New twist in Sheffield tree protest in bid to save rare butterfly

Undated handout photo issued by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust of the rare White-letter Hairstreak butterfly as according to research, the population of the rare UK butterfly has dropped by 96% in the last 40 years. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday January 11, 2016. Experts say that over the same period, the UK population of elm trees, the butterflies' exclusive habitat, has dropped by more than 30 million. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Butterflies. Photo credit should read: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust/PA Wire ''NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Undated handout photo issued by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust of the rare White-letter Hairstreak butterfly as according to research, the population of the rare UK butterfly has dropped by 96% in the last 40 years. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday January 11, 2016. Experts say that over the same period, the UK population of elm trees, the butterflies' exclusive habitat, has dropped by more than 30 million. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Butterflies. Photo credit should read: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust/PA Wire ''NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

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A campaign to save an under-threat Sheffield tree has taken a new twist after experts spoke out to save it - and an endangered butterfly.

The elm tree on Chelsea Road, Nether Edge, is to be ‘reassessed’ by Sheffield Council after 100 residents protested against its felling.

Protesters gather in force to complain about the planned feling of an Elm tree at Chelsea Road

Protesters gather in force to complain about the planned feling of an Elm tree at Chelsea Road

The tree is earmarked to come down as part of the council’s Streets Ahead contract with Amey, because chiefs claim that it is damaging the pavement.

It is also a habitat for White-letter Hairstreak butterflies, of which the population has dropped by 96 per cent in the last 40 years due to the decline in elm trees caused by Dutch Elm Disease.

The Wildlife Trust has estimated there are approximately 1,000 mature English elms like the one on Chelsea Road now left in the UK after the disease ravaged trees in the 1970s.

Ben Keywood, a butterfly specialist at the trust, said: “White-letter Hairstreaks are a UK Biodiversity Priority Species as they spend their whole life cycle exclusively on elm trees.

“The eggs will be on the tree for the next couple of months and then the caterpillars will feed on the leaves before pupating and becoming adult butterflies in July.”

The trust’s Rotherham branch is supporting a petition by residents in Nether Edge to protect the elm, which is thought to be 150 years old.

Dr Nicky Rivers, of the trust, said: “We hope that Amey and the council will listen to the local people and they can approve a solution which retains this important tree.

“As well as the butterfly, we also saw bullfinches and other birds using the tree, just on one visit - it would not just be the tree that would be lost, but all the biodiversity it supports.”

The council has promised to reassess its plan to chop down the tree and assured residents it would take the butterfly colony into account.

A spokeswoman has previously said: “We are aware of the tree in question.

“ We are currently working with our contractor Amey to reassess it and other trees as part of our residents’ survey in that area.

“We have also recently been made aware of the findings relating to the butterflies and naturally this will be taken into account as part of this process.

“Only once all results are in will any decisions be made about the future of this or other trees in the area.

“Trees are only ever removed if they are dead, dying, diseased, decaying or dangerous.”

Tree protests have sprung up across the city over the last eight months after thousands of people signed a petition to save trees on Rustlings Road, near Endcliffe Park, and have garnered national attention.

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