Our experience as a local Conservation Group is that such a duty to consult is needed.
Although our village in the North of Sheffield was spared the threatened destruction of whole avenues of trees as in the South of the City, we did have one very substantial and important street tree in our Conservation Area which was cut down, seemingly without less drastic maintenance procedures being considered.
The problem may have been exacerbated by Sheffield's delegation of 25 years of city-wide tree management to a commercial contractor. Since the details of the contract were at the time secret, and the community was given less than the statutory six week's notice before the felling took place, it was difficult for us to work out whether it was the Contractor or the Local Authority who was responsible. The only thing resembling consultation that we were able to obtain was confirmation that the tree was going to be felled, and that it would replaced by new trees somewhat out of the village.
This unsatisfactory performance is in contrast with our Local Authority's full planning procedure, which is properly set up, is well understood, and does offer valuable consultation.
If anybody wants to make their own comments to the Government either on this question or on several others posed, they can do so at consult.defra.gov.uk/forestry/protecting-trees-and-woodlands