Campaigners saved more than 10,000 trees in Sheffield from the axe, inquiry suggests

Tree protesters have been vindicated after an inquiry found the council would have chopped down over 10,000 more trees if their campaign had not succeeded.

Around 5,000 trees were felled by the time the programme was put on hold in 2018 but the highways contract had a target to fell and replace 17,500.

The inquiry report said: “The Inquiry believes that, had there been no campaign to oppose what the Council was doing, the programme would now be on track to replace 17,500 trees.”

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Inquiry chair Sir Mark Lowcock also said in his conclusions that the council’s approach to the issue had been “the fuel that drove the protests".

Protests against the tree-felling policy lasted for yearsProtests against the tree-felling policy lasted for years
Protests against the tree-felling policy lasted for years

Rich Ward, Co-Chair of the Sheffield Trees Action Groups, said: Sir Mark has shown that pretty well everything we had believed about our City Council’s actions is true. A lot of people will be feeling relieved and vindicated today.

"We are committed to working with the Council to rebuild trust, explore reparation and to ensure that something like this never happens again in our city."

Graham Turnbull, who was subject to an injunction from Sheffield City Council, to stop them protecting trees, said: It was a scary time for many of us. We were threatened with court action that could bankrupt us, we were threatened with prison if we broke the injunction. Now we find that our city council was dishonest as well as badly led. I hope this causes other public authorities to take a lot more care with their plans and understand that citizens often know what’s best for their streets.”

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Christine King, former Co-Chair of STAG, said: The thing that angers me most apart from the needless destruction of our green heritage is the colossal long term emotional damage caused by the failure of a few to admit that they were wrong in the first place.”​​​​​​​

A joint statement from Sheffield Council chief executive Kate Josephs and leader Terry Fox said the authority “will respond to the findings and recommendations made in due course”.

It added: “The council has already acknowledged that it got many things wrong in the handling of the street trees dispute, and we wish to reiterate our previous apologies for our failings. We have taken huge steps already to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.”

A spokesperson for Amey said: “Amey welcomes this report and the thoroughness with which Sir Mark Lowcock approached his task. We have all learned lessons from this difficult period and we apologise for not adequately predicting the strength of feeling around the tree replacement programme.