Sheffield tree queries flood in to council

Tree lined streets of Nether Edge in Sheffield
Tree lined streets of Nether Edge in Sheffield

Trees are such an emotive subject in Sheffield they make up a large amount of calls to the Streets Ahead team.

But Coun Jack Scott said ‘95 per cent’ of all calls were about problems with trees and calls to remove them rather than protection.

The cabinet member for environment said: “My postbag is full of people saying, ‘You’ve taken a tree away, how do we get it back?’, or saying there is a problem with a tree and they want it taking down.”

Concerned residents have also deluged The Star with queries about tree felling in recent months - so political reporter Ellen Beardmore posed some of their questions to Coun Scott...

Q: Are mature trees felled simply because it is cheaper to cut them down and plant a new one than maintain an old tree?

A: Felling a tree is something we do only as a last resort. It is far more expensive to remove, replace and then maintain a tree than maintain one that is already there.

There is no financial incentive or reason whatsoever. New trees need more maintenance until they are stable.

Cost is absolutely not a factor in making these kind of decisions.

Q: Why are healthy trees felled when some residents would rather keep uneven pavements and not lose their trees?

A: This highlights the challenge we have as a council because we have two jobs. We have got to make sure we keep a green environment for the city and we also have a duty to make sure the highway is accessible and safe.

The situation is that we, like other cities, haven’t invested in our tree stock for 30 years, and if it had been done we wouldn’t have some of these problems now, so we are dealing with a backlog of issues.

So that’s why it seems like it is happening every day, but the challenge for us is we have got to balance two jobs.

Q: Do you understand why people are upset about tree felling?

A: I do understand why people are upset and I’m upset about it as well. It’s not something we ever want to do and if we can do any other preventative work to keep a tree, we do.

Because we are replacing every tree we take out, in 100 years’ time people will still have a green city and good highways. If we don’t do this work we won’t have a good highway network and we won’t have a good environment.

Q: What would you say to people who say there needs to be more consultation on tree felling?

A: One person will say a tree should be protected and another would see it as a tree that drops leaves and sap on their car and they don’t like it. There are very divided opinions across the city about trees, and that makes consultation very difficult.

We do everything we can to inform people and we will always work with people who respond, but we don’t consult tree by tree and we wouldn’t ever be in a position to do that.

In some cases we do tree surgeries where staff go out and talk to residents on the street affected.

Q: Why have only 900 highway trees been replanted when 1,100 were removed?

A: The difference is because we will have removed 200 trees since March. The reason there is a bit of gap is because we can’t plant trees in the summer as they are not as likely to survive.

Q: How can people know trees are being replanted if they are not put back in the same location?

A: I have not had anyone come to me and say, ‘Where is my tree?’. If there are instances of people wanting a tree in their area then please let us know.

We always replace trees as close as possible to the one that was removed, apart from in exceptional circumstances - sometimes we can’t do it in the precise location because the pavement is not wide enough or there might be cables beneath.

Q: Would you say the tree felling programme has affected Sheffield’s reputation as a green city?

A: It doesn’t do our reputation any good to have trees that are dead, diseased or damaging things. What does our reputation good is having trees that will stand the test of time for years to come.

I think this work will keep our reputation as a green city for future generations.