Butterfly saves Sheffield tree from the chop - for now

The elm tree on Chelsea Road. Picture by Paul Selby.
The elm tree on Chelsea Road. Picture by Paul Selby.
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A rare butterfly has won a temporary stay of execution for a threatened Sheffield tree.

Sheffield Council said the tree on Chelsea Road, Nether Edge, will be replaced "in a number of months" but only after a "mitigation" plan had been agreed for the rare White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.

White letter Hairstreak butterfly. Picture by Ben Keywood.

White letter Hairstreak butterfly. Picture by Ben Keywood.

The tree was discussed at last night's full council meeting after a member of the public said it should be "preserved and maintained as soon as possible".

He said: "Trust has broken down between the council and concerned residents. What we need is mediation.

"Pushing ahead with plans regardless of residents’ opinions will only cause more conflict and cost."

In response, Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment, said: "If we don’t do the safety work now there is a risk to the tree.

"There is no proposal to cut that tree down.

"I hope everyone respects that and allows team to get on with the work.”

The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust said it remained opposed to the tree being felled.

The tree is under threat as part of the council's street maintenance programme.

The council, which is planting new trees after removing existing ones, insists the trees earmarked for felling are either "dangerous, dead, diseased, dying, damaging or discriminatory".

But campaigners claim many of the trees classed by the council as "damaging" should be saved.

Coun Lodge added: "Due to the deteriorating condition of the tree, we now have to carry out pressing safety work to tackle extensive decay in the tree to ensure public safety."

Material pruned from the tree will be stored and then searched by hand by experts for butterfly eggs, Mr Lodge said.

Liz Ballard, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust's chief executive officer, said:

"In the interests of securing the best outcome for wildlife, we have decided to assist with the council's butterfly relocation plan, involving our staff who have previous experience of White-letter Hairstreak egg relocation.

"We hope this will help to improve the chances of success for securing a future for the butterfly colony.

"We will continue to call on the council to re-assess and reconsider the need to ultimately fell the Chelsea Road elm tree."