Bishop to chair talks to resolve Sheffield's street tree stand-off

Talks are set to take place to discuss the future of Sheffield's street trees, to be chaired by the Bishop of Sheffield.

Tuesday, 7th August 2018, 10:20 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th August 2018, 10:23 am
Police and protesters at felling works earlier this year.

Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) has announced the talks, set to take place between activists, Sheffield City Council and their contractor AMEY later this month.

Bishop of Sheffield Pete Wilcox will chair the meeting, STAG have said.

The move comes following letters between the group and Councillor Lewis Dagnall, cabinet member for environment and street scene at the authority.

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In his letter, Coun Dagnall wrote: “We need to find a way forward regarding street tree replacement which both enables necessary work to take place, whilst responding to the concerns which have been raised by many people about the previous proposals.

“There are around 300 proposed replacements still to resolve from the initial 5 year investment programme and more importantly, there is also the wider question about how to look after Sheffield’s highway tree stock through the remaining 20 years of the programme, and beyond.

“I believe that with all sides prepared to compromise, we can reach a resolution that will benefit the city for generations to come.

“The council is now close to having a set of revised proposals and options. I have committed to a meaningful dialogue with residents and other stakeholders, including campaign groups, before the council makes a final decision on the future course.

Our current aim is to commence dialogue in September and conclude the process in October/November.”

STAG spokesman Chris Rust said that the council has not yet shared its new ideas with activists.

He said: “Coun Dagnall has indicated that he wants to engage in a meaningful dialogue about the proposed replacement of the remaining 306 trees from the original felling programme and the wider issue of how to look after Sheffield street-tree stock over the coming 20 years and beyond.

“Naturally, we welcome the invitation for talks but this is just an initial meeting and we won’t get to know about their new plans. We hope that the council is sincere in wanting to work with us on a solution rather than just to consult us on a plan that they’ve already decided on.”

Fellow STAG campaigner Paul Brooke said they had consulted other activists from across Sheffield and drawn up a list of expectations from the council and AMEY.

They are:

● There should be no further reduction of the mature tree canopy in Sheffield by the unnecessary removal of healthy street trees;

● Any proposals made should be based on current urban forestry good practice with independent expertise provided to thecCouncil from outside of the contractor Amey;

● The future work by Amey on the management and maintenance of street trees should have proper, independent oversight;

● Sheffield City Council should adopt and implement a proper tree strategy for the sustainable stewardship of our street-tree assets and the wider urban forest.

He added: “We also believe that for this once-proud green city to move forward there needs to be an independent inquiry into how we got into this mess.

“We support the call by Lord Scriven for an inquiry, which needs to look at the contract, the incentives that led to more than 5,500 mostly healthy trees being felled, the wasteful expense of an ignored Independent Tree Panel and the events that occured at disputed felling sites involving local residents, a private security firm and South Yorkshire Police.”