I have faced a wait of weeks as a local authority registers an on-line tree works application made via the Planning App. It is frustrating, especially when the officer refuses to give any indication of the recommendation or outcome.
Yesterday, I attended a reception at the House of Lords organised by the Tree Council to mark the National Tree Week. I was invited on behalf of the Consulting Arborist Society. It was good to catch up with friends and associates, and enjoy the rarefied setting.