War memorial trees in Sheffield could be saved from the axe after more than 5,000 people signed a petition to save them.
Almost 100 trees were planted along Western Road, in Crookes, after the First World War to honour 67 former pupils from nearby Westways School who died in the conflict.
Sheffield Council contractor Amey has earmarked 23 trees to be felled and replaced as part of the Streets Ahead programme to renew the city’s highways.
More than 5,100 people signed an online petition to preserve those trees, triggering a debate on the emotional topic at yesterday’s full council meeting.
Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment, announced at the meeting that the council had instructed Amey to investigate ‘engineering solutions’ to preserve the memorial.
“We recognise this is a special case and we need to look at this differently,” he said.
“We’re already in the process of setting up a project team, and we’re commissioning Amey to start looking at engineering solutions.
“They will need to carry out some root excavations to find out what’s possible and to work out cost proposals.”
Coun Lodge said a cross party working group was being set up and the council wanted to work with community groups, the War Memorials Trust and the Royal British Legion to consider all possible options.
He said Amey’s findings would be referred to the Independent Tree Panel, whose recommendations would be considered by the council before it publishes revised proposals this May.
But he said this did not necessarily mean the trees would be saved, as he said the council had a legal responsibility to ensure its streets were accessible to all and not too narrow for some to traverse.
Other councillors said they hoped the review marked a fresh approach to the fate of threatened trees across the city and that Coun Lodge’s promises were not just ‘warm words’.
Dave Dillner, who started the petition to save the Western Road trees, struggled to hold back the emotion as he addressed the meeting.
“Those 23 trees were planted to commemorate the lives of 23 heroes cut down in their prime,” he said.
“Are you seriously going to tell me this afternoon that you’re going to vote to cut those trees down in their prime?”
Mr Dillner also told how two independent tree experts had advised protesters from Sheffield Tree Action Group – STAG – that it was not necessary to fell a single one of the 23 trees at risk.
Campaigners had gathered ahead of the meeting, some with banners, including one which read ‘Sheffield City Council shame on you’.
One tree commemorates 17-year-old killed in World War I, campaigners discover
Campaigners hoping to save dozens of memorial trees in Sheffield from being felled have discovered the names of soldiers they commemorate.
The Friends of Western Road Trees have so far uncovered more than 23 names of former Westways pupils who died fighting in World War I.
About 100 trees were planted on Western Road, in Crookes, in 1919 to commemorate the pupils. About 60 remain, with 23 due to be felled.
The group have put signs on the trees telling passers-by the pupils’ name, dates of birth and death and their age when they died.
Alan James, of the Friends of Western Road Trees, said: “One former student was only 17-years-old while the majority ranged from 19 to 21.
“The trees on Western Road were planted in 1920 as a living memorial to these soldiers. They were paid for by public subscription.
“Each tree that is now under threat of destruction has had a notice placed upon it to commemorate the name and age of each young man who died for his country.”