Public anger despite council pledges ahead of key decision on Sheffield war memorial trees

Memorial trees in Oxford Street.
Memorial trees in Oxford Street.
0
Have your say

Councillors again tried to reassure residents about Sheffield's war memorial trees ahead of a decision on the future of those due to be cut down.

Tempers rose among members of the public yesterday evening as Coun Bryan Lodge told a scrutiny committee that the authority would look to restore existing memorial streets, such as Western Road, back to their original design by planting new trees to replace those lost over time.

Coun Bryan Lodge.

Coun Bryan Lodge.

A number of trees, including 23 in Western Road, are due to come down by the end of the year. The council says they need to be removed so highways improvements can be made as part of the Streets Ahead PFI contract with Amey.

But several people said there was no reason to fell healthy trees, and asked why money could not be found to save them. Two, Alan Story and Arthur Baker, were asked to leave after repeatedly interrupting councillors - although they were eventually allowed to stay. And Dave Dillner left of his own accord, clearly unimpressed with what he had heard.

Cabinet members will consider the issue on Wednesday, following a report from a cross-party working group that said all memorial street trees should be treated differently.

Coun Lodge, responsible for the environment, said no decisions had yet been made, but warned work outside the contract would cost money that was not available in the highways budget.

Western Road.

Western Road.

He also highlighted plans, revealed in The Star yesterday, to plant about 300 new memorial trees in the city's parks and green spaces - as additions rather than alternatives.

Elizabeth Motley raised concerns about this plan asking why, if money was available for new trees, were others being felled?

"If there are solutions, couldn't we do something to raise that extra money?" she said.

This was echoed by Coun Rob Murphy, who said: "I would question the wisdom of proposals to spend money on war memorials when also talking about the financial constraints of retaining the war memorials that we have got."

Alan Story and Arthur Baker.

Alan Story and Arthur Baker.

Director of culture and environment Paul Billington said new park trees would come out of the existing parks budget, adding: "It is considerably cheaper than planting trees in highway situations."

On war memorial street trees, Coun Lodge said 213 had been identified across the city, of which 99 were left in the city - although there could be others that were not properly registered.

He added: "What we are hoping to do is replace those that were lost and add them back in to restore the avenues to the way they were originally."

Money for replacing missing trees is available under Streets Ahead.

Dave Dillner.

Dave Dillner.

However, this does not mean others will not be felled if engineering solutions cannot be found within the contract.

The council is talking to the War Memorials Trust about Western Road, and head of parks and countryside Lisa Firth said there was interest, but funding could not be guaranteed.

Councillors could also use money from their ward pots for some work, said Coun Lodge, but it would have to be a 'wise' investment.

Coun Colin Ross asked that as much information be made publicly available as possible, to avoid both suspicion and costly Freedom of Information requests. Coun Lodge agreed and said officers were working on reports for each of the 23 Western Road trees ahead of Wednesday's cabinet meeting.

He also said some of the redacted parts of the Streets Ahead contract could soon be made public.