More Sheffield street trees saved in new plans: '˜There won't be any secrets'

More than 80 street trees will be saved from the chop in new plans announced by Sheffield City Council, Amey and Sheffield Tree Action Group and those that will are to be phased over a decade.Â

Friday, 14th December 2018, 12:11 pm
Updated Friday, 14th December 2018, 12:17 pm
Following more than two months of very detailed discussions between SCC, Amey and the STAG Steering Group, Sheffield City Council have announced a new approach to managing street trees within the 25 year Streets Ahead highway management programme operated by Amey. Pictured is Cllr Lewis Dagnall.

Campaigners have called it a '˜positive development' after years of bitter disputes, protests and arrests but said they are '˜disappointed' the council have refused to carry out an investigation.

Chris Rust, co-chair of STAG, said: 'We feel there are some very positive developments that have come forward including the opportunity to continue work.

Following more than two months of very detailed discussions between SCC, Amey and the STAG Steering Group, Sheffield City Council have announced a new approach to managing street trees within the 25 year Streets Ahead highway management programme operated by Amey. Pictured is Chris Rust and Paul Brooke, co-chairs of STAG.

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'We can't make commitments on behalf of the many people who have gone out on the streets and campaigned and done everything they can to support the cause of the trees because they need to see what's on the table first.

'It's great that everything is going public and there won't be any secrets so we can have an open debate with everybody who is interested in this.'

A £2.2 billion Streets Ahead contract between the council and PFI contractor Amey to improve the highways over 25 years has so far lead to 5,500 trees being axed, half of which may have been healthy, and replaced with saplings. 

A pause on felling was put in place earlier this year and since there have been mediated talks between the three groups to reach a compromise.

Following more than two months of very detailed discussions between SCC, Amey and the STAG Steering Group, Sheffield City Council have announced a new approach to managing street trees within the 25 year Streets Ahead highway management programme operated by Amey. Pictured is Chris Rust, Co-Chair, STAG.

Out of the remaining 305 street trees earmarked for felling in the first five years of the contract (65 percent of the whole contract), the new plans are:

87 will be saved 45 will have further investigation jointly by STAG and Amey '˜to find any possible solutions to save them' 173 will also have further investigation but are more likely to be felled 60 are due to be felled next year

Darren Butt, operations manager at Amey, said the further 35 percent of trees will be addressed by the same new strategy.

He said: 'I think everyone at Amey, the council and STAG are glad that the talks have been in the warm and not in the streets like the disputes earlier in the year and hopefully we can bring the disputes to a close now and move forward.

Following more than two months of very detailed discussions between SCC, Amey and the STAG Steering Group, Sheffield City Council have announced a new approach to managing street trees within the 25 year Streets Ahead highway management programme operated by Amey. Pictured is Darren Butt from AMEY, Cllr Lewis Dagnall, and Chris Rust, Co-Chair, STAG.

'Due to campaigning we have now got a community who are engaged about trees, I hope we can all take that spirit and actually turn it into something positive like working with STAG to introduce tree champions.'

It will also come at no extra cost to the taxpayer, as Amey have agreed to pick up any costs of finding new materials or engineering solutions to keep healthy trees.

Mr Rust and Paul Brooke, co-chair of STAG, said they were happy with the outcome but wanted an inquiry into the '˜mistakes' of the past.

Mr Brooke said: 'One of the things about change, acceptance and moving forward is there is an honest recognition that you got things wrong, made mistakes and what they are. I think we would like to see that more forthcoming.

'To quote the leader and chief executive of the council, the trees became an unintended consequence of the highways contract. Nobody thought this would happen and in this way but it has and we would really like to see someone address how we got into this mess and to show some learning from it.'

Mr Rust and Mr Brooke added that they were satisfied the 17,500 '˜target' written into the contract was no longer a target. But said if these new plans had come sooner, between 2,000 and 3,000 healthy trees could have been saved.

Mr Rust added: 'Some of the damage has already been done, it's irrevocable. We won't get that avenue of trees back in my lifetime.'

The next steps will see further investigation take place on a street-by-street basis which is set to start in the New Year, anyone can view the full proposals on the council's website at www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/sheffield/home/roads-pavements/managing-street-trees.html