A new shared vision for the care and management of Sheffield’s street trees will be approved by the Leader of the Council next week.

The working strategy, which outlines a positive and exemplary approach to the future management of the city’s street trees, comes following months of partnership working between representatives from Sheffield City Council, Amey, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Sheffield Tree Action Groups, The Woodland Trust and tree valuation experts.

Acknowledging the importance of canopy cover, the working strategy recognises  the essential contribution that street trees provide for health and wellbeing, air quality and other ecological and environmental benefits, as well as outlining new ways of working to ensure the city’s network of street trees is well maintained and sustained for the future.

Six outcomes, which will collectively help shape and develop the future approach to street trees, are outlined in the working strategy; putting into practice long-term and tangible plans to allow for smarter and more considered decisions.

These are:

  • Sustainably and carefully managing our street trees in accordance with best practice.
  • Increasing the value and benefits that flow from our street trees.
  • Contributing to a more equal distribution of urban forest across the city to promote health & wellbeing.
  • Increasing street tree canopy cover.
  • Ensuring our street trees are more resilient through the type and age of trees we plant and also how we manage the current street tree stock.
  • Involving the wider community in caring for and valuing street trees.

As a supplement to Sheffield City Council’s existing Trees and Woodlands Strategy (2018-2033) the working strategy outlines a clear proposal to promote and enhance Sheffield’s street tree stock whilst identifying the unique challenges of caring for trees growing in a highway environment.

As part of their work, the development group commissioned baseline data for Sheffield’s street trees including a report based on an inventory of Sheffield’s street trees and drawing on over 35,000 records from the ‘Streets Ahead’ database.

The report values the ecosystem benefits of street trees using i-Tree Eco, a state-of-the-art open source software system used worldwide to assess and manage urban tree populations and is thought to be the first of its kind for street trees.

The information will result in the council and its partners being able to better manage the city’s street trees by using more accurate, timely and complete sets of data.

The ‘Sheffield Street Tree Inventory Report’ has also been released today alongside the working strategy.

Liz Ballard, Chair of the Sheffield Street Tree Strategy Development Group said:

“We set out to develop an exemplary Partnership Street Tree Strategy for Sheffield that values street trees for the benefits they bring to people, the city and the wider environment. And we believe this Working Strategy is just that.

“As a group we wanted to produce something positive and visionary – for the city to collectively view street trees as an asset, helping us to improve air quality, reduce flood risk, support wildlife and store carbon.

“This strategy aims to learn from the past in order to deliver our vision for the future of Sheffield’s street trees.”

Councillor Mark Jones, Cabinet member for Environment, Street Scene at Climate Change at Sheffield City Council said:-

“We live in a city famous for its greenery, something many of us are rightly proud of. We have almost five million trees covering our streets, parks and woodlands. That’s approximately eight trees for each person who lives here. It is really important that we have a tree strategy that supports a sustainable and future-proof approach to managing our growing street tree stock.

“Trees matter. Not only do they help improve air quality and support wildlife but they have also been proven to benefit our mental health. We need better and more robust measures in place to make sure trees across Sheffield continue providing value to our natural and urban environment.

“To make this strategy work for the city, we need feedback and collaboration from a range of stakeholders, partners and residents. Engagement is key for creating a way forward that works for us all, not just for now, but for many years to come.

“We’ve not always got the approach to street trees right. However, through the hard work and dedication of the development group and many others we have created this new strategy, one which ensures we listen carefully to all viewpoints and will shape how we do things better.

“Through this new way of working, we are committed to retaining trees wherever possible, planting additional trees, increasing canopy cover and building a more diverse and resilient street tree stock with varying species and age profiles.

“It’s not just about the number of trees we have; it’s about caring for them in the right way and maximising their many benefits whilst ensuring that our city can still develop and thrive in these times of continuous change.”

Paul Selby from STAG said:

“This working strategy is the culmination of seven months collaboration between a whole range of partners, and I am personally extremely grateful to all those who have contributed their time and expertise.

Assuming the strategy is adopted and implemented by Sheffield Council, Sheffield residents can be confident that their street trees will be protected, sustained, and increased in number. The benefits of this new and enlightened approach will be felt not just by current generations, but future generations too.”

Over recent years, there has been public interest in the approach to managing street trees in Sheffield, as part of the council’s Streets Ahead Highways Maintenance programme being delivered by Amey.

Following continued protest and in a bid to find a way forward, in 2018 the council and Amey embarked on a series of mediated talks with members of the main campaign group, STAG. This resulted in a joint position statement being agreed and the start of a new programme of joint tree inspections.

A review of lessons learned from these inspections was published in 2019.

Darren Butt, Account Director at Streets Ahead said:

“We have welcomed the opportunity to sit down with all partners to discuss and agree a shared vision for street trees in Sheffield.  By engaging with local communities and members of STAG we have a solid foundation from which to build, continuing to work collaboratively, achieving the outcomes that benefit everyone in the city.  We are confident that our working relationships are stronger and more resilient as a result going forward.”

The city’s street trees are managed as part of the Streets Ahead highway maintenance contract between the Council and Amey.

Street tree management and maintenance forms part of the routine Streets Ahead programme alongside gritting, street cleaning and litter collection, gully emptying and grass cutting. These services play an important part in the overall maintenance of the highway network and increasing customer satisfaction levels.

The proposed approach and actions in the working strategy support the council’s wider commitment to help combat climate change by becoming a carbon neutral city by 2030.

If agreed, the working strategy will be developed further over the next year, with input from stakeholders and engagement with residents in communities across the city. The aim is to review the working strategy at the end of its first year to take account of the views from different groups of people and update the action plan in response to the outcomes of this engagement work.

The working strategy is expected to be approved by the Leader on Thursday 19th March. The full report is available to read here.