Sheffield prides itself on being one of the greenest cities in Europe, yet many readers will remember seeing stories in the media about the battles over Sheffield’s street trees. Thousands of mature, healthy trees were felled as part of a highways maintenance contract, despite protest from residents, tree experts, politicians, ecologists and heritage groups, including Yorkshire Gardens Trust.
It seemed that everyone, from pop star Jarvis Cocker to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, was opposed to the actions of the City Council and its PFI contractor.
The Yorkshire Gardens Trust was one of the groups that formally opposed the fellings. Two years on, its latest newsletter includes an article that traces what happened on the streets of Sheffield, and explains the current state of play. The article explores how the protests arose gradually as local residents saw the destruction of trees valued for their historical, ecological and commemorative significance, and for the aesthetic and health benefits they brought to local communities. It includes discussions with some of the campaigners about why they got involved and what it was like on the ‘front line’ of the protests. They also offer advice for other groups involved in campaigns against the felling of mature trees on public land.
It is now calm on Sheffield’s streets, with a truce between the Council and the campaigners. This has provided the opportunity to examine the trees earmarked for felling but not yet removed, to see if there are ways after all for them to be saved. As importantly, the Council, its contractors and the campaigners have worked with the Woodland Trust, the local Wildlife Trust and others to create a Partnership Street Tree Working Strategy for the city, which aims to ‘aims to learn from the past in order to deliver our vision for the future of Sheffield’s street trees.’
Image top left: One of the war memorial trees on Western Road (Photo credit/copright Daid Martin / Geograph 5836254 available under a CC licence).