Environment Secretary visits Sheffield to discuss street tree programme

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, visited Sheffield yesterday to meet with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, along with other representatives involved in the street trees campaign.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust was invited to meet with Mr Gove as part of his visit, which included meeting with local street tree campaigners, Sheffield City Council, and viewing some of the street trees earmarked to be felled and replaced as part of Sheffield City Council’s Streets Ahead project.

Mr Gove used the visit to listen to the concerns of those involved in the street trees campaign in order to learn more about the issue, before going on to meet with Sheffield City Council.

Mr Gove said: “I had a very interesting and helpful meeting today with some of those who are working tirelessly to protect Sheffield’s trees, including the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.

“They described to me the enormous efforts they have gone to in order to stop the needless felling of street trees.

“I also met with Sheffield City Council today to make my concerns clear. I will be following up with them in due course.”

Dr Nicky Rivers, Living Landscape Development Manager at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, has been involved with the street trees issue in Sheffield for more than five years and represented the Trust at the meeting.

Dr Rivers said: “We appreciate Mr Gove’s visit and interest in Sheffield’s street trees, which demonstrates just how important this issue is.

“From a national government policy perspective, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust would like to see the value of trees being fully taken into account in decision making and large contracts. This could be done in a number of ways – through undertaking a Natural Capital Assessment of the trees early on or through an Environmental Impact Assessment.”

A Natural Capital Assessment of the trees in Sheffield was recently carried out by Ian Dalton, a London Local Authority Tree Arboricultural Officer, working on a voluntary basis working with members of Sheffield Trees Action Group (STAG). Ian used CAVAT, one of the assessment tools available, and his report (available from https://savesheffieldtrees.org.uk) has valued the healthy Sheffield street trees still due to be felled at more than £11 million and estimated the total value of the healthy trees felled and still to be felled at more than £66 million.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust has directly questioned Sheffield City Council and their contractors Amey about particular tree issues and will continue to do so. We particularly focus on issues of wildlife concern. For example, we have raised awareness of the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly on a surviving Huntingdon Elm tree in Nether Edge. We have raised our concerns about this to Sheffield City Council and Amey and continue to seek the best possible outcome for wildlife.

For further information on street trees, visit wildsheffield.com/street-trees

Image credit: Yorkshire Post Newspapers