A new dawn in Sheffield’s tree-felling saga is set to begin this week, as inspections get underway to see how best to save dozens of trees which were facing the chop.
Almost 90 out of some 300 trees originally earmarked for replacement will now be retained indefinitely, following talks between the council, its contractor Amey and campaigners to end the bitter dispute.
Many more could be spared, depending on the outcome of detailed new assessments which are due to start tomorrow as part of a new more collaborative approach agreed last month.
Amey’s workers will carry out the inspections with the co-operation of members of pressure group STAG (Sheffield Tree Action Groups), who will be in attendance.
No trees will be removed there and then, says the council, but those which are found to be immediately dangerous or obstructive will be scheduled for replacement as soon as possible.
Street works could be carried out immediately, however, if deemed necessary to ensure trees can remain in place.
Amey’s Streets Ahead account director Darren Butt said: “The additional funding being provided by Amey will allow us to use new and existing engineering treatments in a much more flexible way, monitor trees closely and re-apply treatments where possible. As a result, we should be able to retain trees for an indefinite period as long as the highway remains at a good standard.
“Our inspection team will be made up of trained and experienced tree and highways professionals equipped with specialist tools, and will receive independent input from STAG.
“The team itself will not remove any tree but has authority to carry out immediate highway remedial work to safeguard the tree, when required. If inspections are planned on a tree near to your home, we will contact you beforehand to let you know.
“Crucially, we will still be delivering the long-term benefits of the Streets Ahead contract at no extra cost to Sheffield’s taxpayers.”
Councillor Lewis Dagnall, the council’s cabinet member for environment and street scene, said: “The inspections are the first step in what we hope to be a promising year for the city’s street trees, where we will see a large proportion of trees, including the Vernon Oak and the majority of memorial trees, retained. We will also start work on a new street tree strategy in the first half of this year...
“We’re optimistic that by adopting a more collaborative approach, we will achieve a way forward which is beneficial for the entire city.”
Paul Selby of STAG said: “We welcome this new collaborative approach, which we believe will increase the number of trees that can be indefinitely retained, at the same time as increasing our understanding of the reasons why Amey and Sheffield Council say some trees cannot be retained.
“We encourage residents to come out and see the inspections taking place, if they are able to, to maximise the transparency of the work being done.”
Amey has promised to liaise with affected communities and members of STAG for the best way forward for trees which its new inspections suggest must still be felled and replaced.
The contractor has also pledged to plant an extra 12,000 trees for community groups, with details on how to apply due to be released later in the year.
Around 5,500 trees have already been felled since 2012 as part of the council’s £2.2 billion Streets Ahead contract with Amey, under which roads and pavements across the city have been resurfaced.