A recent report demonstrates again how wrong Sheffield City Council (SCC) was to hire a private contractor to fell more than 5,000 street trees and why our city requires a fundamental re-think of the entire project, says the Sheffield Green Party. Indeed, it is a good moment for some mid- summer reflection.
The seven-page report, prepared for a SCC cabinet meeting on 17 July, reveals that 99.5% of the street trees in our city —- and trees, which both SCC and the contractor Amey had earlier concluded should be felled “as a last resort” — can now probably be saved with a bit more investigation and minor remedial work to curbs, verges and pavements.
Cllr Alison Teal said, “The report completely vindicates the view of Sheffield tree campaigners that thousands of healthy street trees have been unnecessarily felled in our city in recent years,”
“This SCC report follows more than six months of investigation by Amey and SCC as to whether hundreds of street trees slated for the chop in 2019 really need to be. This report has proven they do not. And
neither did the overwhelming majority of the +5,000 mostly health street trees felled before a March 2018 “pause” in street tree felling following years of protest by residents.”
The SCC background report was released less than two weeks after Birmingham City Council announced it was dumping the Spanish-owned contractor Amey from a very similar 25-year PFI street repairs deal in that city worth £2.7 billion.
Green Party campaigner, Alan Story, explained, “Because Birmingham actually monitored its PFI contract with Amey and complained loudly, including in several court cases, about the shoddy quality of Amey’s road work, Ferrovial, Amey sole owner, had to pay that the West Midland’s city £215 million to be freed from the private finance initiative (PFI) scheme in that city.
“Amey’s recent “escape” from Birmingham was the last barrier to the sale of Amey in the UK, numerous financial commentators have recently suggested. Amey is one of the biggest outsourcers in the UK. It employees about 19,000 people and its pending sell-off, first announced in December 2018 by Ferrovial, will have major consequences for Sheffield.”
Cllr Douglas Johnson added, “Not only has the Streets Ahead contract been an environmental disaster for city, but an economic disaster as well.”
“Unless this PFI scheme is wound up, Sheffield residents will be paying for this £2 billion deal at the equivalent rate of £1.7 million a week for decades. Think of all the social care places and day care spaces that would pay for in the future.”
Alan Story continued, “Speaking of the future: no issue looms larger in ours than climate change. Experts have shown the clear relationship between retaining trees and slowing climate change. “This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions,
it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther(2)
“And it is not as if SCC has not been warned about the dangers of this deal with Amey. In August 2016 when Cllr Bryan Lodge had responsibility for the Streets Ahead contract, he said that SCC had taken action against Amey, claiming £2 million in financial penalties because of poor work practices. Clearly SCC identified problems early in this lengthy contract that was originally negotiated by the LibDems when they last controlled SCC. As a result of re-financing, the cost of the work will not be fully paid off until 2057.
“In 2016 the Forestry Commission was also alerted to concerns from residents about the unnecessary felling of healthy trees and it began an investigation which still continues.
“Whatever the outcome, it appears that despite costly barristers, High Court Injunctions, masses of private security bouncers and tens of police, the community campaign to protect its green heritage are the moral victors of this sorry episode in our city’s history.
“The same SCC cabinet member, Lewis Dagnall, is in charge of both street trees and of responding to the climate emergency. As a sign that he is serious about the latter, Cllr. Dagnall should announce BOTH a total ban on the further felling of healthy street trees and a fundamental re-think of this ruinous PFI deal.
“We hope that the challenges of the future will ultimately inspire a genuine apology, provide some honesty about the recent past and put an end to environmental vandalism.”
- The report to Cabinet is available at
- Prof Tom Crowther, Swiss University ETH Zürich (as quoted in the Guardian, 4 July 2019.)