Trees v Cameras - the rematch

The last time we asked the Brockley Central public which they preferrred, trees or cameras, trees came out on top. But it got pretty nasty.

Undaunted, Cllr Dean Walton has asked us to broach the subject with you again. However, this time, for an altogether different reason:

Following a number of complaints about the failure to repair a security camera at the junction of Breakspears Road and Lewisham Way, Dean investigated the issue with the Council officers and found that the problem was the nearby trees...

The CCTV camera situated at the Breakspears Road junction with Lewisham Way is a microwave camera. At the present time the camera is not switched on as there are problems with a break of signal between the camera, the CCTV control room and other cameras within the vicinity. If we turn this camera on, it interferes with other camera signals in the area and causes them to fail.

An investigation took place to find out what the cause of the break in signal is, and the engineer reported back that trees around the camera are to blame. As this is a preservation area, the Lewisham tree officer had to apply for planning permission before any work on the trees could take place. It took six weeks for the permission to come through and this has only been granted within the last few days.

To add to this, one of these trees is a lime tree located in the Lewisham College car park in Tressilian Road. The CCTV Operations Manager is currently liaising with Lewisham College to gain permission to order the tree in question to be felled. (If it's only trimmed the problem will return.) They have agreed in principle but wish the tree officer to meet a representative on site to agree the date of the work (not during term time) and to give them a copy of the planning permission. It is envisaged that once the lime tree has gone and other surrounding trees have been trimmed, the engineer will be able to get this camera fully functional again.

Dean wants to know our views, urgently, before any lumber-jacks move in.

In Brockley Central's view, the loss of trees on the street would be unacceptable, regardless of the security implications. If the spot that camera covers is so important from a security point of view, then find another solution that doesn't involve the loss of trees. But CCTV cameras are of limited crime-fighting value anyway and if alternative solutions are too costly (more costly than felling trees?) then we'd happily live with a CCTV blackspot there. If we sacrifice the quality of our local environment, we automatically become victims of crime and we risk degrading the local area, which encourages further crime. We'd ask Lewisham Council to immediately cancel their plans to cut down the trees.

But what's your view? Which is better - trees or cameras? There's only one way to find out! Fight!

61 comments:

Headhunter said...

I'm a bit confused about the tree issue. There are trees along a few of the roads in the conservation area, including Manor Ave. So is the council not already responsible for maintaining and replacing these? I noticed that a few months ago the council removed a tree along Manor Ave and promptly tarmacked over the spot rather than replacing the tree. Can someone tell me has the council absolved itself from responsibility for trees along the streets of Lewisham meaning that we now have to find funding from elsewhere? Is council policy now to not replace street trees? If so why?

ElijahBailey said...

Trees. Cameras are fuggin useless most of the the time.

Brockley Nick said...

The policy is to replace trees where possible. Often with smaller trees.

Whether they apply this policy as thoroughly as they ought is a different matter.

Anyway, we need some urgent feedback on this specific question - should they cut down those trees for the sake of the CCTV?

David said...

I agree - the trees should stay and another solution that doesn't involve their removal needs to be found. I just don't think CCTV is "useful" or successful enough to warrant chopping trees down. CCTV shouldn't be a replacement (and the first or only replacement) for frequent "visits" to an area identified as a potential "problem" by the Police/the local safer neighbourhood teams/whomever gets the job these days. This should be even more the case when "functional" CCTV it requires chopping down trees and significant pruning others.

@HH - there seems to be a bit of a theme. Lewisham council cut down a dead/dying tree on the corner of Jerningham and Arbuthnot a few months ago and promptly put down tarmac rather than planting a new tree. I too would be interested to know why the trees aren't being replaced (and immediately!) by the council.

Kate said...

The trees should stay. Cutting down trees to make a security camera work is a farce worthy of Private Eye (and someone might feel the need to drop them an email if this goes ahead).

Anonymous said...

Trees please.

Headhunter said...

David - my thoughts exactly. I noticed that the tree on the corner of Arbuthnot and Jerningham had gone and the spot tarmacked over. What exactly is the policy on this and why are trees not being replaced anyway?

Richard Elliot said...

Keep the trees. As you say Nick if the level of crime really warrants the camera there are alternative solutions.

Sophie said...

This begs the question, why wasn't the area properly tested for the camera's effectiveness first. Surely proper planning stops things like this happening in the first place?

Also it sounds to me like the tree felling is the cheapest option, which is understndable to cut spending, but I wouldn't have thought it was there only one. I' don't know about the finer points of camera implementation, but I am sure there'd probably be an alternative.

Keep the trees. As if pollution in London wasn't bad enough...

jon s said...

Trees please!

The CCTV system can be configured to operate over an ADSL WAN. (i.e. the phone lines, but with a higher spec & encription Than home usage.)

Typical, stuffing up the sourcing strategy..........

JPM said...

Are these 'security' or 'traffic' cameras? There is a fair distinction between the two...

If it is the former then why do the cameras at the end of UBR not capture the 'criminality' there.

If it's the latter then these cameras are purely revenue generating, and a tax on the motorist. So out with them.

Trees give all the necessary markers that indicate tranquility. (A recent study revealed that when classical music was played in a shopping precinct all the troublesome youths moved on. So tree and speakers with classical music, please.)

The council is not replacing the trees due to increasing insurance claims from householders who claim that they are sucking the land dry and causing subsidence.

However, in this instance, and I know of the tree in Manor Avenue because I lobbied for its return, keep the tree.

Anonymous said...

I'm very much in favour of keeping the trees.

The lime tree is particularly impressive and would be hugely missed.

Anonymous said...

Keep the trees - cutting them down is a ridiculous suggestion. What the council are trying to do is set up a 'false dichotomy' making it appear there are only two options to solve this problem. The reality is that cutting down the trees is cheap and easiest. It gives no thought to the impact on the look or feel of the area. Less trees will make it look more urban and paradoxically more of a target for crime. The council is run by morons.

ElijahBailey said...

From the Eye:

"Crime Fighters of the Year Award goes to Basingstoke council, who installed cctv cameras outside a shopping centre to monitor a bike rack which suffered regular thefts. But the camera was positioned so its view was obscured by a tree. Instead of moving the camera the council cut down the tree...."

tyrwhitt michael said...

Move or alternatively remove the camera.

I'm not aware that the Breakspears Road Junction is a trouble spot and anyway I would imagine there are enough cameras on the college iteself to cover most of that area.

So TREES!!

Bea said...

“... CCTV displaces crime, rather than reducing it. ... The recent growth of CCTV in housing areas also raises serious issues about the extent to which CCTV is being used as a social control measure rather than simply a deterrent to crime”.

However,

“Trees growing along ... streets of a neighbourhood provide a mosaic of green landscapes within a community. As well as providing beauty, trees moderate the effects of heat, sound, air pollution, excess storm water runoff, and soil erosion. Trees also provide a living space for wildlife, enhance property values, and contribute to the economic vitality of communities.”

I say keep the trees and move the camera to a place where it can work!

jpm said...

WAS THE TREE THERE PRIOR TO THE CAMERA BEING INSTALLED?

DID THE LEWISHAM COUNCIL KNOW THAT THE TECHNOLOGY COULD NOT WORK NEAR A TREE? [IF SO SACK THE OFFENDER.]

OR, AND WAIT FOR THIS, IS THE TREE GETTING IN THE WAY OF A FUTURE (RESIDENTIAL) DEVELOPMENT OF THE SITE? (A TREE MAY PREVENT THSI SEE. I WILL HAVE A LOOK AND GET BACK TO YOU.)

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Keep the trees.

@headhunter. Often the council removes trees due to the roots affecting nearby properties. Insurance companies (for the house owner) normally try to reclaim house building costs from the council, hence there inclination to remove them if possible. Not good I know.

I wouldn't be surprised if the contractor for removing the trees are an associated company for installing the CCTV in the first place, that way they win win win!

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Keep the trees.

@headhunter. Often the council removes trees due to the roots affecting nearby properties. Insurance companies (for the house owner) normally try to reclaim house building costs from the council, hence there inclination to remove them if possible. Not good I know.

I wouldn't be surprised if the contractor for removing the trees are an associated company for installing the CCTV in the first place, that way they win win win!

JPM said...

Well... I've done my little recce, and I must state some perplexity.

Presumably we're talking about camer C236, on the left hand side of Breakspears, and the junction of Lewisham way (as you look towards the latter). It has two camera on top in fact, a traffic cam and a security cam.

The nearest tree is approximately 30 to 35 feet, although its branches may extend a tad closer. How on earth could this interfere with a (microwave) camera that should not be pointed i that direction?

The tree itself is in front of a block of houses and apartments.

I know there is a law on pointing any camera, let alone microwave at a private residence, towards windows etc, but, perhaps someone a bit more tech minded could explain the problem, which cannot possibly be due to 'nearby trees'.

Unless the suggestion is that any tree within 60 feet of any microwave camera should be destroyed. In which case Hello Coventry.

ade said...

@Andy Pandy - I beg to differ on the point of the council removing trees if the roots affect a house, as we have a tree that is affecting a wall and the council has refused to remove it - we have just paid a ridiculous amount to shore up our back wall so I am inclined to believe there are other reasons (costs, new developments...)

Anonymous said...

If they want the Cctv to work reliably, they just have to lay a cable. There is a cost to that, but they should have taken this into ccount when the CCTV was first installed. They would have done a site survey, you can't make assumptions with devices connected by radio. Wires tend to be much more reliable.

It does beg the question regarding what is the purpose of this CCTV? Most CCTV systems do not work. The are so many obsolete systems. I think we are expected to assume that there is a highly trained council funded corps of observers monitoring the scene. I doubt this. At least with a tree, the benefits are clear.

mg said...

Keep the trees, definitely.
I'm not sure how much use some cctv cameras are really - a would-be thief broke into our communal hallway a few months ago (they didn't get into the flats thankfully) in full view of cctv on Brockley Road. But it was dark and he didn't go up to the camera face on so any footage was useless. I'd rather have lovely trees making a positive impact every day than cameras maybe only doing something, if the light is good, the ne'er do well isn't wearing a hat, the wind is blowing in the right direction...
That said, I hate lime trees.

JPM said...

There is something a bit Billinsgate about this...

The tree is sited in or near the Memorial Gardens. In December 2007 the Council gave permission for the removal of a yew tree, a cherry, and what was simply described as (T4), a 'dead' tree. And in the same garden, between Manor Avenue and Upper Brockley Road.

The reason given is that T1 (the yew) 'is blocking CCTV cameras'. T2was also said to have been blocking CCTV. This was described as a cherry and, by all accounts, 'a particularly poor speciman'. T3 was a lime which needed to have its 'basal and epicornic' (?) removed.

At no point did the removal order state that any of these trees were interfering with 'microwave' signals, simply 'blocking' the images.

So the trees at one end of the beautiful Memorial Gardens - the location that marke the memory of the many who gave their lives in the Great War - have been decimated, and on questionable grounds.

And so we move to the other end and the 'problems' with microwave signals...?

Anonymous said...

Microwaves are just short radio waves, a few centimetres rather than many metres like FM radio stations. As such they need 'line of sight' between two points. It is rather like Wifi and the water in trees tends to absorb the signal. So that Cctv is sending its signal to another point , another camera that is probaby connected by wire to the control room.

The full story would emerge if a visit was made to the control room. There will be a nice diagram of the whole system somewhere. I would also talk to the company who maintains the system to ask what the options are besides calling in the lumberjacks.

JPM said...

What they need to do is improve the repeaters. These boost the signal strength to overcome attenuation, which leads to an increased range of communication. And an area with nice trees and no silly excuses.

creepylesbo said...

Trees. They were there first.

Monkeyboy said...

Steady JPM..think your getting out of your comfort zone. As far as I know the other chap is right, you need line of sight for Microwaves.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

Given that the trees were there first, who in their right mind would put up CCTV knowing a tree was in its way?

Silly contractors...

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

@ade. By the sounds of it, it was not covered by your insurance policy, its the insurance companies who try to put pressure on the councils. If you wern't covered, then there would be no pressure on the council to remove your tree......

Anonymous said...

TREES PLEASE!

ElijahBailey said...

How about keep the trees AND the camera but lose the council? I think that would a good compromise.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how the system works but would it not be possible to wire it to another camera and use share that camera's microwave link?

The War Memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital has a CCTV tower planted right next to it, actually in the memorial gardens. It was said because of the microwave link it was the only place it could be put.

Regarding removed trees. The council does have a policy of replacing them, but not neccessarily in the same place.

JPM said...

Monkeyboy

I'm comfortable with the explanation. Where line of site cannot be achieved, due to the growth of tree limbs, the weakened signal can be boosted, at additional expense.

Perhaps there are medical reasons as to why this cannot be done given the proximity to housing in Lewisham Way.

You should get me going on the expansion of the galaxies beyond light speed, and whether Man really did land on the Moon in '69 Now that's stepping out of the comfort zone.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Lewisham have a master plan for CCTV. The system is being upgraded and it will absorb other CCTV systems. It will all go digital, no doubt stored on some great video server in Catford.

It was the subject of an external consultants review. I would be interested to know what influences the choice of camera site. It does mention 'enviro crime'. Presumably this means fly tipping.

I hope this does not mean they are going to chop down trees in order to clear the way for the cameras to deter enviromental vandalism.

They seem to be spending an awful lot of money on this. The government is clearly keen to watch over us.

http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/6DCFDA34-6D02-4E7D-B938-E02B97E12373/0/23f897e931c94bb58cc202c52d8ed2d5CCTVReport11January2007.PDF

Tamsin said...

Keep the trees - leave the camera inoperative (as it has been since it was installed and has anybody noticed the loss?) or find another solution. The quick fix of cutting down a tree that would take forty years to replace is a disaster.

The diseased tree (and it was looking very sick for months - see the thread on thehill forums) at the corner of Arbuthnot and Jerningham was not replaced because trees on corners (partuclarly at such a dangerous crossroads) obscure vision for drivers. Likewise when a large tree went on the corner of Pepys and Arbuthnot it was not replaced.

It is the insurance companies that blame the trees and so the council - following a case in which Westminster got taken to the cleaners - have little option but to cut it down. It is a very short-sighted policy, though - and simply the XXX insurance companies going for another quick fix that gets the case of the particular person's desk.

Anonymous said...

Given that the power of these things is regulated and is less than a 1 watt lighbulb and they and they are at the top of poles. The greater danger lies in the destruction of environmental assets like trees and the psychological stress of being monitored 24/7 by a man from the council.

These things can use wires, it is all down to money at the end of the day.

It is an interesting question from an environmental point of view 'how many trees have been chopped down because of CCTV'?

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

too many...

We should start a petition for 'plant a tree per council contractor' scheme.. we would have loads!

Monkeyboy said...

JPM, don't know I'm not a comms Engineer. You can block the signal with a sheet of paper, cranking up the power dosn't help. It's not like the frequencies/wavelenghts used for radio/TV.

Any Comms Engineers out there?

Anyway..save the tree!

We have so many cameras in this country even the Stasi would blush!

JPM said...

I have investigated further.

We were initially informed that 'the failure to repair a security camera at the junction of Breakspears Road and Lewisham Way' (sic) was due to nearby trees. The tree are not located here.

It now transpires that having felled trees, or planning to, in the Memorial Gardens, the object is now to fell some more trees inside Tressillian Road for the same CCTV blocking 'offence'. (Those naughty trees.)

Application No: DC/07/67283 states (at 25/10/07):'Tree is poorly structurised and is blocking microwave signals for CCTV cameras. (I have posted recently on the Memorial site merely blocking the images that end.)

The application was granted and the 12m tree (and possibly others)is (are) to be felled.

It seems there is much to come

I recommend others take a site visit and view the, 'problem'(?).

JPM said...

Sorry, that shuld have read poorly 'structured'.

I find it difficult to write with kids running around my feet and screaming in my ears.

david said...

See the hill website for a comment on whether it's the trees causing subsidence or they are easy scapegoats.

http://thehill.proboards2.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=1201521956


In summary, they may be contributors to subsidence but they certainly aren't the only ones or always the most significant ones:

. the hydrology of the area is changing rapidly, partly because of repairs to the water mains (the water's now flowing where it should, rather than keeping our clay nice and moist) and partly because of a radical alteration to the maintenance schedule for electricity cables, resulting in more holes being dug more frequently; and

in some places (like Jerningham Rd for example) there's also the "possibility" that heavy traffic (think buses) at speed over the wonderful speed humps causes some damage.

JPM said...

MOVE THE CAMERA...

The microwave links transmit the images to an aerial, which then feeds back to 'Control'. This offers greater flexibility, so that the cameras can be easily moved to hotspots along the route. As the crime hotspot changes, the cameras follow.

There is absolutely no reason why this camera cannot be moved to a hotspot. (Is this a hotspot? If so, for what? It's sited along a bus lane on one camera side and Tressillian Road on the other, and the latter camera doesn't look like a microwave.)

Anonymous said...

till now, always got by on my own.

Anonymous said...

Well I am comms engineer and the signal is not stopped by a sheet of paper and you can improve transmission by increasing the power. You are way off track monkeyboy.

CCTV often uses the same frequency as Wifi. I would not be surprised if the system is suffering from interference. The increased use of wireless routers may be having an effect. There are lots of ways to solve this type of problem. It just needs the right questions to be asked.

All of this can be fixed without committing largescale arboricide.

Lewisham is in the middle of upgrading its CCTV system I suspect these tree felling orders are connected with this.

I would have thought this would have been highlighted by an environmental impact assessment of some sort.

The CCTV system was reviewed by external consultants, there will be a project plan. The truth is out there.

Monkeyboy said...

I stand corrected......unless you're part of the tree hugging conspiracy...

JPM said...

QED Monkeyboy. And no it's not me writing as Anonymous.

Did you know that the tide rising and lowering can also interrupt a microwave signal? Council policy: Drain the Thames. Did you also know that birds can also play havoc with it? Council policy: Shoot the birds, tuppence a bag! (Livingstone would like that one.)
Even snow, the wire in a woman's bra - okay, so I'm lying about that last one - but the microwave system sucks like a lemon, and as sure as subluminal speeds will one day be reached (that's beyond 186,000 per second in a vacuum), creating a time paradox, the Evil Council will be found out - before it cuts the trees down.

It seems to me though that the Force is with us and a way may be found to prevent this. It is only fitting that Brockley is at the centre of a universal plot aimed at global deforestation, as we will spend our time talking about tennis and bikes.

Of course, the real reason will be revealed, in time. But by then... all the trees are gone. Some futurescape.

andy pandy pudding & pie said...

The external consultants will most likely 'find the answer' for justifying what ever lewisham wants to do.

I would imagine that external consultants could get alot more money for implementing the CCTV following the environmental impact study.

If you find that sort of biased report is the truth, then think again.....

Anonymous said...

JMT Consultants did a review in 2006 on which the council based a 5 year upgrade.

Maybe someone should climb the trees to stop them being felled,
I suggest MonkeyBoy.

Anonymous said...

Consultants will do whatever is in their brief. If the were asked to produce a plan to upgrade the cctv system without denuding Brockley of its sylvian splendor then I am sure they would. But they might not have been asked.

I have a theory. The reaction to the shooting in Upper Brockley road last december prompted a political interest. A trawl for evidence revealed that the cameras at the war memorial crime hotspot were not working. The camera at the memorial needs line of site to the other camera position at breakspears which relays the signal to the control room. A request is made to fix the problem and with the current system in place the cheapest and simplest thing to do is remove all obstructions like trees.

All complete conjecture, I know. Nevertheless, worthy of inquiry by some green crusader, perhaps?

Monkeyboy said...

No, I don't like heights. Weird eh?

Cllr Dean Walton said...

With regard to the particular issue of the tree at Lewisham College I have written to Lewisham's Officers asking them what other courses of action are available to them - especially as there seem to be other options.

Further, I think this could be a wider issue and will be the subject of a question to the Mayor/Cabinet to the next full Council meeting. I'll send the question & response to Nick in due course.

Dean

JPM said...

And flawed...

The application to fell the trees commenced two months before the shooting.

JPM said...

I meant to direct my 'flawed' response in answer to Anonymous, and not the councillor's posting which came between. Great that he's getting involved.

Anonymous said...

Ah well! It was a theory, but nonetheless somewhat more credible than that t'council could have acted with precience and forethought. It would be nice to get to the bottom of this story.

Amanda said...

Based on the info provided, saving the tree and finding a new solution for the camera seems overwhelming sensible option.

JPM said...

The counci must surely be planning to cut down more than the suggested amount of trees in order to get this CCTV fully functiona.

Camera One is in the Lewisham car park, Camera Two at Breakspears, and Camera Three at Upper Brockley Road. There are approximately 15 trees in the way due to the way the road bends. There are also streetlamps which obscure the microwave signal.

James said...

Lets keep the trees - that part of Breakspears Road is not a crime hotspot. Other options would be to move the camera to the other side of the road so it could face Breakspears- but come on I think the reason for this is cost - it is cheaper to cut down trees.

I oppose the removal of the trees in Tressillian and Brockly - but how do we make our voices heard?

Tom said...

Where cameras may make a difference ...?

Stephen Lawrence Centre in Deptford vandalised.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/feb/14/lawrence.race

I wondered what this shimmering building was when I went past it the other night.

I think, however, that the "racist" claim on the Guardian article is a massive assumption and should not lead the article. Tabloid-style agendas.

silburnl said...

Another vote for the tree over the camera.

Regards
Luke

Anonymous said...

It does make me wonder how many CCTV cameras are actually working and fully operational. I suspect that number of them never really got installed properly in the first place.

I notice that there is a £150,000 pa repair and refurbishment budget for CCTV in Lewisham.

How this budget is spent seems key to the fate of the trees. I am sure the cheap option is to use microwave to connect the cameras and chop down any trees that are in the way. But many of the CCTV cameras in Lewisham are wired and this is more reliable. Money and contracts seem to be at the bottom of this story.

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