Half of the 36,000 trees on its streets were sentenced to felling
Thirty neighbors have been arrested in the protests
Some call themselves ‘squirrels’, others ‘rabbits’, others ‘lizards’. The residents of Sheffield have decided to reincarnate in the urban fauna to protect their green fronds. Almost half of the 36,000 trees on its streets were sentenced to massive logging, undertaken two years ago by the company Amey (a subsidiary of Ferrovial) and with the approval of the Labor Council.
What nobody counted on was the fierce neighborhood opposition to the ‘green’ massacre. Citizens hung the sign “Save Me” on the trunks and organized into brigades of rapid action, such as saved in extremis the venerable centennial elm survivor grafiosis in Chelsea Road. There were also demonstrations to avoid the felling of the cherry trees of Abbeydale Park Rise, the lime trees of Meersbrook Street and the oaks that dot the undulating geography of Sheffield (the city with the most trees per capita in Europe).
Thirty neighbors have been arrested in the protests. Environment Minister Michael Gove called the logging “ecological vandalism” and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg denounced the “national scandal” in the news. Given the growing pressure and the threat of intervention by the Government itself, the City Council has backed off this week and ordered the break.
“It’s a temporary victory, we’re not going to lower our guard,” warns Chris Rust, the retired professor, treasurer and indefatigable activist of Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG). “ Almost 6,000 trees have already been cleared , many of them unnecessarily, we are going to demand an indefinite moratorium on logging and a complete revision of the plans, we are going to ask that citizens be taken into account.”
Eleven of the twelve trees on the little street where Rust himself lives were sentenced with the fateful yellow ties, which weigh like a sentence on the trunks. “There are sick trees and others that for safety reasons must be cut down, ” Rust recalls. “But we refuse to cut it down because it is cheaper for the contractor to look for a treatment, a remedy or a small work on public roads.”
The wrath of the neighbors has been addressed to date to the City Council and the company Amey, “we would like to know what Ferrovial thinks and find out if there has been an environmental impact report,” says Rust. “Everything they have done so far has been in the greatest of secrets and that has ignited even more the public indignation.”
“After all, the contract is executing a job with the approval of the City Council, which has shown total disdain for the neighbors,” denounces the Aljama Teal Green Party councilor, who fears that the pause is due to the imminence of the elections local . “The trees are essential to clean the air and improve the health and quality of life of the citizens.The responsibility of the local government is to keep them, but not to cut them down at the slightest excuse.”
10,000 trees need treatment
The City Council, headed by Labor leader Julie Dore, sealed a “private financing initiative” (PFI) for the maintenance of public roads, renamed Streets Ahead . The company Amey took the contract estimated at 2,300 million euros over 25 years, including the strategy of tree maintenance. An independent survey, conducted a decade ago, estimated that at least 10,000 needed treatment and that about 1,000 should be replaced.
A spokesman for Amey said that the felling has been done according to criteria of “dangerousness, safety and health” of the trees themselves, which are replaced by others of the same species “whenever appropriate.” The company has acknowledged that the relentless resistance of the neighbors has made the work extremely difficult in recent weeks, and that its workers had to work protected by security guards and police.
“How are you going to replace a centuries-old elm tree like Chelsea Road, which is in perfect health, has been adopted by the residents of the street and has an irreplaceable colony of autochthonous butterflies ?” Asks Chris Rust . “The solution, we were told, was to relocate the butterfly colony and stop a huge hole in the street, similar to those that already exist in many other parts of the city.”
“We are going to remain vigilant,” warns Ann Anderson, in the role of ‘guardian’ of the trees from her viewpoint on Brinkbun Drive. “We have a strategy to mobilize forty activists in a matter of minutes, able to surround any tree and avoid being cut down if it is not necessary.” There was a moment when we almost gave up the battle for loss, but the pendulum has been on our side What has happened in Sheffield has to serve as a warning to many cities: we can not allow them to wipe out vegetation in our cities, in the name of privatization and efficiency. “