Memorial trees saved in Amey U-turn

Roy Millington in front of the Town Hall.
Roy Millington in front of the Town Hall.

Alan Story

Retired reader in Intellectual Property Law, Western Road

As a Western Road resident, I would like to thank the hundreds of people across Sheffield, indeed the UK, who have supported our two-year battle to save the 23 threatened war memorial trees on our road and other roads, (Telegraph, November 8: “First World War memorial trees saved in council U-turn”).

Our campaign was kicked off by favourable coverage in The Sheffield Star, November 29, 2016 and has shown that persistent political campaigning (of the non-party variety) can lead to victory.

It gave us great comfort to know that we could mobilise more than 200 people on a Wednesday afternoon in April 2018 for a mere Sunday Times photoshoot. If there ever came a day that an Amey crew armed with chainsaws pulled up on Western Road, we were confident 400 people would also pull up to oppose them.

And can I also add: Sheffield City Council and Amey knew this as well.

Tearing down a listed living war memorial is a definite “avoid-at-all-costs” idea in any manual for political longevity or good corporate public relations. 

There is only space here to thank one person by name. That person is Roy Millington (pictured). This 83-year-old man, (who does NOT even live on our road), became a “man with a mission”, SAVE WESTERN ROAD TREES, and for almost 10 hours a week since mid-July, he took up this mission with a persistence and a passion that was exemplary.

His ‘perch’ was just to the right of the main step of the Town Hall. And this was right where members of SCC cabinet could see him on the way into their offices, leaving their offices and sometimes twice over their lunch hours. What a campaigning star!   

Can I suggest, however, that the headline to your news story is a bit misleading and should read: “First World War memorial trees saved in Amey U-turn.”

In December 2017, when SCC first gave permission to fell these 23 trees, it was acting at the request of Amey after this Spanish-owned contractor decided it could not find the funds to save these trees. The quoted cost was about £300,000, though we thought the amount was grossly inflated.

Fast forward some months and Amey and tax haven PFI partners have suddenly found the needed funds.

With press reports suggesting that Ferrovial, which is Amey’s parent company, may soon be selling off its stake in PFI deals such as the Streets Ahead contract with SCC, some of us do wonder:  what happens if Amey pulls out of Sheffield? Will its promise to save these trees be taken up by a new PFI stakeholder? And what about promises Amey may make in coming weeks and months about saving healthy trees on other streets?

Remember one thing: there are turbulent financial times and interests in PFI deal can change hands rapidly. Manchester just terminated a PFI deal that was nearly twice as large as Sheffield’s. In 2037, when Sheffield’s main PFI deal is supposed to end, Amey will, in all livelihood, be a proverbial blast from the past.

To give some certainty as to what has been won on Western Road, we need a binding resolution passed by SCC that incorporates what remains so far but a mere promise. That resolution must include what is to occur on other Sheffield streets as well. In turn, SCC’s contract with Amey and its partners must be renegotiated so that Amey and its financial successors are also bound by such a resolution.  

Anything less is to live in a field of dreams… and a legal la! la! land. 

A city where what "Amey wants, Amey gets" is not one that many of us want to live in. After causing so much conflict and destruction here, more and more people saying it is time for AMEY OUT.