The new politician in charge of Sheffield’s contentious tree-felling programme has says he hopes to find a “compromise” with campaigners on the issue.
Labour councillor Lewis Dagnall told BBC Radio Sheffield he would be taking a “fresh approach” to the policy of felling thousands of street trees and planting saplings in their place after replacing Bryan Lodge as the cabinet member for Environment and Streetscene this week.
Coun Dagnall described himself as an “environmental socialist” and said he intends to speak to people across the city on finding asolutionto the issue as he takes up the post next week.
The work, which is part of a £2.2bn highways maintenance contract with a firm called Amey, is currently on hold following a national outcry against the policy after dozens of police officers and private security guards were sent out to support operations following growing protests.
It was revealed in March the contact contains a target to remove 17,500 of the city’s 36,000 street trees and a “financial adjustment” will have to be made if this is not reached by the end of the 25-year-term in 2037.
However, council leader Julie Dore has insisted this week the council will not be removing 17,500 trees, despite ongoing uncertainty about what the financial repercussions would be.
Coun Dagnall said he was looking forward to taking up the role and hoped to find a workable solution to satisfy all sides.
“It is a really excitingopportunityto work with Julie and the cabinet as a whole to try and reach a compromise on this issue and draw a line under it,” he said.
“I want to go out and listen to people across the city about where we should go next. This has gone on for some years now and we want to move on.
“We need compromise from the council, from Amey and from some of the protest groups if we are to come together and if we are to get a resolution which means we can move on.
“I think we can reach a compromise with Amey and the campaigners.”
Coun Dagnall has recently deleted his Facebook and Twitter accounts but when asked if this was related to taking up his new role after Coun Lodge cited abuse from campaigners as the reason for his resignation, he said this was not the case.
He said he removed his social media accounts earlier in the year as he wasn’t using them and was instead looking forward to engaging with people face-to-face and by email.
Coun Lodge’s departure came days after the ruling Labour party lost several seats in local elections to the Green party and the Liberal Democrats in areas most affected by the policy