‘This will never happen again’: Council leader speaks out on tree felling
“This will never happen again in any city, anywhere in the country,” Sheffield council leader Julie Dore said as she rejected calls for an inquiry into the tree-felling controversy.
Coun Dore said a probe into the saga, which saw thousands of street trees chopped down under a £2.2 billion PFI highways contract, would not take place.
She said: “We have rejected that request so far. My main reason is when you do an inquiry of anything, it’s to learn from it so when you do something like this again you would do certain things differently.
“I keep saying this will never happen again in any other city or area in the country. There is no other local authority who is going to enter into a PFI highways contract. The government has ruled them out and Labour have said they don’t support PFI.
“So to spend time, effort, energy, emotion and cost all on something that nobody is going to learn from is, for me, better spent on resolving the issues.
“We have learned things through the pause and different engineering works that are now being applied. But no one is going to enter into a £2.2 billion PFI highways contract because it’s unique.”
A detailed report by the Forestry Commission was published recently and found a number of failings by the council and Amey.
These included failing to provide information to investigators; potentially felling around 600 trees illegally; inadequate consultation at taxpayers’ costs and claiming trees would only be chopped down ‘as a last resort’.
Michael Gove, environmental secretary, said: “Councils across the country should be taking note of the lessons from this report.
“Not only did Sheffield Council fell swathes of precious street trees unnecessarily, it failed to keep proper felling records, did not adequately consult the community and did not openly engage with the Forestry Commission on its subsequent investigation. This demonstrated a casual disregard which the report says may have even resulted in greater costs to the taxpayer.
“We must not let this happen again, which is why we are bringing forward legislation to create greater protections for our vital urban trees and make sure residents have a say on the management of these important natural assets.”