Survey finds Sheffield war hero’s tree is ‘healthy’ - contradicting reasons for felling it

(l-r) Frances Mawer, Zoe Bennett, Sam Huntley, Mitch Briggs and Charles Schofield are campaigning to save a tree on Western Road from being felled. Picture: Andrew Roe
(l-r) Frances Mawer, Zoe Bennett, Sam Huntley, Mitch Briggs and Charles Schofield are campaigning to save a tree on Western Road from being felled. Picture: Andrew Roe
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A Sheffield tree which is one of several planted in memory of war heroes has been found to be healthy - in a contradiction of reasons given for its felling.

Residents now want the tree on leafy Western Road, Crookes, to be saved instead of being chopped down and replaced.

It is due to be felled by Sheffield Council’s Streets Ahead contractor Amey this week, and Amey has previously said the reason it needs to come down is because it is ‘decayed’ and a ‘health and safety risk’ to the public.

But an independent arboriculturalist who carried out an assessment - paid for by Western Road resident Robin Ridley - said the London Plane tree was in ‘reasonable health’ and without any ‘decay or defect that would justify the tree’s removal.’

Instead that assessment found the tree had ‘branch failure’ or breaks which residents say occurred during 90mph winds in January and that the tree could still have a life expectancy of over 40 years.

Father Mr Ridley, a woodlands restoration manager, said the survey showed that the justification provided for felling the tree was ‘flawed’ and Amey had not provided their own formal report.

He added: “What else could I do but pay for the assessment - it is one of the trees dedicated to a World War One soldier and Amey are just coming in like a bull in a china shop.

“We are trying to challenge the council and say we have new evidence that contradicts your statement.

“This tree doesn’t need to be felled, it isn’t a health and safety risk. They need to stop the planned work and have a meeting with our independent expert.”

Frances Mawer, who also lives on Western Road, said:” The unnecessary felling of this magnificent tree and its proposed replacement by a small sapling would quite destroy the overall beauty of Western Road and the view of it.”

A Streets Ahead spokeman said: “We understand the importance of the trees on Western Road to residents, and would like to thank everyone who has been in touch for their views and comments.

“A notice was put on the London Plane tree on Western Road in August to inform residents it would have to be replaced, as it was found to have structural faults and due to the level of risk to the public it is no longer possible to safely retain the tree on the highway.

“The tree will be replaced with one that is approximately 10 years old and three to four metres in height, as are all trees that are replaced as part of the Streets Ahead project.

“It will be replanted in the planting season, which falls between November and March.

“Given the importance of the existing tree to local residents, we are planning activities to mark the planting of the new tree involving local schools and residents and we will be informing the public of these plans over the coming months.”

Meanwhile, a camp set up by tree felling campaigners in a Sheffield park is to come down today - a month after it was pitched.

The tent was set up in Endcliffe Park, close to where trees on Rustlings Road are due to be felled, on September 15 as protesters feared the work was due to start.

Their campaign to save the Rustlings trees sparked a 10,000-strong petition, which then triggered a debate in Sheffield Council and the setting up of a highways tree forum, while other campaigns have since sprung up around the city.

Calvin Payne, who has manned the tent for a month with other supporters, said: “The camp has raised our profile not just locally but nationally, the campaign was in the Independent and on Radio 4 this week, we’ve increased our support, had a new focus on what we are trying to do and of course the work to fell the trees on Rustlings Road has not started so I think we have ticked all the boxes that we wanted to.”

He said that the camp could be used again in the future and campaigners wanted to leave on a ‘high.’