YP Letters: Tangled branches of the law on street trees

From: D Long, (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.

Protests in Sheffield over the felling of trees.

WITH regard to city-wide tree felling in Sheffield. When Sheffield’s £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance PFI project began in 2012, mature trees accounted for 73.8 per cent of all highway trees in the city. Most are associated with damage to footways and kerbs and, consequently, are scheduled for felling. Prior to the project, Sheffield City Council (SCC) relied on Section 58 of the Highways Act as a defence for not undertaking works, due to insufficient funding.

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has stated that the Highways Act does not set out specific standards for maintenance, saying: “It is for each individual local highway authority to assess which parts of its network are in need of repair and what standards should be applied, based upon their local knowledge and circumstances.”

The UK Forestry Standard sets out the Government’s approach to sustainable forest management and defines and requires the sustainable management of street trees. In October, the United Nations also officially recognised street trees as such and added “urban forests are the backbone of the green infrastructure”.

Trees and their associated benefits can and should be valued and retained.