Council axes 4,000 Sheffield trees despite report saying just 1,000 need felling

Police protect workmen during the Rustlings Road felling. Photo: Alice Evans
Police protect workmen during the Rustlings Road felling. Photo: Alice Evans
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Sheffield Council has defended a decision to axe 4,000 street trees in Sheffield – despite a report stating just 1,000 needed felling.

When Sheffield Council commissioned a report from an independent consultant 10 years ago into the state of the city’s street trees, the findings indicated a need to begin felling.

Trees on Rustlings Road were felled last week. Photo: PA

Trees on Rustlings Road were felled last week. Photo: PA

Around 1,000 trees needed to be chopped down, the Elliott Consultancy firm said, with another 241 needing maintenance.

But since the start of the council’s Streets Ahead highways programme with private contractor Amey, 4,000 trees have been felled – among them the limes on Rustlings Road that became the focus of controversy again last Thursday.

Residents claim they were woken to the sound of chainsaws at 5am as workers started cutting down eight trees along the road.

Around 12 police officers accompanied Amey contractors to the so-called ‘dawn raid’ and cars were reportedly towed from the street.

Campaigners protested at the scene and police arrested three people. Among those detained were Jenny Hockey, aged 70, a retired sociology professor, and her friend, former teacher Freda Brayshaw, 71.

The report from Elliott’s in 2006 said there were 25,000 trees requiring ‘no work’, with approximately 10,000 trees needing ‘some form of remedial treatment'.

But a spokesman for the council said ‘much has changed’ since the document was written. In the case of Rustlings Road, chiefs were concerned that keeping the limes, when they were deemed to be damaging the pavement, would have set a precedent.

“Trees which were previously healthy have had another decade of little or no further maintenance before Streets Ahead.

“The report also highlighted that around 75 per cent of the council’s tree stock was mature or over mature, and that to avoid a significant reduction in highway tree numbers, a sustained programme of replacements would be required. Here in Sheffield we have around two million trees in public ownership and approximately the same on private land – making us the greenest city in Europe.

“Just 36,000 of those four million trees are on the highway. As part of the Streets Ahead programme, around 3,000 of the 36,000 highways trees have been replaced.

“At the same time, the council has planted around 50,000 extra trees in order to create 17 new woodlands across the city, for future generations to enjoy.”

Nevertheless, the Rustlings Road felling re-ignited an already intensely controversial issue.