New strategy could see 'happy ending' to Sheffield tree-felling saga

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The long-running controversy over the felling of thousands of Sheffield's street trees may "have a happy ending after all", Woodland Trust president Clive Anderson said following the publication of a new strategy.

The Woodland Trust, said the vision for the future of Sheffield street trees, published after months of talks between the council, campaigners and other groups, could be a model for the rest of the UK.

The felling programme saw more than 5,000 street trees removed in the city, provoking improbable scenes between 2016 and 2018, involving protesters and van loads of police in some of Sheffield's leafiest middle-class suburbs.

The saga included two pensioners being arrested in scenes described by former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg as more like a well-planned anti-terror raid than a morning of tree maintenance, and contractors accusing protesters of poisoning them with cups of tea.

The new shared vision for the care and management of the city's street trees was published on Wednesday (15 July) following months of talks between Sheffield City Council, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG), The Woodland Trust and contractor Amey.

Joseph Coles, urban lead of the Woodland Trust, said he hoped the collaborative approach now in place in Sheffield could be an exemplar for other parts of the country and the saga's "positive legacy".

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Mr Coles said: "This is a well-earned victory for democracy, and the residents of Sheffield who fought so hard and at personal cost to protect their city's trees."

Mr Coles added: "This is not the end of the story, we know that tensions still exist."

Paul Selby, from STAG, which coordinated the campaign against the felling, said: "The benefits of this new and enlightened approach will be felt not just by current generations, but future generations too."

But Green councillor Alison Teal, who was taken to court by the council over her tree campaigning, said on Twitter: "Campaigners deserve apology from (council) Leader, Julie Dore, who presided over this travesty - arresting caring people, taking them to court, losing liberty, income and sleep, paying massive fines, violence, abuse, lies. Yes, I'm still angry."

The dispute has its origin in a 25-year £2.2 billion private finance initiative agreement the council signed with contractor Amey to resurface Sheffield's pothole-ridden roads.

As part of this, Amey is tasked with maintaining 36,000 roadside trees.