Campaigners contest 'jacked-up' £500,000 figure to save war memorial trees in Sheffield

Campaigners fighting to save threatened war memorial trees in Sheffield claim the council's estimated cost of £500,000 to do so is a deliberately 'jacked-up' figure.

Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 5:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:14 pm
War memorial trees on Western Road

More than 40 trees in Western Road, Crookes, and four other streets across the city have been earmarked for replacement by Sheffield Council, which claims they are dead, dying or damaging the road, pavement or nearby homes.

But protesters insist they can be saved, and have questioned the £500,000 the council claims it would cost to preserve all 41 trees.

An Armistice Day commemoration on Western Road

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Alan Story, of the campaign group No Stump City, said: "It's become very obvious that the council's strategy is to jack up the supposed cost of work to keep the trees and then say it's all too expensive so we're going to cut them down anyway.

"The council said in September it was going to get estimates for the cost of the work, but it's the council's contractor Amey which has done the assessment, so there's clearly a conflict of interest.

"What's needed is firstly a second opinion from an independent engineer and secondly a proper discussion with the people who live on Western Road."

Cabinet members are due to meet next Tuesday to decide the fate of the war memorial trees.

An Armistice Day commemoration on Western Road

A report prepared ahead of the meeting makes no recommendation as to their decision but says saving the trees would mean cutting spending in other areas like social care.

It also sets out plans to plant 300 new memorial trees in the city's parks and to replace others which it says have disappeared from streets over the years by next November, ready to commemorate the centenary of the First World War ending.

Mr Story said: "It's really quite scandalous to tear down trees that are living war memorials and then to claim you're their saviour by replacing them with saplings and holding some kind of re-dedication service."

The war memorial trees, planted in tribute to fallen soldiers following the First World War, are among around 6,000 street trees across the city which have been or are due to be replaced as part of the council's controversial £2 billion Streets Ahead contract with Amey.

The Star has also contacted Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) for a comment.