Campaigners to plant avenue of saplings in Sheffield pollution blackspot following controversial tree-felling program

The first scheme of its kind to be established in the wake of Sheffield’s controversial tree-felling programme will see a new avenue of saplings planted along one of the city’s major arteries to tackle air pollution.

Joe Shute and Joel Gilbert of the Community Group Abbeydale Street Trees walk on Carter Knowle one of the tree lined roads off Abbeydale Road.
Joe Shute and Joel Gilbert of the Community Group Abbeydale Street Trees walk on Carter Knowle one of the tree lined roads off Abbeydale Road.

A community group in the city is overseeing the bid to introduce trees along a stretch of Abbeydale Road, which has long been one of Sheffield’s worst pollution blackspots.

The campaign is the first to be undertaken since a new strategy was announced last summer in the wake of the controversial council tree-felling programme which caused major division in Sheffield.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Abbeydale Street Trees community group launched a bid last year to raise £15,000 to plant 30 trees along a stretch of the road, parts of which have been found to have dangerous air quality levels exceeding legal limits.

The group’s members have since raised more than £6,500 and the national charity, Trees for Cities, has now announced it will match-fund their efforts up to £7,500.

The group now hopes the trees will be planted this winter as a flagship project of Sheffield Council’s new Street Tree Strategy, which was announced in July last year.

Roddy Shaw, the UK projects officer for Trees for Cities, said: “The continued community work and fundraising by the team has been truly inspiring over the last 12 months.

"These trees will provide a multitude of benefits to the local community and help to tackle poor air quality for today’s and future generations.

"We would also like to thank the players of the People's Postcode Lottery for funding this programme that will bring communities together and create vital green spaces for future generations to enjoy."

The felling programme overseen by Sheffield Council saw more than 5,000 trees removed, and South Yorkshire Police sent officers to some of the city’s leafiest suburbs between 2016 and 2018 to deal with protests.

Two pensioners were among those arrested in scenes described by former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Nick Clegg as more akin to a well-planned anti-terror raid than a morning of tree maintenance, while contractors accused protesters of poisoning their cups of tea.

Joe Shute, a co-founder of Abbeydale Street Trees, told The Yorkshire Post that the community-led campaign had helped heal the deep rifts that emerged during the felling programme.

Mr Shute said: “We have seen a real community effort that has achieved so much in the past 12 months. We hope what has been achieved so far is just the beginning of the future green transformation of our high street.”

Working with contractors from Amey, the community group has already identified 30 potential planting locations for trees along a 1.2-mile stretch of Abbeydale Road which is home to two primary schools, independent shops and businesses, churches and mosques.

Over the past year the group has also planted more than 150 whips and 10 mature native fruit trees in various off-street locations along Abbeydale Road including the grounds of Nether Edge Primary School and Holt House Infant School, the churchyard of St Peter and St Oswald’s and alongside a Barnardo’s charity shop and Tesco Express - all trees donated by the Woodland Trust, businesses and local groups.

The fundraising has included private donations, community events such as an Abbeydale Road fun run last summer, and local businesses lending their support.

Last year, two teenagers did a sponsored cycle ride to and from school each day along Abbeydale Road, until they raised £500 to pay for a single street tree.

Severe air pollution has been recorded on the road where independent monitors have found levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide to be dangerously high.

It emerged in 2017 the road was among dozens of locations in Sheffield where air pollution was up to two-and-a-half times the legal limit.

The concentration of nitrogen dioxide breached the European Union threshold of 40 micrograms per cubic metre at sites in districts including Ecclesall, Crookes, Darnall and Tinsley.

The new strategy for the management of Sheffield’s trees garnered widespread praise when it was published last summer.

The proposals were unveiled after months of talks between representatives from Sheffield Council, contractors at Amey, and conservation groups.

Broadcaster Clive Anderson, the president of the Woodland Trust, claimed the long-running controversy over tree-felling may “have a happy ending after all”. The dispute had its origin in a 25-year £2.2bn private finance initiative agreement the council signed with Amey to resurface Sheffield’s pothole-ridden roads, which then led to trees being felled.