Detailed on-street inspections of trees previously scheduled to be felled as part works to improve Sheffield’s streets are due to start to today as a rift remains between local campaigners, the city council and contractor Amey.
Following a joint statement in December between Sheffield City Council, STAG, and Amey and a further month of intensive debate about the future of condemned trees – inspections are starting today to determine how many healthy trees can be saved.
The highways inspection team from Amey will be assessing trees to see if works to regenerate Sheffield’s streets and pavement can be conducted without felling the old established trees.
The works are part of the £2.2bn Streets Ahead PFI deal between Sheffield City Council and Amey.
No trees are to be removed today, but those that are found to be immediately dangerous or obstructive will be scheduled for replacement as soon as possible.
Of more than 300 trees originally earmarked for replacement, almost 90 will now be retained indefinitely and many more could also be retained.
The costs from the delays caused by the ongoing disputes are being met by Amey.
Amey Streets Ahead account director Darren Butt said the new funding will allow for a more “flexible” engineering approach.
“The additional funding being provided by Amey will allow us to use new and existing engineering treatments in a much more flexible way, monitor trees closely and re-apply treatments where possible,” he said.
“As a result, we should be able to retain trees for an indefinite period as long as the highway remains at a good standard.”
To assist Amey in its inspections, STAG is sending three local retired highways engineers with years of experience in urban renewal. While the engineers support the aims of STAG, they will be acting independently, the action group told New Civil Engineer.
Chris Rust, a member of the STAG negotiating group, told New Civil Engineer that STAG remains at odds with the council over its position on the removal of healthy trees, but added that the inspections were “really positive”.
“Despite the fact we disagree with the city council on the removal of healthy trees we are pleased to have the opportunity to work with Amey to save these trees,” Rust said. “Amey has invested in new equipment and put together a really skilled team to asses and carry out pavement renewal around the trees – this is really positive.”
“However, the tree campaigners… are not prepared to stand by and see healthy trees felled.”
Despite Rusts positivity, a press release from STAG firmly rejected the council’s position.
“The Sheffield Street Tree campaign, the city’s tree protectors have resoundingly rejected Sheffield City Council’s scheme to ‘phase’ the removal of healthy trees,” STAG said.
“Campaigners plan to be out on Chatsworth Road on Tuesday to show their solidarity while STAG continues to work with contractors Amey on identifying trees that might escape the Sheffield Council chop.”
Cabinet member for environment and street scene at Sheffield City council, Lewis Dagnall said the inspections were a “promising first step”.
“The inspections are the first step in what we hope to be a promising year for the city’s street trees, where we will see a large proportion of trees, including the Vernon Oak and the majority of memorial trees, retained. We will also start work on a new street tree strategy in the first half of this year,” he said.
The debacle over the trees has been long running. In January 2018, Amey paused its felling work due to safety concerns after contractors and protestors clashed.
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