A plan to safeguard a rare butterfly inhabiting a tree in Nether Edge has been written by the Council assisted by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation.

The tree, which is causing severe damage to the highway, will undergo essential safety works to  mitigate the risk of the tree branches failing due to decay, but will be retained for a number of months in order to allow time for the ‘mitigation’ plan for the butterfly to take its course.

Urgent safety works will take place next week to eliminate significant decay, confirmed by an independent survey which is causing a safety risk to the public. In addition, to address the reducing number of elm trees in the city over recent years, the Council has committed to planting 100 new resistant elm trees across Sheffield before the end of March.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet member for Environment and Street Scene at Sheffield City Council said: “In recent months, the Council has worked tirelessly to produce a mitigation plan for the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly that will see it translocated from the elm tree on Chelsea Road to other elm trees in the city. Due to the deteriorating condition of the tree, we now have to carry out pressing safety work to tackle extensive decay in the tree to ensure public safety.

“We have therefore consulted with experts and ecologists in the field to ensure that vital safety work to the tree can take place whilst taking all possible steps to ensure the mitigation and survival of the butterfly during this process.

“A detailed plan, which has been devised working closely with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, is now available to view on the Council’s website.

“The plan includes taking away materials from the tree and storing them safely so that they can be searched by hand by experts for butterfly eggs which will then be relocated to other elm trees in the city. The plan also includes the planting of over 100 new elm trees on streets across Sheffield, subject to agreement with residents.

“The elm tree on Chelsea Road, which is showing severe signs of decay, resulting in a number of structural safety issues, is set to be replaced in a number of months as part of the council’s 25-year highways maintenance contract. In order to meet programme requirements, the road and pavement repairs will continue soon after the safety works along with the installation of new lighting as part of our upgrade programme.

“As well posing an increasing safety risk, the tree is also causing significant damage to the surrounding pavement and road which will cost around £50,000 of council taxpayer’s money to put right. With Council services being continuously stretched, we cannot justify allocating this amount of money to retaining a street tree which is already suffering from severe decay.

“Following successful High Court action, we now hope to be able to carry out essential safety works and make the tree and surrounding surface safe without interruption. We have formally asked protestor representatives to respect the need for the safety work to go ahead and respect the public safety requirement. In addition, we have confirmed this in writing and outlined that direct action preventing works on the tree would pose an imminent public safety risk.

“Importantly, whilst we support the right to peaceful protest, entering into safety zones erected around tree works is in breach of a High Court injunction and could lead to a Court fine and/or imprisonment. Therefore, filming to capture any evidence of unlawful activity by trespassers will take place throughout these essential safety works.”

The White-letter Hairstreak has a small tail on each hindwing and mostly brown underwings, except for a white W-shaped streak which lends this species its name and a band of orange crescents near to the edge of the hindwing.