'New chapter' for Sheffield street trees after bitter felling saga as partnership pledge signed

Sheffield has entered a “new chapter” in its approach to maintaining street trees after city leaders signed a pledge designed to prevent a repeat of the years-long felling saga which resulted in multiple court cases and arrests of protesters.

A pledge to deliver on the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership Strategy has been signed.

Representatives of Sheffield Council, contractor Amey, the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and anti-felling campaigners in the Sheffield Trees Action Groups (STAG) have jointly signed a pledge to deliver on the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership Strategy, which was approved by the council’s cabinet in March.

The strategy aims to ensure the city has street trees which are well-maintained and cared for; resistant to the threats of disease and climate change and delivering many benefits for people and our environment. The strategy includes the introduction of volunteer street tree wardens across the city and proposes a collaborative and community-led approach to caring for trees growing in all local areas.

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Liz Ballard, Chief Executive of the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and Chair of the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership group, said: “This pledge by all partners marks the start of a new chapter for our Sheffield street trees and how they are looked after into the future. To have the Council, Amey and community partners commit to deliver this strategy for the benefit of Sheffield – its community and its trees - is the great result of our hard work over the last two years.

A pledge to deliver on the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership Strategy has been signed.

“I would like to thank all the partners who have been involved in developing and finalising Sheffield’s street tree strategy. The group came together in difficult and strained circumstances, but we have become a great partnership, working together to achieve our common vision both now and in the long term.”

Sheffield Council started a £2bn, 25-year highways improvement contract with Amey in 2012 called Streets Ahead but it became mired in controversy due to the element of the scheme involving the removal of thousands of street trees and their replacement with saplings.

Environmental campaigners argued that many healthy trees were being cut down unnecessarily for contractual reasons. A major police operation was launched in early 2018 to support felling operations after clashes between protesters and private security guards.

The operation ended a month later after widespread national condemnation of the approach of the authorities following multiple arrests of campaigners and cost the police more than £47,000 in overtime and since then a new approach designed to save more trees from felling has been adopted. As part of the new approach, work has taken place to develop this longer-term partnership strategy.

A pledge to deliver on the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership Strategy has been signed.

Kate Josephs, Chief Executive at Sheffield City Council said: “This pledge marks a milestone for our city’s street trees, following collaboration and dedication from all partners to produce the new strategy.

“The creation of a new city-wide strategy and commitment to deliver this together for the benefit of Sheffield residents ensures that our renowned green heritage can thrive and be properly cared for, so that not only us, but our future generations, can enjoy a thriving street tree stock.

“Our commitment to this strategy is just the beginning; we know the hard work is yet to come.

“Through this new approach, we will make sure our street trees are sustainably and carefully managed and maintained in accordance with best practice whilst increasing canopy cover and engaging the wider community of all ages in caring for and valuing our trees.

“From cleaning the air that we breathe to providing local environmental benefits like shade, natural traffic calming and reducing verge and pavement parking, we want to harness all the advantages that trees bring to our developing society, guaranteeing their place in our future.

“Some of this work is already underway and crucially, the process of giving people the opportunity to have their say on street tree decisions has already started, with many residents already taking part in the individual trees consultations via CitizenSpace in recent months.”

Sarah Shorley, Acting Programme Lead for Urban Trees at the Woodland Trust, which recently provided a £200,000 boost to Sheffield to bring more trees to the city, said: “Signing this pledge represents accountability - a commitment to delivering the Partnership’s strategy for protecting and enhancing Sheffield’s network of street trees. The Woodland Trust is proud to have played a role in developing the strategy through a truly collaborative approach and is ready to support its delivery.

“Trees are vital in our towns and cities – with all the positive effects they have on the environment, nature and our own health and wellbeing. Street trees in particular bring these benefits right into the heart of our communities. The honesty, integrity and passion of the partnership has resulted in a strategy others should learn from, and a pledge to deliver is the most important element.”

Christine King, from STAG, added: “Whilst it’s been a long and somewhat difficult road from where we started to where we are now, credit must go to the partners for their readiness to combine openness and honesty with the determination to make this work.

“We now have a real opportunity to work together with the city to maintain, increase and enhance the street trees that so many put heart and soul into defending.”

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