'Pantomime season is over' - Campaigners hold protest at plans to axe Sheffield WW1 memorial trees

Dozens of campaigners gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall to denounce council plans to axe over 20 trees - originally planted as a war memorial to fallen soldiers.

Wednesday, 4th January 2017, 2:29 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 12:21 pm
The future of trees in Western Road are being discussed at a Sheffield council meeting today (Wednesday) after residents gathered a 5,000 signature petition. The trees could be subject to a destruction order but locals are outraged as the trees were planted in 1920 as a living memorial to pupils from the local school who were killed in WW1.Pictured campaigner Alan James. Picture Scott Merrylees

Sheffield Council contractor Amey has earmarked 23 trees on Western Road in Crookes to be felled as part of their Streets Ahead Scheme.

The trees were planted in April 1918 to honour soldiers from Westways School, in Crookes, who died during WW1. The plans have caused fury from residents and Sheffield tree campaigners.

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Campaigners gathered before the full Council meeting and heard speeches from tree campaigners and politicians.

Many protesters brought banners including one which read ‘Sheffield City Council shame on you’.

Dave Dillner from Sheffield Tree Action Group started a petition which reached 5,000 signatures in just nine days - triggering councillors to hold a full debate on the plans.

Mr Dillner said the council's tree felling saga resembled 'pantomime season'.

The future of trees in Western Road are being discussed at a Sheffield council meeting today after residents gathered a 5,000 signature petition. The trees could be subject to a destruction order but locals are outraged as the trees were planted in 1920 as a living memorial to pupils from the local school who were killed in WW1. Picture Scott Merrylees

"The Council want to desecrate the memorial by felling 23 of those trees for the most spurious of reasons," he said.

"Over and above it being a war memorial, as emotional as that is, Sheffield Tree Action Group have had two independent arboricultural experts said not a single of these 23 trees needs to be felled.

Read more on Sheffield's ongoing tree saga

Tree campaigners held a protest outside Sheffield Town Hall

Mr Dillner added there is other ways these trees can be maintained without having to be axed.

"There can be alternative engineering specifications," he said.

"The money is there, we know this because Steve Robinson, the head of highway maintenance, told us on the September 2 last year.

The future of trees in Western Road are being discussed at a Sheffield council meeting today after residents gathered a 5,000 signature petition. The trees could be subject to a destruction order but locals are outraged as the trees were planted in 1920 as a living memorial to pupils from the local school who were killed in WW1. Picture Scott Merrylees

"No extra cost is handed onto the rate payers, so what is going on here? pantomime season is over now, lets save these trees.

"Be big enough to stand up and say you've got this one wrong."

Former Green Party leader and now Sheffield Central prospective parliamentary candidate Natalie Bennett, also denounced the plans.

Addressing campaigners on the steps of the Town Hall, Ms Bennett said: "With this we have one more really powerful argument. The argument of history, the argument of remembrance.

"This is a war memorial this recollects the hideous slaughter, the slaughter we've all said we must not forget."

Also addressing the crowd was Sheffield Lib Dem leader Shaffaq Mohammed.

A protester outside Sheffield Town Hall

He said: "There is a chance to do things differently. What we have on Western Road are memorial trees planted in the memory of young men who went to the local school on Westways and they are a huge significance not just for the city but for the country."

Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for Environment said: “Given the unique nature of the trees on Western Road, the Council is seeking to work with community groups and the War Memorials Trust to explore all options for preservation and future maintenance of the memorial.

“These options will include Amey looking at engineering solutions, which will include some root excavations, as well as identifying any sources of external funding. At the moment, we do not know what, if any, solutions may be possible, but we will seek to work through all the options carefully with the community before coming to any final decision.”

“We will carefully and considerately develop a plan to make sure the memorial is maintained for the future and to preserve the memory of the Sheffield soldiers who gave their lives for their country.”

More from The Star

The future of trees in Western Road are being discussed at a Sheffield council meeting today after residents gathered a 5,000 signature petition. The trees could be subject to a destruction order but locals are outraged as the trees were planted in 1920 as a living memorial to pupils from the local school who were killed in WW1. Picture Scott Merrylees
Tree campaigners held a protest outside Sheffield Town Hall
The future of trees in Western Road are being discussed at a Sheffield council meeting today after residents gathered a 5,000 signature petition. The trees could be subject to a destruction order but locals are outraged as the trees were planted in 1920 as a living memorial to pupils from the local school who were killed in WW1. Picture Scott Merrylees
A protester outside Sheffield Town Hall