Sheffield is one of the greenest and most wooded cities in Europe and the greenest city in the UK. The city is proud of its rich variety of urban parks, woodland, countryside and other green spaces which are extremely popular destinations, attracting more than 25 million visits each year.

Sheffield’s reputation as an Outdoor City is rooted in its number of parks and proximity to the countryside and the city, using the internationally recognised iTrees method, can lay claim to having one of the highest urban tree canopy coverages in the UK.

Using iTrees data, the estimated 21.6% canopy cover of urban areas is more than the whole of the Greater London area which has only 14% urban canopy.  The data also states that Sheffield has an estimated seven trees for every resident with Greater London and Edinburgh having only 1 tree per person.

At a time when local authorities are experiencing a period of great austerity, Sheffield City Council recognises its responsibility to maintain and invest in the city’s treasured trees and woodlands.

Following consultation with Sheffield residents in 2016, the council has worked with a number of partners to develop a 15 year strategy that sets out how it will accomplish its ambitious vision to provide outstanding, resilient and sustainably managed trees and woodlands which are rich, diverse, healthy, attractive, and of maximum benefit to the public and wildlife.

With 53 actions, under four overarching themes, the strategy focuses on People, Places, Environment and Sustainability, and Quality Standards and Resources.

Headline actions have been identified as the crucial driving factors for all activity over the next 15 years. These are

  • We will protect, enhance and promote Sheffield’s trees and maximise their benefits in all parts of the city.
  • We will increase visitor numbers and volunteering in woodlands that serve areas of Sheffield that have the lowest visitor numbers and the greatest health inequalities.
  • We will plant at least 100,000 additional trees and replace trees on a 2 for 1 basis in our greenspaces and woodlands over the next 10 years.
  • We will aim to achieve at least one new Green Flag woodland in the first 5 years of the strategy and bring all the council’s woodlands up to the Sheffield Quality Standard within 10 years.

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said:

Sheffield’s abundance of trees and woodlands are the city’s finest assets. They’re a big part of what makes Sheffield so wonderful and well-loved by residents and visitors.

We recognise our responsibility to provide rich, diverse, healthy and attractive green spaces across the city and the need to invest in our natural assets.

We have set out clear and achievable actions that will help us to realise this vision not only for the city’s trees and woodlands but also the people who live, work, study and play in Sheffield.

The plans we have developed will help to address health inequalities in Sheffield, by improving green spaces in areas of the city where increased activity and access to the outdoors will have the most impact on health and wellbeing.

Working with partners across a range of projects we plan to increase the city’s tree stock by more 100,000 over a ten-year period, making Sheffield undeniably the country’s leafiest city.

trees in a park
Trees in Graves Park, Sheffield

The strategy covers the entire city, from the inner city to the parts of the Peak District National Park that falls within the Sheffield boundary and looks after trees that are in the city’s  woodlands, parks, cemeteries ,housing estates and schools. A separate plan will be developed over the next year for the 36,000 street trees in the city, in partnership with relevant groups.

In developing the trees and woodlands strategy the council has also completed Forest Research’s internationally recognised I-Tree Eco survey. The results have shown that Sheffield has the most trees per person and the highest percentage of urban tree cover in any of the UK’s nine core cities.

Both The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University have worked in partnership with the council in developing research to support and inform the strategy.

Dr Jill Edmonson, EPSRC Living With Environmental Challenge Fellow at The University of Sheffield, said:

We are working with Sheffield City Council on a number of projects to co-produce research to ensure the sustainability and resilience of the city’s urban tree population, particularly against future climate change and pest and disease outbreaks. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the coming years, contributing to the protection of Sheffield’s trees and woodlands.

Lynn Crowe, Professor of Environmental Management at Sheffield Hallam University, said: 

It is good to see the full value of Sheffield’s trees and woodlands described so well, and the overall intentions to continue to manage, protect and enhance that resource. I hope we can continue to work on the strategy together and that there will be further opportunities for our students to become involved, through placements and research projects.

With all activity for the next 15 years planned under four key strategic themes, the council has identified how it will bring together the city’s people, places, resources, projects, partners and assets, maximising every opportunity for the benefit of the city’s trees and woodlands.

Projects such as the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust Lakeland Landscape Partnership, which works closely alongside the council’s newly launched Building Better Parks Strategy, will allow a joined-up approach to maintaining and expanding on existing initiatives like Sheffield’s Outdoor City Run Routes and Community Forestry events.

The council will seek to engage with local people, looking to not only increase volunteering opportunities, but, with the intention of tackling health inequalities, increase participation in outdoor activity using natural green spaces as a form of recreation and physical exercise.

The council will share details of how people can get involved in activities across their communities.

To keep up with events and latest news follow @ParksSheffield on Twitter and Sheffield Parks and Countryside on Facebook.

The strategy is expected to be approved at the council’s Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 12 December. The report is available to read in full on the Council’s website.