Campaigners contest 'jacked-up' £500,000 figure to save war memorial trees in Sheffield

War memorial trees on Western Road
War memorial trees on Western Road
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Campaigners fighting to save threatened war memorial trees in Sheffield claim the council's estimated cost of £500,000 to do so is a deliberately 'jacked-up' figure.

More than 40 trees in Western Road, Crookes, and four other streets across the city have been earmarked for replacement by Sheffield Council, which claims they are dead, dying or damaging the road, pavement or nearby homes.

An Armistice Day commemoration on Western Road

An Armistice Day commemoration on Western Road

But protesters insist they can be saved, and have questioned the £500,000 the council claims it would cost to preserve all 41 trees.

Alan Story, of the campaign group No Stump City, said: "It's become very obvious that the council's strategy is to jack up the supposed cost of work to keep the trees and then say it's all too expensive so we're going to cut them down anyway.

"The council said in September it was going to get estimates for the cost of the work, but it's the council's contractor Amey which has done the assessment, so there's clearly a conflict of interest.

"What's needed is firstly a second opinion from an independent engineer and secondly a proper discussion with the people who live on Western Road."

Cabinet members are due to meet next Tuesday to decide the fate of the war memorial trees.

A report prepared ahead of the meeting makes no recommendation as to their decision but says saving the trees would mean cutting spending in other areas like social care.

It also sets out plans to plant 300 new memorial trees in the city's parks and to replace others which it says have disappeared from streets over the years by next November, ready to commemorate the centenary of the First World War ending.

Mr Story said: "It's really quite scandalous to tear down trees that are living war memorials and then to claim you're their saviour by replacing them with saplings and holding some kind of re-dedication service."

The war memorial trees, planted in tribute to fallen soldiers following the First World War, are among around 6,000 street trees across the city which have been or are due to be replaced as part of the council's controversial £2 billion Streets Ahead contract with Amey.

Chris Rust, from Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) said: "We don't trust this information from Sheffield City Council because Amey, who have a monopoly on street renewal, are quoting very high prices for work like this and SCC don't have the expertise to properly check the specification, so it's easy for Amey to 'gold plate' the work

"We are confident there are simpler, affordable solutions available. Cumbria Council stopped outsourcing their highway work to Amey for this very reason."

"Meanwhile we are waiting for the outcome of negotiations between SCC and Trees for Cities, who have offered to fund the retention of the Vernon Oak in Dore. Trees for Cities understand these matters, they'll check with independent engineers and tree experts and we are confident they will find an affordable solution despite Amey's very high price tag."