An action plan, which supports a new approach to managing the city’s street trees, has been agreed between the council and Sheffield Trees Action Groups (STAG).
A number of areas of common ground have been reached following collaborative working between the council’s highways contractor, Amey, and members of the campaign group.
The plan identifies practical solutions for retaining more street trees as well as proposing ways of doing things differently, as part of a new approach adopted by the council and its wider partners.
Following last year’s mediated talks, this new plan comes as a result of a joint workshop held between the council, STAG and Amey and sets out where we have been able to make further progress in finding alternative ways forward for Sheffield’s street trees.
Cabinet member for Environment, Street Scene and Climate Change at Sheffield City Council, Councillor Mark Jones said:
“This is a day for holding up our hands and admitting we got things wrong. We have been working collaboratively and productively with partners including STAG for some months now, and this report marks the next step in the process of learning lessons from the tree replacement works that led to such a damaging situation for the city we all love.
“We wholeheartedly commit to the actions in this report, and are determined to move forward in a positive way, working with and listening to our partners.
“We fully recognise that our approach to managing street trees has, in the past, been the subject of different strongly held views about what is in the best interests of the city.
“The programme of works forms part of our Streets Ahead contract. And whilst we know that there have been challenges along the way, the investment in our infrastructure has been invaluable.
“In just seven years, not only have we seen a huge improvement in the condition of our roads and pavements, but we also have a completely transformed system of energy efficient LED street lights; making our streets safer with reduced light wastage and tailored lighting levels.
“Our vision for the city’s street trees remains unchanged – we always wanted to ensure a long-term and sustainable future for our urban forest, which includes managing and replenishing the stock until 2037. However, we know that we could have approached some things differently by listening to people’s views sooner and by being more open with what we were doing and why.
“None of the progress made so far would have been possible without the shared dedication and passion of the STAG representatives and we would like to thank them for continuing to work alongside us.
“It won’t always be easy and there will undoubtedly be some points where we can’t reach complete agreement but what’s certain is that circumstances have changed and we have made a strong commitment to turn the learning points in this plan into tangible actions, and indeed this is already happening.
“We will work in a collaborative way, and, by considering the use of more solutions, we are hopeful that we can harness our mutual love of our green streets and manage both the short and long term issues and benefits responsibly, for current and future generations.
“I have no doubt that as we continue to reflect on the work being done as part of this process, we will continue to learn lessons.”
Alongside the action plan, a draft Street Tree Strategy, developed with partners and independent expertise, will be finalised in the coming weeks and reflect our shared ambitions for the City’s urban forest following a series of facilitated workshops being led by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.
The strategy will consider best practice as well as the views of all parties whilst acknowledging the unique challenges of trees growing in a highway environment.
Paul Brooke, Co-chair of Sheffield Tree Action Groups, said:
“We are pleased to have been able to work with the Council on this report which is a vindication of the campaign by Sheffield citizens to protect healthy trees. It is a testament to the many hours put in by volunteers who care deeply about our city and our urban forest that we now see a new way forward being applied by the Council. We fully support the actions agreed in the report and we will continue to work with the Council and Amey to complete the Street Tree Strategy that is due in the New Year.
“Everyone who stood up for the trees of our city should feel justly proud. The report provides definitive evidence that campaigners were right to challenge the assertion that trees were felled only as ‘a last resort’. There is still more to be learned about the last few years and we are pleased this report takes us a step closer to a resolution. “
The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, said:
“I am encouraged to see the publication of this document jointly by Sheffield City Council, Amey and Sheffield Tree Action Groups. It represents considerable progress in twelve months.
“An honest attempt to learn lessons from experience is always good: how else do we ensure improvements? I have been especially heartened by the assurance that the approach to the review has been ‘open and collaborative and looking to the future… to get best outcomes for the city’. To that, I say, Amen!”