It cost a city more than 5,000 of its trees, but an agreement announced today by Sheffield City Council means there is finally the prospect of meaningful reconciliation after eight years of tension over the mass felling of healthy street trees that led to public outcry, a government investigation1 and dozens of arrests.
Half of Sheffield’s street trees were marked for felling under Streets Ahead, a controversial £2.2 billion road maintenance programme between Sheffield Council and its contractor AMEY. Thousands of mature trees will now be saved as a result, including 20 healthy First World War memorial trees on Western Road and 120 year old Chelsea Road Elm.
The dawn fellings and opposition of city residents attracted criticism of the council and its contractor Amey from conservationists, celebrities and politicians, including then Environment Secretary Michael Gove who accused Sheffield City Council of "environmental vandalism" and promised to do "anything required" to end its controversial tree-felling programme.
It is therefore quite remarkable to see that from today the city now has one of the most robust and transparent approaches for street tree management, and one the Woodland Trust is hoping other councils will look to follow.
The progress was reached by all sides negotiating over seven months. Led by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, representatives of STAG (Sheffield Tree Action Groups), the Woodland Trust and various subject experts took part in a programme of workshops to reach an agreement with Sheffield City Council and its contractor Amey.