Chelsea Road elm tree latest

Friday 8th September 2017

Below are full details of the latest developments and our recent exchanges with Streets Ahead regarding the Chelsea Road elm tree:

We have continued to directly question Sheffield City Council and Amey about street tree issues, particularly those of wildlife concern, such as their recent decision to fell the Chelsea Road Huntingdon elm tree in Nether Edge which hosts a colony of white-letter hairstreak butterflies.

We do not agree with the Council’s approach to managing this notable and rare species of Huntingdon elm, nor with their ongoing street tree management programme as a whole. Keeping the elm tree is the simplest approach to retaining the tree’s colony of endangered butterflies.

Sadly, against our recommendations, the Council are scheduling a heavy prune of the tree canopy this month, which they plan to fell in 2018. As well as challenging their decision, we called on the Council in July to produce a clear and written plan of action for the protection of the butterfly colony.

After receiving and commenting on the draft plan, we have also requested that our own experts and those of the Butterfly Conservation Trust are present during the works to oversee and carry out the removal of white-letter hairstreak eggs from felled branches, in order to move them to a new host elm tree.

We have carefully considered our involvement in this activity, which we believe will significantly increase the likelihood of success of the butterfly eggs establishing elsewhere.

This is not an endorsement of Sheffield City Council’s course of action. Moreover, we have also requested that the Council pay for this specialist input, given that it arises as a direct result of their pursuing this incomprehensible course of action.

We will provide a further update about this soon once the Council's butterfly protection plan has been published.

Following our disappointment at Sheffield City Council's decision notice to fell the Chelsea Road/Union Road elm tree on 27th June 2017 (see news article 28th June), we wrote the following letter (see here: 170704) to the council, raising our specific concerns about the loss of this tree and the associated butterfly colony.

We have recently received the two independent arboriculture reports commissioned by the council, and these can be found here: Report Arb 1 (ground level) and Arb 2 (aerial inspection).

As can be seen from the reports, which were commissoned in October 2016, but only just released, there is clearly no reference to the tree being unsafe, presenting a danger to the public or of a short lifespan. If this was the case the arboriculturalist would have been obliged to report the tree as such immediately. Likewise, the Independent Tree Panel's report which was dated July 2016 was only released on 27th June 2017 which does not suggest any immediate danger or severe decay.

Both the Independent Tree Panel's report and the independent arboriculturalist's reports clearly state this is a healthy tree, and because of its heritage is a specimen worth keeping.

The summary from Arb Report B is:

"Condition rating of the tree is B; Tree with Minor, but rectifiable defects, or in the early stages of physiological stress.

The current recommendation is for tree to be managed as a free grown specimen subjecting it to crown reduction and thinning reducing the ‘lever arm’ effect of wind on the original decayed pollard heads....The overall effect is to leave a reasonably balanced aesthetically pleasing specimen".

And in summary, the Independent Tree Panel Report says:

"The two trees (on Union Rd) are in good condition and have good life expectancy. We advise that there is no arboricultural need to remove these trees.

The tree adjacent to no. 111 Union Road is a Huntingdon Elm, a notable and rare species, we advise there is a strong arboricultural case to retain. The tree is causing some disruption to the pavement, and to the carriageway, where there are numerous utility covers. We nevertheless believe that a combination of engineering solutions could be used to retain this tree, install dropped kerbs and render the pavement and carriageway satisfactory and safer at all parts of the Chelsea Road and Union Road junction. We recognise that this may occur additional costs, we therefore advise the Council to reconsider its plan for this tree with a view to retain it."

Therefore, despite the council's previous statements, it is clear that the decision to fell the tree is nothing to do with the tree itself.

Once again, we ask the council to consider the Independent Tree Panel's engineering solution recommendations or a low cost patch repair option for the road, as previously discussed with the Save Nether Edge Trees group, in order to retain this important mature elm tree and the butterfly colony it supports at limited expense to the city.

As referred to in our letter above (170704), we wrote to Cllr Bryan Lodge in December 2016 with a number of concerns about street trees. Our letter is here and his response, received in March 2017 is here, including a commitment to publish Independent Tree Panel reports as soon as they were available.

See here for our main page on Sheffield's street trees.