Let’s hope that sense will prevail

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The council held its second tree forum last Wednesday – this time it was about the ‘25 Streets Ahead Engineering Options’.

You might have heard Coun Fox repeat this many times on the radio, in the council chamber, or when persuading people that saving trees is the council’s priority.

“There are 25 sensitive engineering solutions that we look at before we even go anywhere near a tree”, he says.

Well, the campaigners at the Forum hoped to show that this was not the case, but they need not have worried because the council confirmed this themselves.

The head of SCC highway maintenance, Steve Robinson, while explaining the list, (made up of three sections), confirmed that all 12 in the last section, (amazingly including leaving trip hazards in place), had never been used as they were mainly not practicable and there was no money for them.

Only one of a further eight in the section on ‘tree-based’ options, (equally amazingly including leaving dead and dangerous trees in place), had ever been invoked.

These mainly suited newer trees or those with more space than street trees and included several with potentially catastrophic effects on a tree.

So that leaves only about six that are actively considered – and without any mention of how, by whom, using which criteria or assessments, or specifying any materials, appropriate supervision or sensitive operational requirements, (and Amey have further confirmed that the list does not form part of their contract with the council anyway).

Of these, the most used was ‘ramping’ over raised roots as a response to footpath ‘damage’.

However, many trees that it appears could be saved within acceptable gradients in this way are still ‘noticed’ to be felled – and it is difficult to come to any conclusion other than Amey are felling them, simply because their standard mechanical surface Tarmac-removing planer cannot be run past them uninterrupted.

They then plant a small tree that will be cheaper to maintain for the rest of the 25-year contract.

Sadly, too – for those trees that do survive this selection process, photographs were also produced showing instances of where trees that are to be retained are then not necessarily adequately protected from the works that go on past them, with resulting damage.

And the ‘list’ includes nothing about this, or the introduction of measures to enhance their well-being or reduce maintenance.

It is no wonder that people are beginning to question the process across the whole city, seeking a meaningful pause and an urgent review before it is too late to stop this asset stripping of Sheffield PLC – with its many benefits to ecology and people’s well-being – and to the visual damage being done to the city we have been proud to call the greenest in Britain, and which the council have been re-profiling on the international market as the Outdoor City, and one of the greenest in Europe.

However, Coun Fox had previously said that if new ideas were presented, they too would be considered before felling continued.

Together with the other issues raised, he confirmed they would be going away to consider these – and confirmed that they will do so – and will get back.

Let’s hope that sense and transparency will at last prevail.

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