5 July 2017

Sheffield City Council has reconfirmed its longstanding intention to do everything possible to preserve a rare species of butterfly living in an elm tree in Nether Edge.

The council has confirmed that, although the tree has to be replaced because it is decaying as well as damaging the highway, a plan will be drawn up to preserve the butterfly by working with ecologists and butterfly experts. In addition, the council has promised that the tree won’t be replaced until a final plan is in place.

Following reports that the White Letter Hairstreak butterfly was inhabiting an elm tree on Chelsea Road, marked for replacement under the Streets Ahead contract, the council called in butterfly experts who are currently undertaking surveys on the species.

Their initial findings confirmed the presence of the White Letter Hairstreak butterfly, not only on this tree, but also on other nearby trees.

The elm tree on Chelsea Road, which is showing severe signs of decay, resulting in a number of structural issues, is set to be replaced as part of the council’s 25-year highways maintenance contract.

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.

As part of the plan to replace the tree, the council has promised to plant a further two elm trees on the junction of Union Road and Chelsea Road as well as additional elms across the city as part of the Streets Ahead programme. Hundreds of cuttings from this particular Huntington Elm will also be taken and planted across Sheffield over the coming years.

There are currently 256 elms on Sheffield’s streets and another 20 resistant “New Horizon” elms were planted last year alone.

More than 65,000 trees have been planted across Sheffield in the last three years, including those planted as part of the Streets Ahead contract and those in parks and woodlands included in the council’s community forestry programme.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streets Scene at Sheffield City Council, said: “We are committed to ensuring that the White Letter Hairstreak Butterfly can continue to inhabit and thrive on elm trees in Sheffield.

“We are working on a mitigation plan for the butterfly, which will be discussed with experts in the field before a final plan is announced.

“Unfortunately, the Elm tree on Chelsea Road has succumbed to severe decay over the years and this has been confirmed by two independent tree inspectors. We are looking at all available options to ensure the tree stands, in some form for now, to give the best possible chance of migration for the butterfly to a neighbouring tree or trees.

“The increasing safety concerns about this tree means that crown and tree reduction work may be required in the near future. However, we will ensure sufficient tree canopy is retained for the butterfly’s needs while that is judged necessary. No work will be undertaken on the tree for at least the next two weeks, whilst we explore all options.

“Ultimately, we are committed to ensuring the preservation of this rare butterfly colony and we will inform people of our final decisions upon receiving a final report.”

To find out more about the Streets Ahead contract visit: www.sheffield.gov.uk/streetsahead