'Things have changed dramatically' in Sheffield, says charity Woodland Trust as it hands over £200,000 to help plant trees across the city

A Yorkshire council which prompted a national outcry over its controversial tree-felling programme is to share a £2.9 million "emergency tree fund" to help plant trees and create green spaces in communities around the country.

Sheffield City Council is getting £183,000 from the Woodland Trust as part of the charity's ambition to establish 50 million more trees by 2025 to create new woods and help tackle the climate and nature crisis.

The 'Treevitalise' scheme will see more trees planted across the city and engage citizens in the planting, care and appreciation of their trees, woods and greenspaces. Local officials hope the money allow city teams to create community orchards, run sessions with schools and hold public events to celebrate trees.

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AMEY working on trees on Western Road, Sheffield, on November 11th 2020. Picture: Chris Etchells

The nature charity said it is providing funding to local councils at a time when finances are tight to help create more green spaces and woodland which people have found valuable in the pandemic.

And it says things have "changed dramatically" in the 'outdoor city' of Sheffield since it hit the headlines because of the £2.2bn Streets Ahead contract which saw thousands of trees cut down.

After clashes between workers and campaigners furious at the felling of healthy street trees, an agreement was eventually reached with the Labour-run council.

Joseph Coles, Urban Programme Lead at the Woodland Trust said: “Sheffield has always been blessed with trees, whether it be woodlands or majestic street trees.

“Three years’ ago our involvement in Sheffield was purely focused on trying everything we could to put a stop to street tree felling. But since then, things have changed dramatically.

"There’s a new partnership of stakeholders - including the Woodland Trust, who are striving to repair the damage through genuine collaboration. That we now have the confidence to honour our promise to support the council, is testament to their hard work and commitment.

“It’s fantastic that today we can provide Sheffield with the money to bring a lasting legacy for trees and people in the city.”

Catherine Nuttgens, Community Forestry Manager at Sheffield City Council said the project would help people in the city "understand our urban forest better whilst accelerating our ambition to grow it further".

It will also allow city teams to create community orchards, run sessions with schools and hold public events to celebrate trees. She said: " Trees bring many benefits to communities, and when the public are involved in their care, the trees benefit too.”

In the first phase of the project, the trust is working with 11 authority areas across the UK, including Glasgow city region, which is hosting UN climate talks in November.

The charity said many local authorities have declared climate and nature emergencies and set out ambitious tree-planting targets - and the funding is aimed at helping make their green projects a reality. It hopes to expand the scheme further in 2022.

John Tucker said: "The trust's Emergency Tree Fund has the power to inspire tree-planting and woodland creation and galvanise the need to treasure trees and green spaces in their neighbourhoods across the UK.

"What the country's fight against Covid has shown is how communities have come together in a time of crisis.

"As the pandemic hopefully abates, getting outside and planting, maintaining and enjoying trees will be a way for this spirit to be harnessed once again in a different but a very important way - to tackle the climate and nature crises which also affects us all."