There is still time to make New Year resolutions. Many of us welcome this opportunity to consider changes in our lifestyles in the hope that they will benefit us in some way.
But it seems to me that organisations as well as individuals also stand to benefit from pausing to reflect upon their past practices with a view to changing their policies and processes to their advantage. In Sheffield, a prime candidate for this opportunity must be the environmentally damaging partnership between the city council and Amey.
In Nether Edge, at about the time this partnership was formed, we were informed that one of its objectives would be to manage and refresh the wonderful trees that make our area so healthy and beautiful.
They had been planted by the Victorians, they said, but now they were reaching the end of their lives and would need to be replaced.
Not to worry though, they assured us, they would not all be felled at the same time and so denude the streets of trees, but that the felling would be carefully phased out over a period of years.
The work would not commence until 2017 and then there would be thorough consultation with groups of residents and individual householders about the plans before any trees were felled.
Suddenly however, just before Christmas, we found that hundreds of residents in a large section of the area had letters delivered to them warning that tree-felling would commence in January.
Decisions about which ones were to be felled were based upon the now notorious Six Ds (Whether or not the trees were Dead, Dying, Diseased, Dangerous, Damaging or Discriminatory).
All these categories are open to interpretation and definition and are by no means a foolproof way of making judgements about the fate of a tree.
In addition, this partnership, presumably as a result of protests in other areas of the City, has invented an Independent Tree Panel and a highly flawed process through which residents are invited to vote on whether or not they agree with felling plans on a street-by-street basis.
The more we find out about the council’s/Amey’s plans and the contract that was drawn up to implement them, the more it appears that it is already past the time when they should have paused to reflect upon the damage they are doing to the environment and the image of the city.
It is quite outrageous to find that these activities are likely to lead to the felling of 18,000 trees in Sheffield and 92 in just one part of Nether Edge alone.
Most of those trees selected for felling appear to be chosen merely because of the comparatively slight damage they are causing to pavements or kerbs, a problem which can surely be overcome with the right attitude and approach.
Last weekend more than 100 people came out in the rain and cold to protest about the plans to fell just one of the trees on their list. It is one of the few elms in the country that was not destroyed by the Dutch elm disease. Those people impressively demonstrated a strength of feeling that must not be ignored.
I urge the council and Amey to think again and to make a New Year resolution that they will not continue on their present path and instead develop a wider partnership which properly engages with the people who live in Nether Edge and elsewhere.
If they do we may be able to avoid a major tragedy in the city which would be remembered for as long as the actions of the Victorians but for entirely the wrong reasons.
Montgomery Road, Sheffield, S7