YP Letters: Sheffield tree saga has led to Government action

New measures to protect trees are being considered following protests in Sheffield.
New measures to protect trees are being considered following protests in Sheffield.
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From: David Rutley MP, Forestry Minister.

OFTEN when we speak about the importance of trees we think of vast rural woodlands or great forests covering swathes of countryside.

While these trees are undoubtedly an important part of our environment, our urban trees are also equally important – for lining our streets, greening our parks and providing a healthier environment in our towns and cities. 

Trees are a critical component of the country’s green infrastructure network, and a precious natural asset which we must protect for future generations. In urban areas, the right trees in the right places play a pivotal role, helping to clean and cool the air, provide habitats for birds and other animals, reduce flooding, and improve people’s physical and mental wellbeing. We recognise that local communities often feel passionate about the trees in their local area. But we also know that our urban trees are under increasing pressure. 

Tree felling is an essential part of the cycle of tree-management – but it can generate local concern, especially if there isn’t information available about why a tree is being felled. Nowhere knows this more than Sheffield, where the felling of much-loved street trees caused an outcry, leading to an ongoing Forestry Commission investigation. Whilst this investigation is yet to conclude, as a Government we want to make sure that communities are not put in a position in the future where they feel they don’t have a say on what happens to the trees on their own doorstep.

In 2017, we made a manifesto commitment to introduce a duty to consult on the felling of urban street trees. This week we have announced a consultation on measures to deliver this commitment and help protect these important environmental assets. The proposals include measures to make sure communities have their say on whether street trees should be felled, with requirements for councils to consult local residents.

I strongly encourage all those with an interest in preserving and protecting our vital street trees to come forward and respond to the consultation.

When taken together, these proposals could significantly enhance the protection of our trees – a precious national asset.

By taking into account the voices of people across the country, we can ensure that the laws we put in place help us deliver a greener and healthier environment not just for us, but for generations to come.