What the experts say

In January 2017 Jeremy Barrell (BSc FArborA DipArb CBiol FICFor FRICS) appeared on ‘The One Show’ defending Sheffield’s healthy highway trees.

Jeremy followed this up with an article in February 2017: Tree benefits; the missing part of the street tree cost benefit analysis equation’, published by the Institute of Chartered Foresters. In it he says:

“Sheffield was widely hailed as one of Europe’s greenest cities, but it is rapidly gaining an international reputation as the place where they are felling street trees on an industrial scale. Local democracy seems to be unravelling before an international audience as the wishes of local communities are ignored and healthy trees with decades of life left in them are felled causing significant loss of tree benefits. It is a political problem and it will be for the politicians to find a solution, with issues way beyond the remit for tree experts to resolve. However, in the melee for the high ground, tree management principles are being misapplied as Sheffield City Council clamours to justify its actions, and that certainly is a matter where tree professionals can assert authority.”

The graph at the end of the article was included in Jeremy’s presentation to the 2017 STAG conference. It illustrates the actual lifespan of street trees and is included in our tree life expectancy leaflet. At the conference, Jeremy summed up the entire situation with the phrase: “PFI contracts don’t work for trees.”


Professor Ian Rotherham, of the Department of the Natural and Built Environment at Sheffield Hallam University, has been an advocate for the city’s street trees from early on in the campaign. In a statement given recently to STAG he said:

“I have described the current situation as ‘The Sheffield Trees debacle’ and as ‘an avoidable crisis‘. Indeed, before the present situation unfolded, having had concerns raised by local people, I went to meet with Amey to see if ways could be found to make this a more positive, beneficial and inclusive process for Sheffield communities and the Sheffield environment. I came away from the meeting with platitudes, excuses, and intransigence in terms of any review of position or process. Blithely unaware of any of the city’s commitments or polices on ecology, community or the environment, it was clear that both Amey and SCC were determined to press ahead with a thoroughly damaging, expensive and undemocratic assault on the city’s highway trees. The scale of this misapplication of funds and resources becomes more apparent with the misuse of the original consultant’s SCC-commissioned review – which recommended a maximum of 500 trees to be in need of removal, when after only 3 years or so, over 5,000 had been felled. This represents a catastrophic undermining of local environmental democracy, of local sustainability, and of planning for climate mitigation, for biodiversity and for community health and welfare – and is on an unprecedented scale.”


‘Sheffield Street Trees’ was compiled by Ian Dalton, Tree Officer for the London Borough of Bromley, after he visited the city in March 2017. Ian is an experienced arborist qualified to Dip ArbLevel 4 who has been employed in the arboriculture industry for 16 years. He concludes that good arboricultural practices are not being followed, standard engineering solutions are not being employed and that many of Sheffield’s trees are being felled unnecessarily.


‘Regarding trees in Nether Edge, Sheffield’ is a report written by Peter Townsend, BSc CEng MICE, a highway engineer with many years experience delivering similar Local Authority contracts to the current ‘Streets Ahead’ programme.

Peter, a Sheffield resident, has had plenty of opportunities to observe the city’s street trees, and he believes many of those that are currently condemned could be retained.

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Sheffield City Council have taken steps to issue injunctions against prominent campaigners. This could prove to be expensive…

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