The debate over the importance of Sheffield’s ‘green’ status has been reignited – with more than 1,700 people signing a petition calling for trees in one of the leafiest parts of the city to be saved from the axe.
Campaigners want 12 lime trees which line Rustlings Road, close to Endcliffe Park, to stay after they were earmarked to be felled by Sheffield Council contractor Amey as part of the Streets Ahead highways project.
Petitioners argue the trees, which date from the Victorian era, are healthy specimens, and that they complement the park’s verdant setting – however, Amey says the trees need to be removed this week as they are damaging the pavement, and that they will be quickly replaced.
Darren Butt, Streets Ahead’s operations director, said felling was only considered ‘as a last resort’.
The campaign has also raised wider issues about the procedure for dealing with problem trees on Sheffield’s streets.
Normal practice is to issue a removal notice informing residents that a tree will be chopped down, rather than a consultation being carried out in advance.
Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg has backed the protest by joining city councillors in writing to the council urging for the felling to be delayed.
“The trees add a lot of character to the surrounding area and help to make it one of the most popular spots in Sheffield to visit,” said Mr Clegg.
“I personally am of the opinion that trees should only ever be felled as a last resort. Efforts should be made to keep this city as green as possible – it’s what makes Sheffield so special and unique.”
Campaigners want a ‘moratorium’ while other options are considered, as well as an independent review to be carried out.
Dr Deepa Shetty, a resident who started the petition, said: “This matter is even bigger than the loss to the home owners on Rustlings Road and local residents – the road is iconic and banks a public park. As such, it provides not only vital amenity value to immediate residents, but all the people of Sheffield, visitors and tourists to the park and area.”
Environmental expert Prof Ian Rotherham, from Sheffield Hallam University, said the felling itself may have unforeseen effects.
“Removal of big trees may lead to settling and movement in soil and subsoil and that can cause problems to built structures such as walls, and buildings,” he said.
“The key thing, I believe, is that it should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It can be a serious risk. The longer they have been there, then the greater the likely problems.”
Mr Butt said: “Where a tree can benefit from better maintenance and pruning then we would do this to keep the tree. When a tree does have to be removed and it isn’t possible to replant it in the same position, we find the nearest suitable location.
“We do work very hard to inform residents and the community in advance of the work that we do with the trees across the city. We are always keen to find new ways of communicating with residents and community groups and welcome any ideas that residents have in how we could communicate better.”
He said just over 2,000 trees had been replaced with ‘more suitable’ varieties under Streets Ahead since 2012 and 50,000 have been planted this year.