Sheffield’s Chainsaw Massacre

Sheffield’s Chainsaw Massacre

News from Sheffield Hallam University

Article from Sheffield Hallam University

6 reasons to stop the Sheffield chainsaw massacre

A campaign against cutting down thousands of trees lining the streets of Sheffield – Europe’s greenest city – has picked up over 15,000 signatures. We spoke to Professor Ian Rotherham, who’s heading up the campaign and inspiring similar groups across the UK.

We asked him one simple question: why is cutting down street trees a bad idea?

It breaks a promise to the people.

The council had built up 30 years of agreements on street trees, based on consultation with communities. These agreements are a commitment to the people of Sheffield – after all, they’re our trees. When street management was outsourced to AMEY, these agreements were lost or ignored. AMEY have a clear profit motive – if they blitz the city’s trees in the first 5 years of their 25-year contract, they can spend the next 20 years with much lower maintenance costs.

  1. It’s bad for democracy.

Local authorities have been cut to the bone, so they outsource services to private companies. It’s catastrophic for democracy. If you’re a private company you’re not subject to freedom of information laws, so there’s no scrutiny and no accountability. In the past, elected councillors had a say about what happened the trees in their community. Now decisions are made in dark corners.

  1. It damages people’s quality of life.

A lot of the communities affected are poor. I’ve held meetings in these communities that have attracted hundreds of people, and I’ve seen grown men in tears. These trees really matter. Take Brincliffe. If you come up Bannerdale Road in spring, with the cherry trees in full blossom, it’s beautiful. Take those trees away, and it doesn’t look great.

  1. It’s bad for the economy.

I’m not just a rabid environmentalist – I produce research into the economics. And the destruction of these trees is bad for the Sheffield economy. If you make a place attractive, people want to live and work there. Cut down the trees and you reduce house prices and discourage investment.

  1. Trees are an important part of the ecosystem.

Trees can help regulate the climate of an area. For example, on Psalter Lane they keep the place cool. In a heatwave last year they reduced the temperature there by 7 or 8 degrees. They also take in rainwater, helping to reduce flooding – something which can be a big problem in Sheffield.

  1. We are destroying our history.

AMEY are cutting down heritage trees – very old hedgerow trees that stand as a reminder to when an area was farmland, hundreds of years ago. They felled a 450-year-old oak tree in Deepcar, and when we complained they offered to put a plaque where it had stood. They just don’t get it. The ecologist Oliver Rackham, who died earlier this year, said ‘10,000 oaks of 100 years are no substitute for one 500-year-old oak.’ And he was right.

How to get involved

Feeling inspired to join the campaign? Go to Ian’s blog to find networks and contacts. Write to your MP, local councillor, the media, papers, the radio, sign petitions, and tweet about it.


Professor Ian Rotherham is a professor of environmental geography and a reader in tourism and environmental change in the Department of Natural and Built Environment at Sheffield Hallam University.

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3 Responses to Sheffield’s Chainsaw Massacre

  1. Fran Grace says:

    I think your 6 reasons to stop the Sheffield chainsaw massacre is excellent. Could I respectfully ask you to add a 7th in the light of the WHO report which cites Sheffield as being one of the worst polluted cities?
    7. Trees help to keep pollution levels down.
    Trees absorb CO2 emissions. Pollution levels are already dangerously high in parts of Sheffield. This could only get worse if many mature trees are cut down.

    Thank you for your support in trying to preserve Sheffield’s roadside trees.

  2. Colin Walker says:

    Great article. Must have been difficult to restrict it to 6 reasons! The whole green corridors and biodiversity issue is worth a comment though. Or local flora and fauna would be much less diverse without our trees. Sadly this seems to be an experiment that Amey and SCC seem intent on conducting. Your points about campaigning are well made and this should help build the campaign to stop the chainsaw massacre.

  3. Pingback: We need to talk about Cathleen | Joanna Dobson

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