Sheffield Council in war of words with eco charity over tree-felling

The row between an environmental charity and Sheffield Council over tree-felling in the city continues to rage.

Wednesday, 8th March 2017, 5:31 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:59 am
Trees for Cities planting in Sheffield in 2008, long before its relationship with the council soured

Trees for Cities this week revealed it would not work with the local authority until it stopped cutting down street trees.

The council hit back on Tuesday, accusing the charity of basing its decision on 'incorrect information' from tree protesters.

Councillor Bryan Lodge (right) with Amey's operations director Darren Butt

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Today the charity insisted it had not been swayed by protesters and had carried out its own extensive research before reaching a decision.

But the council's cabinet member for environment Councillor Bryan Lodge said critics continued to mistakenly believe trees were being cut down for 'economic gain', arguing it was actually more expensive to replace them.

David Elliott, chief executive of Trees for Cities, said: "Our decision was based on a review of a wide range of independent expert assessments and opinions, and we purposely had minimal contact with advocacy groups in order to avoid potential accusations of partiality.

"This review came to the conclusion that there is irrefutable evidence that a number of healthy mature trees have been felled where other options were available. Therefore, the principle of felling as a ‘last resort’ has not been adhered to, resulting in the decision and position that Trees for Cities has taken on this matter."

Councillor Bryan Lodge (right) with Amey's operations director Darren Butt

He also said it was important to correct Coun Lodge's previous claim that the charity was a 'member-led organisation’.

"Trees for Cities does not have members other than its board of directors, and so cannot in any way be influenced by a formal member base," he added.

And, despite Coun Lodge having said the council would meet the charity in the next few weeks, Mr Elliott said neither side had contacted the other about arranging a meeting.

Mr Elliott's rebuttal came as Coun Lodge criticised what he claimed were misunderstandings about the tree replacement programme, which is part of the council's Streets Ahead contract with Amey.

"We are disappointed in the wrongly believed notion that the removal of trees under the Streets Ahead contract is for economic gain," said Coun Lodge.

"Sheffield City Council make the final decisions on tree replacements and this action is always taken as a last resort after a list of engineering solutions have been fully explored. Amey receive no additional fee for the removal of a tree under the Streets Ahead programme, and are paid a fixed monthly maintenance fee throughout the 25 year contract period.

"The truth is, the costs associated with removing an existing tree followed by sourcing, planting and maintaining a replacement are greater than those associated with maintenance of a mature tree."