Two months have passed since the strength of public feeling over trees was recognised by the Government’s tree champion Sir William Worsley in a letter published in this newspaper, in which he alluded to controversial felling in Sheffield.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has now revealed new Government proposals to create greater protections for trees in urban areas, meaning councils would not be able to cut down street trees without first consulting communities.
Sheffield campaigners have told The Yorkshire Post that the bitter dispute there has had an “immense” impact in raising community concerns. And though the planned raft of forestry measures come too late for people in the city, if, as the Government says, they ensure that residents have a bigger say over what happens to trees in their local area, it can only be a positive step in giving communities a greater voice.
In announcing the plans, Mr Gove – a vocal opponent of Sheffield City Council’s controversial tree removal work – said: “It’s right that the views of local people are at the heart of any decision that affects their community,” adding that the future of the trees that line their streets are “no different”. He makes a valid point.
Trees are the lungs of Yorkshire’s urban environments, helping to clean the air, improve people’s health and wellbeing and create an attractive landscape in which to live. If they are removed, it is local residents – and future generations – that will feel the impact. It is only fair then that these people are consulted before decisions are made.