Nearly 600 healthy trees have been stripped from Sheffield streets in the past two years, The Star can reveal.
Some 1,100 trees have been cut down since the Streets Ahead contract to resurface streets, replace lights and improve pavements began.
Data obtained by The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign shows 576 of the trees were felled because they were causing ‘irreparable damage or obstruction’ to roads or structures - not because they were dead, dying or diseased.
But concerned residents fear the work could affect Sheffield’s reputation as a green city, and leave large areas stripped of character.
And the topic is so emotive it is the subject of a large amount of calls to the Streets Ahead team - although the council says most are about problems with trees, rather than protection.
The council insists trees are cut down only as a ‘last resort’ and will be replaced one-for-one.
But teacher Kirk Davis, of Brooklands Crescent in Fulwood, where 17 cherry and lime trees are to be cut down, told The Star: “It is a tragedy for me and my wife to lose these trees. There are others on the street who are as emotional, although some just wanted rid. Trees are what make streets different, and I know people drive up our road and think it is gorgeous.”
There were 34,833 trees on Sheffield’s highway network as of July.
In total 1,191 have been felled since August 2012 - and 936 have been planted. The council says more are to be put in when planting season restarts in November, although replacement is not always in the same location – something residents say makes the process unaccountable.
Sheffield Wildlife Trust, which has been working with residents affected by tree felling, says removing mature trees is ‘controversial’ and ‘a considered approach is needed’.
It has arranged a meeting with Streets Ahead contractor Amey to discuss issues on Brookland Crescent and across the city.
Ecologist Lizzie McBride said: “We understand the importance of health and safety but we believe the removal of healthy trees should always be a last resort. We want to ensure as many trees as possible are being replaced, using the right tree, in the right place.”
Coun Colin Ross, Sheffield’s Liberal Democrat leader, said it was ‘clear’ diseased trees or those damaging the highway do need to be removed.
But he added: “Residents need to be involved in the conversation and, at the moment, it doesn’t feel like that’s the case.”
Data shows that more than 10 per cent of the Sheffield district is woodland – the average for England is 8.4 per cent – and that the council plants around 20,000 trees a year as well as harvesting 4,000 tonnes of timber.