Clash over purpose of Western Road memorial trees group

Councillors clashed over the purpose of a group set up to consider the future of a street of war memorial trees in Sheffield.

Thursday, 26th January 2017, 1:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th January 2017, 1:42 pm
The threatened trees in Western Road.

The city council voted this month to set up a cross party group to look at the case of the trees in Western Road, Crookes, that were planted in 1919 to honour 67 former pupils from nearby Westways School who died in the First World War.

Twenty-three of the trees are listed for felling under the Streets Ahead programme, and more than 5,000 people signed a petition to save them.

The trees were planted to remember those killed in the First World War.

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Members of the environmental scrutiny committee met on Wednesday to decide the membership and scope of the group.

But Couns Rob Murphy and Steve Wilson struggled to agree on what the group should consider.

Coun Murphy said: "We have been asked to look at the issue. That, as I see it, is to save the trees from destruction."

But Coun Wilson said the trees themselves were not the issue.

The plaque marking the trees as war memorials.

"We have been asked to look at the memorial and how we deal with that. I don't want this group to be deciding whether trees stay or they don't," he said.

"That's not its job."

Coun Wilson had earlier been challenged by a member of the public Nigel Slack, who said he should not chair the trees group because of comments made in an e-mail to Labour members in his East Ecclesfield ward.

Coun Wilson wrote that city-wide tree protests were becoming political, and more to do with the Greens' campaign for a Sheffield parliamentary seat.

The trees were planted to remember those killed in the First World War.

But Coun Wilson challenged Mr Slack, saying his time spend in the Royal Navy meant he was qualified to consider the importance of war memorials.

The Western Road trees group will include Couns Wilson and Murphy, along with Couns Lisa Baines, Abdul Khayum, Neale Gibson, Penny Baker and Martin Smith.

Its first meeting will take place next week, and its conclusions will be made public around April. Some meetings will also be held in public.

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The plaque marking the trees as war memorials.