Campaigners are today claiming a partial ‘victory for democracy’ after learning 11 trees they fought to save from the axe are likely to have a stay of execution over the summer.
Residents wanted a two-month suspension on felling trees and city-wide scrutiny of Sheffield Council’s policies when they took a 10,000-strong petition to the authority – although councillors voted to take no action and campaigners feared the trees would soon be cut down.
However, now the first meeting of a highway tree forum to debate tree management has been set and a resident told work to remove and replace the trees on Rustlings Road, Endcliffe, is likely not to happen for some weeks.
Council contractor Amey says dates are not ‘set in stone’ but it is thought it will not be until September at the earliest when teams which were redeployed from the area can return.
Louise Wilcockson, from campaign group Save Our Rustlings Trees, said: “It is a victory for democracy.
“I think that is really important, because some people think this is all about trees but it’s not – it’s about making sure the council is doing what is right for the people of Sheffield and, if it can’t, offering us time to respond.
“We are pleased the trees will be staying longer and we hope the time will give us even more time to put an even stronger case together to keep them altogether, as we only had three weeks the first time.
“The council has, to a degree, now listened to the 10,000-plus people that signed the petition, asking not just for the trees not to be felled but for a city-wide strategy.
“The first thing we will be asking for at the tree forum is where is the tree strategy and can we have one.”
She also said the campaign and media coverage of it had put ‘pressure’ on the council to listen.
The council says the trees need to be removed as they are damaging the pavements and causing mobility problems - but campaigners disagree, say an alternative solution could be found and they have many varied benefits.
Experts from the fields of civil engineering, arboriculture, the wildlife trust and biology or ecology will take part in the first tree forum, to be held on Thursday, July 23, at Sheffield Town Hall from 5pm to 7pm.
Coun Terry Fox, cabinet member for environment, encouraged people to attend and said it was a chance for them to ask questions, hear the council’s policies and debate them although he wanted to ‘manage people’s expectactions’.
He said: “I want to have that public scrutiny.
“People don’t have to agree, but at least they will be able to understand where we are.”
On the felling on Rustlings Road, he said: “When I said to the council, can you pause that for two weeks before the campaigners came to full council, the work then has to get reprogrammed – I don’t know when that reprogramming comes back in for Rustlings Road.
“The work people should have been redeployed elsewhere and once those zones are finished they will come back – that’s where we are.
“I would say mid-September.”
The first meeting of the tree forum will focus on the council’s approach to managing and caring for trees.
n To register to attend, or to ask a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org