13 December 2017
Sheffield City Council has today decided that, for the first time, it will guarantee in perpetuity the replanting of any war memorial tree that has to be replaced and will plant 300 new memorial trees in the city’s parks.
This comes following a council decision to replace 41 existing memorial street trees, which are causing significant damage to the highway and private property, and will be replaced one for one under the council’s Streets Ahead programme.
Whilst the vast majority of memorial trees are unaffected, around a third of these trees fall into one or more of the council’s replacement categories of dead, dying, diseased, dangerous, causing damage or creating access problems for people using our pavements.
The council has a legal and moral duty to maintain the city’s streets in a safe condition and fortunately, has the funding available in its highways contract to deliver on this duty. The option of leaving the damaging trees or adopting a ‘patch and mend’ approach seen in previous years would be more expensive in the long-term and unfair on residents whose properties are being damaged or who suffer with mobility problems.
As outlined in a council cabinet report on memorial trees released last week, the financial implication of the extensive works required to retain the 41 trees, and make the surrounding road and pavements passable and safe, stands at around £500,000 – a cost that would require the council to switch spending out of core services such as social care.
Furthermore, even if this money was available it would not solve the problem of damage to residential properties, nor would it offer a secure, long term, future for the trees which are likely to outgrow the highway alterations and require additional costly repair works.
Importantly, in addition to replacing the 41 trees, the Council has also committed to making a long term investment in the future of its memorial trees, by planting 300 new memorial trees in parks across the city as well as replanting, where possible, a number of memorial street trees which have previously been removed without replacement.
For the first time ever, the council has also made a long term commitment to maintain its memorial trees in perpetuity. The funding for the new memorial trees in parks will come from existing council budgets and therefore not be an extra cost to local people.
Cabinet member for Environment & Street Scene at Sheffield City Council. Councillor Bryan Lodge said: “Cabinet has agreed that 41 memorial street trees, which are damaging our roads, paths and private property will have to be replaced. This is because the council, in such stretched financial circumstances, cannot justify switching £500,000 out of our social care or schools’ budgets to retain the trees. Given that over the years, about half of the original memorial trees have been lost and never replaced, we believe that our commitment to replace the 41 trees, both now and in perpetuity, is a decision that the vast majority of Sheffielders will support.
“It is without a doubt that our memorial sites are significant reminders of veterans who bravely lost their lives in battle, and so, we will ensure the trees are replanted and suitably rededicated to enable people to pay their respects for years to come.
“During times of financial austerity and continued budget pressures across all council services, the decision reflects a positive way forward that won’t cost our council taxpayers a penny more and guarantees a long-term future for the trees. We simply cannot justify spending half a million pounds on additional, and potentially short-term, engineering solutions to retain 41 memorial trees.
“What’s more, the council has a legal and moral duty to maintain the highway in a safe condition. Doing nothing is simply not an option.
“Not only are the trees causing damage to the pavements and roads, in some cases, they are also damaging residential properties, which cannot be ignored. We know from regular feedback that many residents struggle when travelling on the roads and paths surrounding these trees, which is why the work included in the Streets Ahead programme must go ahead.
“The option of reinstating some of the original memorial trees on the road is also being considered and we will communicate with residents to ensure the practicalities of this are realistic for a modern day city.
“The reality is that many memorial trees in Sheffield have been removed, over the years, without replacement. The planting of an additional 300 memorial trees and retaining them in perpetuity is something which has never been done before by the council and it’s an investment that will ensure the longevity of our memorial sites.
“Importantly, we will continue to work with local residents, veterans and The Royal British Legion ahead of any works starting.”
The decision to replace the 41 trees comes following extensive investigations by both council and Amey experts and additional excavations to the trees on Western Road to determine the extent of the damage
Streets Ahead is about ensuring we have roads, pavements and a street scene to be proud of for many years to come. In addition, it presents us with a unique opportunity to sustainably manage, increase and maintain the city’s diverse street tree stock over a 25-year period.
Over 65,000 trees have been planted across Sheffield in the last three years, including those planted as part of the Streets Ahead contract and those in parks and woodlands included in the Council’s community forestry programme.
To view a copy of the report on memorial trees visit: http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s29127/War%20Memorial%20Trees.pdf
To view a copy of the Western Road investigative report online visit: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/dam/sheffield/docs/roads-and-pavements/managingtrees/Western%20Road%20Report%20and%20ITP%20Advice%20Letter.pdf