TREES: New council chief to lead Sheffield felling confirmed after secret recording apology

Trees on Psalter Lane in Sheffield

Trees on Psalter Lane in Sheffield

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The new council chief who will lead Sheffield’s controversial tree replacement project has been confirmed.

David Caulfield, director of regeneration and development at Sheffield Council, has been drafted in to the tree element of the Streets Ahead contract after head of highway maintenance Steve Robinson’s views on tree felling were secretly recorded.

The council apologised after Mr Robinson was heard saying ‘we’re not interested’ in the ‘nonsense’ reasons people come up with in an effort to save individual trees from the axe. He had been recorded speaking to colleagues by a whistleblower the day after the city’s last highway tree forum, where his presentation was criticised by an independent expert.

It was also the same day The Star had made an enquiry about a tree in Crookes, which was planted in memory of soldiers who died in World War One and was due to be felled.

In the recording Mr Robinson said: “It makes no difference – we’re not giving any special treatment to any nonsense like this. If someone has bought the tree, if someone has planted it because of a family bereavement, all that, we’re not interested.

“What we’re interested in is doing our job.”

When the council apologised two weeks ago it said it was looking into the recordings and action would be taken ‘if necessary.’

It is understood that the council has now finished looking into the recordings but it would not comment on whether any action was being taken or not.

Simon Green, the council’s executive director of place, said today: “We have looked into the contents of the recordings played to us recently by The Star.

“We can’t comment on HR matters relating to individual council employees, but as we said at the time, we are sorry for any offence these recordings have caused.

“David Caulfield will be leading the trees strand of the Streets Ahead project on an ongoing basis, in the interests of taking this work forward positively in partnership with the residents of Sheffield.”

The tree controversy grew from a campaign to save 11 trees on Rustlings Road, close to Endcliffe Park, to protests across the city.

Thousands of people signed a petition, triggering the launch of the forum, and the issue has been covered by national media. Campaigners want felling paused while a tree strategy is drawn up.

Roots of three trees on Rustlings Road are to be examined on Friday.