Oakwick Utility Arborists Ltd

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Oakwick Utility Arborists Ltd's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Oakwick Utility Arborists Ltd is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Contract Manager Jon Pearson
Excavator with tree
shears head
Oakwick Utility Arborists Ltd are tree surgeons who,
in addition to carrying out the felling, trimming and
shaping you’d expect in gardens, parks and schools, do
work for electrical distribution network operators. Unlike tree
surgery companies that concentrate on the domestic market,
their work is less seasonal, offering year-round cutting to some
of the largest DNOs in the country. Their services include not
only the day-to-day maintenance of the vegetation in proximity
to the electrical network, but also a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-
a-week emergency response service in the event of network
integrity becoming compromised by trees through weather or
other unforeseen circumstances. Contract Manager Jon Pearson
The Parliamentary Review
more about this sector.
Utility arboriculture is the management of vegetation in proximity to overhead
powerlines. This means we send our staff to work at height in trees that are close
enough to overhead powerlines to cause potential issues with electrical supply. To
solve this, a chainsaw at arm’s length is used to remove those branches closest to the
overhead powerline. This type of work is very specialised and incredibly dangerous.
Not only do the operatives require all the certification, equipment and learning
required for an arborist operating in a domestic setting, but they also require an
understanding of the electrical network in the proximity of which they are operating.
This additional requirement for certification can act as a barrier to entry for many,
not necessarily due to the difficulty of the testing, but due to how niche it is.
»Contract Manager: Jon Pearson
»Managing Director: Andrew
»Founded in 2005
»Located in Lincolnshire
»Services: Vegetation for DNOs
»No. of employees: 35 directly,
103 subcontracting staff
»Has 24-hour, seven-days-a-
week emergency response
services for DNOs
Oakwick Utility
Arborists Ltd
Highlighting best practice
Generally speaking, utility arboriculture
generally is much maligned within
the forestry and arboriculture sector.
Unfortunately, this reputation has not
always been without basis. In the past,
many operations were carried out with
little to no thought for the future health
of the trees; instead, the sole focus
was ensuring the powerline was clear
of potential vegetation infringements.
This reputation as butchers of trees
has caused many problems, especially
as society has increasingly come
to value our surroundings and the
environment. We also encounter long-
standing issues whereby landowners
can carry an inherited grudge, from
parents and even grandparents who
were dissatisfied with work carried
out decades ago, and thus take issue
before any work has been carried out.
Building a reputation
Over the last ten years, we have moved
to combat this negative image through
a more collaborative approach with
the public and larger stakeholders.
Instead of approaching each job with
the mentality of needing to simply
cut the trees, we now encourage the
landowners to become part of the
process, working with them to discuss
the outcomes and offering solutions to
their concerns, instead of the historical
approach whereby the clearance of the
powerline was the only goal. This has
resulted in some excellent joint work
with environmental consultants, where
we have created scallops through the
edges of woodlands to create habitats
for butterflies and left standing
deadwood for bats and invertebrates
on larger woodland sites.
This approach, coupled with the
regulated push towards an electrical
network that is resilient to storm
damage, has allowed us to expand from
operatives climbing and reducing trees
to a more mechanised approach, where
we can rely on machinery such as tree
shears. These can be used to clear large,
fully grown trees from the sides of
the powerlines, increasing the swathe
width and ensuring that should trees
fall towards the powerline, they do not
hit them, the result being a reduction
of the potential impact oncustomers.
Challenges to growth
As with many businesses, the growth
we have experienced since we became
a limited company in 2005 has been
far from plain sailing. Due to the
specialised nature of the industry, it
has been incredibly difficult for us to
attract younger members of staff, like
those fresh from college or university.
Some of this might be due to a lack of
exposure, but I think it’s also because
of the time-vs-reward consideration
that, while it is reasonably costly to
gain the required certification to be a
utility arborist, the remuneration is not
significantly more than can be expected
in the less regulatorily demanding
domestic arboriculture sector. This is
such a persistent issue that the industry
has a running joke, “Same thing
different T-shirt”, referring to seeing
the same faces cycling around the
limited number ofcompanies.
The issue is further compounded
by the physical nature of the work,
which limits the wears considerably on
climbers and to a slightly lesser extent
Tree shears carrying
out controlled felling
operations near
overhead lines
Over the last
ten years, we
have moved
to combat this
image through
a more
approach with
the public and
on groundsmen. As these operatives
begin to suffer the effects of time, we
encourage and develop them to adopt a
more supervisory role. Despite the typical
approaches of visits to colleges, job
fairs and extensive recruiting networks,
we struggled to recruit enough staff to
allow us to keep pace with the goals
we set for ourselves. This pushed us
towards the cliché of “necessity being
the mother of invention”.
With the resource pool being limited
in this country, over the last five years
we’ve recruited abroad, allowing us
to set up a training programme in
Bulgaria, bringing potential candidates
over to be trained up to fully skilled
operatives from scratch over a period
of six months and then incorporated
into the workforce under a mentoring
scheme, thus creating jobs and
expanding the resource pool for the
future. Unfortunately, the uncertainty
surrounding Brexit has again restricted
this recruitment stream, and we are
being forced to re-examine yet again.
Continuous improvement and
the future
This leaves us with several challenges
and opportunities. With an increased
focus on our environmental
responsibilities and a limited resource
pool, we have to focus on alternative
methods of improving and growing
the company by focusing on the
mechanised side of the business, as
well as exploring the potential for
growth with a restricted workforce pot
by perhaps widening our recruitment
drives to include people with a
stronger environmental focus.
This has involved creating a structured
advanced training programme for
current staff to increase their feeling of
self-worth and provide more in-depth
training in health and safety and the
environment through courses run
by outside providers. Moreover, for
those members of staff who wish to
grow into management roles, we have
created a study programme allowing
time out of the office and away from
site to go to courses like the NEBOSH
Certificate and Diploma. We have also
begun a process of targeting courses
at some colleges around the country
that focus on land management and
the environment, where we believe
there will be additional scope to
encourage those individuals to assist us
in breaking down the barriers between
the industry and the public, as well
as encouraging, over the next ten
years, a holistic and environmentally
responsible approach.
Due to the
nature of the
industry, it has
been incredibly
difficult for us to
attract younger
members of
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This article was sponsored by Oakwick Utility Arborists Ltd. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster