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Trees and public liability - who really decides what is reasonably safe

By L. Bennett


This article has its origins in investigations that the author has been undertaking into the effects of public safety and liability perception in the built and natural environment (e.g. Bennett & Crowe, 2008; Bennett, 2009 and Bennett & Gibbeson, 2010). In these previous studies the author and colleagues have examined the impact of public safety and liability concerns upon memorial management in cemeteries, access to the countryside and to the training of built environment professionals. In these studies the aim has been to explore how the liability perceptions of owners and managers of such places is formed, and specifically whether public safety and liability perceptions have a tendency to cluster around certain patterns and conventions within particular ‘interpretive communities’ (Fish 1980). Underlying these studies is a hypothesis that lay communities are at least as important as lawyers and courts in setting what the law regarding liability for site safety actually is in practice. In this paper the aim is to directly engage with an interpretive community that is engaged in a phase of public safety and liability anxiety, in this case current debate about the merits (or otherwise) of setting explicit standards for the safety inspection of trees

Publisher: Arboricultural Association
Year: 2010
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