By Rhiannon Topham
A week after tree felling protesters accused them of “emotional blackmail”, Sheffield City Council has unveiled a new Trees and Woodland Strategy, in which they encourage the public to contribute to a care plan for the city’s 2.2 million trees.
An interactive day will be held at the Town Hall on Friday 26 February, at which members of the public will be able to see the draft framework and speak to councillors.
Councillor Sioned-mair Richards said: “We know that the issue of trees is very important to communities across our city, which is why we’re organising the event in order to share our plans from the earliest possible stage.
“We want to liaise with members of the public to talk about future plans for trees and woodlands across Sheffield as a whole. I would encourage as many people as possible to come along, have their say and help to plan the future of trees in Sheffield: The Outdoor City.”
The new strategy follows the publication of the 5 Years Street Tree Management Plan, a project in partnership with construction company Amey which manages 36,000 roadside trees.
So far, more than 3,000 trees have been felled and replaced with saplings. This sparked mass outrage from Sheffield residents, who have organised petitions with more than 15,000 combined signatures, street protests and court action.
Yet another unanswered question. SCC says ‘community groups may request timber’ but lucrative sell-off suspected. https://t.co/UObNg4eu8q
— Save Sheffield Trees (@SaveShefTrees) February 14, 2016
Protesters are not convinced the new strategy will be adequate action. Linda Evans said on Facebook: “I’m chairman of the Friends of Ecclesall Woods, and I’ve been to some of these council exercises. They do not want to hear you, they want to tell you what to think and do.
“This is their idea of co-operation – mostly the staff/civil servants, not necessarily the councillors. The problem is that they have contempt for amateurs – good enough to do work the council can’t afford, not good enough to think about problems or take decisions.”
Cheryl Sapcote also said: “Will they apologise for lies and offensive behaviour? Nothing changes without recognition.”
— Rebecca Hammond (@RebeccaHammond7) February 11, 2016
Last week, the High Court granted a three month interim injunction stopping Sheffield City Council and Amey from felling trees in Nether Edge.
Dave Dilner, 69, of the Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) crowd funded the £5,000 legal fees needed for the court case – this sum was surpassed by £2,000 in 24 hours, and the figure currently stands at more than £10,000.
The council say they will continue to challenge the injunction throughout the three month period until there has been a judicial review of their refusal to stop city-wide felling and proper Environmental Impact Assessment and Consultation.
Dilner said: “No one is arguing to keep all trees – that would be total nonsense. If a tree is dangerous it needs to be felled. What they are doing, and what we are saying they cannot do, is remove so many trees with large canopies – healthy trees – in such a short space of time.”