ANOTHER day – and another set of revelations over the Sheffield tree-felling scandal which only serve to further erode public trust in the management of the city.
Not only has the Labour-run council repeatedly misled residents, and become embroiled in court action after police tried to halt protests, but it has also not been transparent about the terms of its 25-year PFI contract with Amey.
It’s now clear why the authority wanted to suppress this information. Despite its pretence that trees would only be felled “as a last resort”, even when it emerged that the Amey contract includes provision to remove 17,500 of the city’s 36,000 trees, the small-print of the £2.2bn deal offers no such reassurances. There’s no mention of the council’s criteria for the removal of diseased and dangerous trees. Nor is there any instruction to Amey to look for engineering solutions to minimise instances of tree felling. Yet both policies have been repeatedly cited by the local authority to justify an approach which amounts to ensuring that the new saplings being planted in this supposed ‘outdoor city’ require little upkeep.
Three points. First, the ‘pause’ in tree felling – announced prior to the local elections – must remain in place until the contract has been reviewed in its entirety by external experts. Second, Environment Secretary Michael Gove should set out guidance for all councils on the importance of preserving trees. Finally, this national scandal would not have been exposed without The Yorkshire Post’s diligence – and Freedom of Information laws. Without the latter, residents would be none the wiser about the scale of this environmental vandalism.