Possible end in sight in talks over Sheffield tree felling saga

The Sheffield tree saga has not damaged the city's reputation nor its appeal to potential developers, a senior councillor insisted despite concerns from one city centre resident.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 13:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 13:30 pm
Police at one of Sheffield's tree felling sites.

Sheffield Council and Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) have committed to '˜mediated talks' over the felling of street trees after years of being in direct opposition.

The long-running controversy has seen demonstrations, arrests and van loads of police deployed to some of the city's streets and  is rooted in a 25-year, £2.2 billion private finance initiative agreement the council signed with contractor Amey in 2012 for road maintenance, which includes responsibility for maintaining the city's street trees.

Police at one of Sheffield's tree felling sites.

One resident told a meeting of Sheffield City Centre Residents' Action Group he was concerned the tree saga had damaged the city's reputation.

He said he was worried it might have given the impression that Sheffield Council was '˜difficult to deal with', which could potentially lead to developers choosing alternative cities such as Manchester and Leeds.

In response Coun Lewis Dagnall, cabinet member for environment and streetscene, said: 'I don't think it's the image we want to give off of Sheffield. We want to promote we are one of the greenest cities with beautiful open spaces.

'We have taken up the offer to have mediated talks with campaigners and hopefully that will conclude soon.

'It might seem like there is no hope with trees but hopefully we might see some good news come out soon.'

Works have been halted since March following violent clashes between security staff and protesters, resulting in a number of arrests.

The halt is the second time works have been paused.

Amey didn't carry out any tree felling for around four weeks following a disturbance between protesters and security staff on Meersbrook Park Road on January 22.

Arborists are felling and replacing trees deemed dangerous, dead, diseased, dying or which are said to be damaging streets and pavements but objectors to the scheme have staged a number of protests across the city.

Trees earmarked for felling are fenced or cordoned off and a court injunction is in place making it illegal for protesters to enter the safety zones.

But a number of cordons have been breached, leading to arrests.