Campaigners fighting to save Sheffield’s trees from being axed have accused the council of ‘emotional blackmail’ and misleading the public.
Louise Wilcockson, of the city-wide campaign, says council chiefs are wrong to claim they are protecting trees for future generations – and are instead stuck in a ‘limiting’ contract with Amey.
She said: “The council needs to stop peddling the emotional blackmail and misleading comments that any money to implement alternative solutions is somehow taking funds from other areas of need.
“This is a £2.2 billion contract and such methods should have already have been budgeted for.
“We believe penalties faced by the council to utilise flexibility in the contract, as well as maximising profit for investors, is taking precedence over people’s health, our environment and Sheffield’s long-term ability to market itself as the greenest city in Europe.”
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.”
Campaigners are urging the council to do a ‘cost benefit’ to analyse the ‘true’ value of trees to the city.
They are pushing the authority to consider the wider cost implications of removing mature trees, including the £160 million Sheffield’s NHS spends every year on treating problems caused by air pollution.
Louise said: “The Star reported that 500 people a year are dying in Sheffield due to air pollution and this is costing the city’s NHS £150 million a year.
“It is highly likely that the cost of retaining the roadside trees would be worth it due to the vast benefits to our environment and long-term economy, including savings to our city’s NHS.”
She added: “Sheffield Council has not carried out a cost benefit, as other cities have and as is recognised good practice. Neither have they carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment.”
Louise also questioned how the council arrived at the cost it has released.
She said: “These figures aren’t from an independent organisation. They are from the council and there is no break-down or calculation how they arrived at the figures.
“For all we know the council might be plucking figures out of thin air.”