War memorial trees in Sheffield could be saved from the chop

War memorial trees in Sheffield could be saved from the chop after more than 5,000 people signed a petition to save them.

Wednesday, 4th January 2017, 4:39 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 12:03 pm
Protesters have attached yellow ribbons to trees along Western Road

Almost 100 trees were planted along Western Road, in Crookes, in 1919 to honour 67 former pupils from nearby Westways School who died in the First World War.

Sheffield Council contractor Amey has earmarked 23 trees on that road to be felled and replaced as part of the Streets Ahead programme to renew the city's highways.

Western Road, in Crookes

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More than 5,100 people signed an online petition to preserve those trees, triggering a debate on the emotional topic at yesterday's full council meeting.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment, announced at the meeting that the council had instructed Amey to investigate 'engineering solutions', which would require some root excavations, to preserve the memorial.

"We recognise this is a special case and we need to look at this differently," he said.

"We're already in the process of setting up a project team, and we're commissioning Amey to start looking at engineering solutions.

Western Road, in Crookes

"They will need to carry out some excavations to find out what's possible and to work out cost proposals."

Coun Lodge said a cross party working group was being set up and the council wanted to work with community groups, the War Memorials Trust and the Royal British Legion to consider all possible options.

He said the results of Amey's survey would be referred to the Independent Tree Panel, whose recommendations would be considered by the council before it publishes revised proposals this May.

But he said this did not necessarily mean all, or indeed any, of the 23 trees would be saved, as he said the council had a legal responsibility to ensure its streets were accessible to all and not too narrow for some to traverse.

Other councillors said they hoped the review marked a fresh approach to the fate of trees across the city which are facing the chop and that Coun Lodge's promises were not just 'warm words'.

Dave Dillner, who started the petition to save the Western Road trees, had earlier struggled to hold back the emotion as he addressed the meeting.

"Those 23 trees were planted to commemorate the lives of 23 heroes cut down in their prime," he said.

"Are you seriously going to tell me this afternoon that you're going to vote to cut those trees down in their prime?

"It's not too late for you people to stand up and do the right thing. Admit you got it wrong."

Mr Dillner also told how two independent tree experts had advised protesters from Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) that not a single one of the 23 trees at risk needed to be felled.

Campaigners had gathered ahead of the meeting, some with banners, including one which read 'Sheffield City Council shame on you'.

Addressing protesters on the steps of Sheffield Town Hall, Sheffield Liberal Democrat leader Shaffaq Mohammed 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."