THE STAR SAYS: Trees mess needs sorting out at last

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For months now The Star has been deluged with points of view about a single, highly controversial topic.

Worried residents have roundly condemned the felling and replacement of mature highway trees as part of Sheffield Council’s Streets Ahead contract with Amey - while the council has insisted that there is no alternative.

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TREES: £26 million bill to save all trees say Sheffield Council

TREES: Council leader and campaigner go head to head over felling controversy

The drama has sparked many grassroots petitions, debates, rows and demonstrations, all to no avail.

While a tree forum was set up, its last meeting never happened and there is no sign of another.

An independent tree panel was launched to review streets where 50 per cent of residents raised concerns, but the surveys sent out were far from ideal.

On one street in Heeley residents received letters about the survey the day AFTER trees had already been taken down.

Today, the saga takes another new twist.

Sheffield Council has claimed that it would cost an estimated £26 million to save the 2,000 trees that are still earmarked to be felled, on top of the 3,000 plus trees that have already been replaced.

Everyone realises the council, like others across the country, is cash-strapped and £26 million is a lot of adult social care.

“Without this programme, our children and grandchildren would not be able to say they live in one of the greenest cities in Britain”, said council leader Julie Dore.

But - these figures are just estimates.

It is also not clear how it would cost up to £100,000 to save a single tree - a price which the council says applies to no less than 200 of them - unless they are dipped in gold leaf.

Campaigners want the authority to instead look at the cost benefit of trees - which is how much value they provide to communities and the environment.

At the same time Louise Wilcockson, a resident who was involved with the very first protests along Rustlings Road, said the council was attempting ‘emotional blackmail.’

Louise added: “The council should be negotiating with Amey and trying to save healthy trees, not trying to convince Sheffield they are doing the right thing by cutting the down.”

There is one thing that both sides appear to agree on. They both say that they want the best for the future of Sheffield and its future generations.

The debate has gone on long enough - and it is clear that residents’ concerns will not go away because the council has dug up a few estimated figures.

It is time now for council chiefs to meet campaigners face to face and do what they can to sort out this mess - for the good of Sheffield.