Sheffield is the first city in Europe to be certified as compliant in its management of street trees by the world’s leading forest certification scheme.
This certification follows years of bitter protests against indiscriminate felling of highway trees across the city, from 2014 to 2018.
The city received this certification while working alongside council contractor Amey, the Sheffield Tree Partnership (STAP) and PEFC UK to develop a new certification for Trees Outside Forests (TOF), which in this case are urban trees or street trees.
This trailblazing achievement has checked off one of the key objectives under the Sheffield Tree Partnership strategy for STAP, which followed months of collaboration with representatives of the council and Sheffield Tree Action Groups alongside a group of national tree specialists on developing a standard certification.
Liz Ballard, chairman of the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership, said: “We are really excited about what is essentially a world first for Sheffield and our street trees.
“As part of the street tree strategy, the partnership were keen to find a way to independently check how well our street trees are being managed.
“Fortunately, PEFC, a Sheffield based company who work globally, offered their expertise to provide just the scheme we needed. “Their new audit of our street trees is the first of its kind in Europe and it’s been great to work alongside them.
“Knowing that the management of our street trees meets this demanding international standard is a real step forward and shows just how far we’ve come.”
Coun Paul Wood, executive member for housing, road and waste management at Sheffield Council, added: “This certification signifies a real achievement for Sheffield and is testament of the hard work and tenacity of the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership.
“By working together with our partners, we have successfully developed and enhanced the way we manage our street trees, becoming the first authority in Europe to be assessed against this innovative criteria.
“What’s more, through the delivery of our new street tree strategy and in line with our recently published street tree guidelines, we are continuing to make positive and significant progress with our approach to managing highway trees across the city; ensuring their longevity for many years to come.”
Alun Watkins, who heads up PEFC in the UK, said: “We are delighted that Sheffield has become the first city in Europe to be audited against our new TOF criteria. Their participation will help us fine tune the standard, before it is submitted to PEFC International later this year for endorsement.
“We expect the Trees Outside Forests standard to be fully endorsed by spring 2023 and look forward to Sheffield being awarded the first ever certificate for sustainably managing its street trees.”
Rob Shaw, technical manager and the auditor on the TOF audit from the Soil Association Certification said: “Soil Association is delighted to be working with PEFC UK and the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership on this ground breaking initiative.
“The audit was both unusual and interesting but the commitment and dedication from all the people involved at Sheffield Council, Amey and the Partnership really shone through. We look forward to continuing the journey and look forwards to full endorsement of the Trees Outside Forests extension to the PEFC UK Scheme.
Sarah Shorley, urban lead for the Woodland Trust, said: “Urban trees play a crucial role in making our towns and cities more healthy places to live. Yet across the UK trees are being lost for a range of reasons, including disease, development and lack of funds to manage them.
“The people of Sheffield have been truly inspirational in turning the tide on how its trees are managed and protected. This pilot with PEFC shows just have far we’ve come by working together as part of the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership. It is also another opportunity to showcase what can be achieved when the value of a city’s trees is recognised.”
PEFC UK is the National Governing Body of PEFC International, the world’s largest Forest Certification Scheme. It has 1.5 million hectares of certified forest in the UK and 330 million hectares in total worldwide.