Star readers to help decide where 300 new war memorial trees should be planted in Sheffield parks

Memorial trees will be planted in parks across Sheffield - and Star readers can help decide where.

Photo: Weston Park, Dan Cunningham
Memorial trees will be planted in parks across Sheffield - and Star readers can help decide where. Photo: Weston Park, Dan Cunningham
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Hundreds of new trees will be planted to honour Sheffield’s war dead - and the council wants Star readers to help choose where.

The authority’s parks department is working with the Royal British Legion on plans for a series of new monuments as it looks to move on from controversial plans to fell trees planted in memory of soldiers killed in conflict.

Memorial trees in Western Road.

Memorial trees in Western Road.

The future of trees in sites such as Western Road in Crookes is yet to be decided, but it is possible some will still be cut down and replaced as they are damaging the pavement.

The council says it has recognised people’s passion for commemoration, however, and wants to create new memorials in the city’s parks and open spaces so they are unaffected by any future highway works.

It has promised to plant about 300 new trees in time for the centenary of the end of the First World War next year - a number that will be maintained ‘in perpetuity’.

And the authority wants the people of Sheffield to suggest where and in what way the fallen should be remembered.

Oxford Street, Crookes.

Oxford Street, Crookes.

Cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure Mary Lea said: “Over the years, many memorial trees in Sheffield have been removed without replacement.

“Today, we are delighted to announce that the council will create a brand new memorial site in the city’s parks, consisting of around 300 trees, to remember all those from Sheffield who sadly lost their lives in conflict.

“In addition, we’re making a commitment to ensure these new trees remain, in their entirety, so that future generations will be aware of the sacrifice of others for many years to come.”

The council says there are at least nine memorial sites across the city where trees play a part, and is trying to work out exactly how many were originally planted and still remain.

The memorial to HMS Sheffield outside Sheffield Cathedral.

The memorial to HMS Sheffield outside Sheffield Cathedral.

The aim is to reflect these memorials and what they stand for at new sites.

The council also wants Star readers to suggest how to commemorate those who have died in more recent conflicts.

“Currently, there are just under 300 registered memorial trees planted in the city and through this new project, we want to replicate this number in parks by providing a fitting and long-lasting new memorial, where people can gather to pay their respects and remember the fallen in a peaceful and serene environment,” said Coun Lea.

“We’re inviting the people of Sheffield to support us in this exciting new project by sending in their ideas for the new sites, which we hope to memorialise in 2018, to commemorate the 100 year centenary of the First World War.

The Crookesmoor Boys stand guard by memorial trees in Oxford Street. Photo: Graham Turnbull.

The Crookesmoor Boys stand guard by memorial trees in Oxford Street. Photo: Graham Turnbull.

“The memorial will provide an accessible tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and will offer a quiet alternative to those memorials that are located on busy streets or hard to reach areas.

“Working with the Royal British Legion and communities across Sheffield, we will plant a future-proof memorial site which can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Legion county president Robert Mortimer said: “We are proud to support Sheffield City Council in the planting of around 300 new memorial trees in memory of Sheffield’s fallen veterans.

“Memorial trees planted in parks offer a tranquil sanctuary for those wanting to pay their respects to our late comrades lost over the years in battle.”

The thought that trees planted in memory of soldiers who died for their country could be cut down has stirred plenty of passion in Sheffield residents.

Campaigners have expressed outrage at the thought of chainsaws being taken to war memorials, and thousands have signed petitions calling for trees at sites across the city to be saved.

The plaque outside Sheffield Cathedral.

The plaque outside Sheffield Cathedral.

The most publicised example is in Western Road, Crookes, where opposition to the proposed felling and replacement of 23 of the 54 memorial trees led to the formation of a cross-party council group to consider their future.

The group says they and all other memorial street trees should be ‘treated differently’ to the rest of the highway trees that are covered by the Streets Ahead PFI contract.

Their future has yet to be decided, and some may yet be felled - although the group tried to reassure campaigners by saying Western Road should be returned to its ‘original concept’ of about 97 trees that commemorate pupils of nearby Westways Primary School who died int the First World War.

Plenty are still not convinced by that response. But the council hopes to work with campaigners and everyone else in Sheffield to come up with new memorial sites where trees can be planted to mark the sacrifices of all those who have died in conflicts around the world.

Known tree memorial sites (data provided by Sheffield Council):

Western Road, Crookes - First World War

Original number of trees - 97 (estimate)

Current number - 54

Number to be replaced - 23

Frecheville Community Centre - Second World War

Original number of trees - 19

Current number - uncertain

Number to be replaced - uncertain

Tay Street/Oxford Street, Crookes - First World War

Original number of trees - 77

Current number - 31

Number to be replaced - uncertain

Meersbrook Bank Primary School - First World War

Original number of trees - 36

Current number - uncertain

Number to be replaced - 5

Sheffield Cathedral - Falklands War (HMS Sheffield)

Original number of trees - 1

Current number - 1

Number to be replaced - 0

Weston Park - First World War

Original number of trees - 1

Current number - 1

Number to be replaced - 0

Devonshire Green - Second World War

Original number of trees - 5

Current number - 5

Number to be replaced - 0

Ecclesfield Park - First World War

Original number of trees - 53 (estimate)

Current number - uncertain

Number to be replaced - uncertain

Crookes Congregational Church

Original number of trees - 7

Current number - 7

Number to be replaced - 0

Western Road campaigners Alan Storey and Arthur Baker.

Western Road campaigners Alan Storey and Arthur Baker.