Here are the most important facts about Sheffield’s street trees
• Sheffield has approximately 36,000 street trees. So far around 5500 trees have been felled across Sheffield and another 500 are at immediate risk. Meaning that one-sixth of the city’s mature street trees will have been removed over a five year period.
• At least a further 200 trees a year are due to be felled over the next 20 years, bringing the total to 17,500 or roughly half of the entire street tree population!
• SCC’s statement that 75% of street trees are approaching the end of their life is based on a misinterpretation of the 2006-2007 Highway Tree Survey (7.7MB) prepared by Elliott Consultancy. Many of Sheffield’s street trees were planted in the late Victorian period and the early 20th century, they are now only just reaching adulthood. See tree life expectancy leaflet.
• 84% of trees earmarked for felling are perfectly healthy and are being removed because of root damage to pavements and kerbs. In most cases both these issues can be resolved using the 14 Engineering Solutions already paid for under the terms of the Streets Ahead PFI contract and will not lead to extra costs. Similar Engineering Solutions, such as the pictured example of Flexi™–Pave, are used as standard by Local Authorities across the UK.
– Despite the ‘Streets Ahead’ contract being in its fifth year SCC have been unwilling, or unable, to point out locations where these solutions have been used instead of felling – directly contradicting the council’s assertion that trees are being removed only as a ‘last resort’
• SCC set up the Independent Tree Panel to address resident’s concerns. So far it has cost in excess of £1 million and although it has made numerous recommendations to retain trees the council has repeatedly ignored their advice. The entire process has only saved a handful of trees.
• Amey have consistently overestimated the costs of alternative solutions to save specific trees. They claim that it would take £50,000 to save the Chelsea Road Elm – an independent highway engineer stated that it would cost between £1500 – £3500.
• The contract states that costs due to protestors are to be borne by Amey, not SCC as repeatedly stated.
• The council sent out a household survey to streets where trees are affected by highway works. The survey process is often cited as residents giving approval of the felling regime, however the value of this survey has been called into question. See Professor Brook’s analysis of the figures.
- – A large mature tree provides many times more environmental benefits than a small one. It would take 60 replacement trees to replace the overall volume of one large mature tree. In addition, there is a high expected failure rate of new planting. It will take many decades before a replacement tree comes close to fulfilling the same role as the tree it replaced.
• Some replacement trees have not been planted with due care, making them less likely to thrive in the harsh street environment and leaving them vulnerable to vandalism. A number of trees have been replanted so close to kerbs that they will eventually displace the kerb, as pictured, just like their predecessors.
• When challenged about their record on street trees, SCC often cites the woodland creation program taking place across the city. While STAG endorse this work it cannot be considered a substitute for keeping existing healthy street trees, right where they provide maximum benefit to community and environment. See Top 10 tree benefits.
• The real costs of felling and maintenance under the PFI contract are a closely-guarded ‘commercially sensitive’ secret. Freedom of Information requests to see the figures used to justify the delivery of the tree replacement component of the ‘Streets Ahead’ contract have been refused. However in January 2017 Cllr. Bryan Lodge said:
“The costs associated with removing an existing tree followed by sourcing, planting and maintaining a replacement are greater than those associated with maintenance of a mature tree. This takes into account a number of factors including inspections and noticing; adherence to the required traffic management recommendations; the removal and disposal of arising’s; pit construction for new tree; purchase of tree and sundries, planting and maintenance for early years such as watering and replacement of any failures/vandalised trees.”
– So why are trees with decades of life still left in them being removed? Seemingly Sheffielders are being expected to foot the bill for the removal of healthy, albeit ‘damaging’ or ‘discriminatory’ trees, when felling is more expensive than repairing the kerb or pavement. It does not take a huge leap of imagination to conclude that Amey’s profit-motive is the deciding factor, and that this is written into the sections of the ‘Streets Ahead’ contract that the public are not allowed to see.