The strategy document is a good read

Sheffield city skyline showing city centre
Picture by Gerard Binks
Sheffield city skyline showing city centre Picture by Gerard Binks
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The ‘Sheffield Strategy 2020’ sets out Sheffield City Council’s vision for the city.

It’s a great vision document, inviting us all to strive for a city that is: 1) Distinctive, 2) Inclusive, 3) Successful, 4) Vibrant and 5) Sustainable. These are the five key aims of the strategy, and it’s easy to agree with them.

I highly recommend the strategy document, it’s a good read. The first aim, distinctiveness, will be achieved by ‘Celebrating and communicating to people across the world the distinctive and authentic character of Sheffield, what the city has to offer and the sense of pride local people have in the city and its communities.’ [1] Building on what the city already has of distinctive and authentic, the strategy goes on to paint a vision where, by 2020, ‘The unique blend of the urban and rural, new and old, innovation and heritage, make Sheffield a place where people from across the world choose to live, learn, work, invest and visit.’ [2] Doesn’t this sound good? If only this City Council actually believed it, or actually had the vision to make this come true. Let’s take the example of the mature roadside trees: A large number of these trees were planted over 100 years ago by the city’s Victorian forebears. They are a part of Sheffield’s history, be it through being planted as memorials for those lost in war, or, like those on Rivelin Valley Road, planted as part of an egalitarian vision of bringing beauty to all, not just the elite few [3]. Or simply, because they have grown alongside generations of Sheffielders, they have marked each new season with them, and been the ever-present backdrop of daily lives and life-stories. Many people are fiercely attached to the trees in their local neighbourhood, and are ready to fight for them. This is local pride.

Having survived what Streets Ahead calls the harsh environment of the roadside over all these decades, no two trees are exactly alike, each has its own shape, angles, gnarls and knots. This is heritage. This is distinctiveness. In light of ‘Sheffield Strategy 2020’, one would think that the Council would appreciate the huge asset that these trees already are for the city, and would be doing its utmost to preserve this heritage. Instead of felling perfectly healthy trees in order to make way for modern day resurfacing machinery, and for perfectly straight kerbsides, wouldn’t the more visionary thing be to find ways for the old to continue to flourish alongside the new? Other cities seem to manage this, creatively building around their natural heritage.

Instead we have yet to see any sensitive, (let alone creative!), engineering solution actually used to retain a mature tree. ‘Too expensive’, say some. But we have yet to hear why this is not already in the Streets Ahead contract, why is Amey charging more for this? And we have yet to hear from Councillor Julie Dore how the astounding figure of £26 million to save 2,000 trees was arrived at. If this shortsighted and wasteful attitude applies to the roadside trees, what else does it apply to? I’m afraid that the fine Strategy document is just more words, without the will or the heart behind it that could make it actually come true.

[1] https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/your-city-council/policy--performance/what-we-want-to-achieve/city-strategy.html [2] Sheffield Strategy 2020, p.11 [3] Caroline Fletcher: History behind tree-lined streets. Telegraph, March 31.

A Carusi

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