The felling goes on apace…….Dore next with the Vernon Road Oak and the Chatsworth Road limes coming into focus

The felling goes on apace…….Dore next with the Vernon Road Oak and the Chatsworth Road limes  coming into focus…


Words misused – I have had several enquiries about the words being used to justify the felling of Sheffield street trees and so it is worth setting down a few thoughts………..these sit alongside phrases such as ‘trees that are fit for purpose’!!!!!

‘Mature or over mature, dead, dying, or dangerous’

‘Mature or over mature’ are all subjective terms generally with regard to commercial forestry stock – and really the point at which the monetary value of a tree might begin to drop and the annual growth increment decrease – i.e. the year-on-year added value. In terms of amenity trees such as street trees this is rather meaningless and is being deliberately misused to confuse the public – the implication being that a huge number of urban street trees are at or near the point of imminent collapse – which they are not. Some street trees will die prematurely due to urban and roadside stresses – and this has always been accepted – and is why tees need ‘management’.

However, the vast majority are in their prime of life – especially so in Sheffield where many of these trees grew from the 1890s to the 1960s in the worst atmospheric pollution on the planet. They survived that, and now with our ‘clean air’ are happy, happy, happy – in short, as Supermac said, ‘they have never had it so good’. Many of these are species that can easily live for 250 to 450 years and they are now about 100 to 120 years at most. As the Americans would say ‘do the math’!

Similarly, descriptions such as ‘dead, dying, or dangerous’ or ‘nearing the end of their useful life’, are for the most part misused, confusing and confused, and presented cynically as a smoke screen to justify the felling of perfectly good trees – which will easily live another 100 to 150 years or more.

With the Limes in particular, there is a major issue of the loss of hugely important pollen and nectar sources for pollinating insects and in particular nationally-threatened honey bees.

The losses of these big trees further compromises already creaking ecosystem services such as mitigation of flood risk and climate change impacts.

For flood risk we are chopping down the trees that hold back the rainwater and threatening to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on flawed engineering solutions. We need to work with the grain of nature and not battle against it – just common-sense!  [I will be discussing this with Nigel Slack on Sheffield Live on Wednesday 22nd February at 7 pm – do watch!]

Feel free to quote or circulate any of the above.

And more on the immediate threat:



 Iconic old oak – ‘very fine specimen’ to be felled

Yet more on Sheffield’s trees. An iconic old oak tree on Vernon Road in Sheffield is to be felled – despite the Council’s Independent Tree Panel strong advice to retain it. For the city’s campaigners, this tree has become a symbol of the Council’s disregard of the value of its street trees. When the fellers come, protesters are poised to sit or stand under it to protect it – possibly in their hundreds.

The final decision on the tree was announced this week by Sheffield City Council. The Panel inspected the tree and recommended:

The tree is an oak aged about 150 years. It is a very fine specimen, in excellent condition, with a further 150 years life expectancy. We advise that there is strong arboricultural case for retaining this tree.”

Despite this, the tree is to be felled. The Council say its roots are disturbing the kerb and roadway. Other trees in Dore, including seven mature limes round the corner on Chatsworth Road, are also expected to be felled, possibly within days.

Since it was known last year that the tree was under threat, it has become a veritable art gallery of support – ribbons, children’s drawings and poems have all been hung on the tree.

Next Sunday afternoon at 2pm, residents and protesters are to gather near the tree and celebrate it in song, poetry and art. at a special event, #showthelove 


A resident of Vernon Road, Margaret Peart said:

The oak is very old and was originally a field edge tree, kept when the road was built. LET’S SAVE THE VERNON OAK posters are displayed in many windows and also in Chatsworth Road. Yellow ribbons not only mark condemned trees but hedges and gateposts. Remarkable things are happening in this quiet Sheffield suburb – people are protesting and the tree is even tweeting (@SAVEDORETREES!)

This week’s announcement on the oak has been at the same time as other decisions on 45 more trees in Nether Edge and Walkley. Of these trees, the Independent Tree Panel recommended that 27 could be saved. The Council have taken their advice on only one tree.

Local campaigner and tree historian Sally Goldsmith said:

This proves that the Independent Tree Panel, set up by the Council, is just a sop to public opinion. To date their advice has been taken only 6 times, yet around 5000 street trees have already been felled, many of them mature and healthy heritage trees with years of life left. We expect a huge amount of support for this lovely oak.”

Felling of mature healthy chestnuts and planes has been controversial in leafy Nether Edge all last week and continues –  though not without arrests of protestors and severe delay to the felling programme.  Campaigners turn up to protect trees all over the ‘greenest’ city. The national and local press continue to feature the protests and the actions of the Council and their contractor Amey. National organisations such as The Woodland Trust and the Arboricultural Association have voiced strong criticism of the Council’s policy.

The old oak which has stood through Queen Victoria’s reign and two world wars is waiting to see what happens next.


 For more information:

Ann Anderson, Tel 07715 623523 or email at

 #showthelove event Sunday 19th Feb, 2pm, Vernon Road, Dore, S17 3QE


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7 Responses to The felling goes on apace…….Dore next with the Vernon Road Oak and the Chatsworth Road limes coming into focus

  1. Sally Goldsmith says:

    Ian not Totley – the Vernon Road Oak and Chatsworth Road Limes round corner. Will send you info soon.

  2. Ian. Very useful information. Thank you.

  3. Technotronic says:


    The following letter has just arrived in my inbox, dated 6th December 2017. The author has kindly granted permission for me to share it here and has informed that it has been sent to the following newspapers:

    THE STAR, Sheffield Telegraph, The Yorkshire Post & The Guardian.

    Notation and references have been added to support the content.


    On 20th September 2017, The Star – a Sheffield newspaper – reported on the potential cost of retaining street trees [1]. An extortionate estimate of cost to retain trees was provided. Steve Robinson (then SCC Head of Highway Maintenance) was quoted:

    “That’s not a result of a detailed design. We would have to spend some money to do a detailed design.”

    Commenting on the possibility of tree retention, in a report dated 27th November 2017, Philip Beecroft – recently appointed SCC Head of Highway Maintenance – asserted:

    “Undertaking this work…would require prioritisation of the potential tree works against other pressing council priorities such as social care.” [2]

    Of course, instead, Sheffield City Council (SCC) could use some of the £2 million plus that they have fined Amey for sub-standard works [3]. After all, SCC never whinge when it comes to dipping in to that multi-million pound pot to needlessly squander funds on household felling surveys, a sham “Independent” Tree Panel, surveillance of citizen tree groups, PR, smear, campaigns of misrepresentation, or court cases. All of which have been unnecessary, avoidable and represent malpractice [4] – a reckless use of public resources. Even so, only a relatively small fraction of the fine money has been used on such things, leaving plenty to enable the retention of mature street trees and ensure the SCC Highways PFI Client Team – responsible for monitoring and enforcing standards for the £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance project – is adequately resourced [5].

    Amey is the service provider for the £2.2bn “Streets Ahead” highway maintenance project. In 2015, commenting on Amey’s contractual commitments, as SCC Cabinet Member For Environment, Recycling And Streetscene, Cllr Jayne Dunn informed:

    “Under the contract they have to fulfil any promise” [6].

    As I understand it, a contract is legally binding. In response to a 140 page letter from the Save Our Roadside Trees Group, dated 29th January 2016 (distributed to every Councillor in the city) [4], on 2nd February 2016, Amey released a “commercially sensitive” contract document [7]. Quote:

    “The removal of street trees will only be considered as a last resort where there are no other reasonably practicable management options available. […] As part of our commitment to only removing a street tree as a last resort, whenever a tree is found to be either damaging or disciminatory, we consider a list of engineering solutions to establish whether any of these can be employed to retain the tree in situ.”

    On 2nd September, 2015, at the second (most recent) meeting of the “bi-monthly” Highway Tree Advisory Forum, Steve Robinson – Beecroft’s predecessor – publicly presented a list of 25 ideas – “engineering solutions” – that could be used to retain mature street trees when resurfacing. The list included: EXCAVATION; “FLEXIBLE PAVING/SURFACING SOLUTION”; RAMPING/RE-PROFILING; USE OF THINNER KERBS; REMOVAL OF DISPLACED KERBS; PRUNING (including pollarding); “creation of LARGER TREE PITS” [7]. He informed:

    “THE ENGINEERING AND TREE-BASED SOLUTIONS COME AT NO EXTRA COST TO THE COUNCIL. SO, THE TAX-PAYER DOES NOT PAY if an engineering solution or a tree-based solution can be applied, and the reason for that is that the Streets Ahead project is a highway maintenance project and engineering and tree-based solutions are highway maintenance solutions.” [8]

    Should works be unaffordable, Mr Robinson informed: “The Council has a defence under the Highways Act – Section 58 defence under the Highways Act – of not having sufficient funding to deal with all those defects.”[9]

    There are a number of “strategic goals” listed within the contract document, such as:

    “MAXIMISE potential CANOPY COVER through… good arboricultural management”
    “Establish a SUSTAINABLE tree stock through… appropriate management.”
    “Improve compatibility with environment through HOLISTIC HIGHWAY DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT.”
    “Improve function of highway trees through INNOVATIVE DESIGN strategy.”

    On numerous occasions, the Council and Amey have asserted that they work to British Standard 5837. The standard states [10]:

    “ROOT SYSTEMS, stems and canopies, with allowance for future movement and growth, NEED to be taken into account in all projects…

    Where tree retention or planting is proposed…

    THE OBJECTIVE SHOULD BE to achieve a harmonious relationship between trees and structures that can be sustained…
    (from page 1 of BS5837)


    […] Details of DESIGN PROPOSALS should be developed in conjunction with the project ARBORICULTURIST and, where required, input from a SUITABLY QUALIFIED engineer.”
    (from page 23 of BS5837)

    Time for SCC to enforce contractual commitments [6 & 7] and for SCC & Amey to start implementing current good practice [5].

    D.Long (BSc Hons Arb), Sheffield.”



    “Saving Sheffield’s war memorial trees ‘could cost £350,000’”:

    See Paul Billington’s* report (“War Memorial Trees”) to the SCC Cabinet, authored by Philip Beecroft (the newly appointed Head of Highway Maintenance), dated 27th November 2017:

    Also see:
    “War memorial trees in Sheffield ‘would cost £500,000 to save’:

    *Paul Billington is SCC’s Director of Development Services – the substitute for David Caulfield (resigned). Mr Billington is responsible for all aspects of the £2.2bn, city-wide, Streets Ahead highway maintenance project that affect trees.

    See previous letters submitted to Johnson publishing Ltd which were never printed:

    Sustainability_FELLING_Rustlings Rd (aka: “FELLING: SCC/AMEY INCOMPETENCE AND DECEIT”, dated 22nd November, 2016):

    “A LETTER TO THE SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH” (dated 23rd November, 2016)

    “COUNCIL INCOMPETENCE” (dated 19th December, 2016):

    “COST OF SUSTAINABILITY” (dated 29th September 2017):

    In addition to the above, listen to the attached audio clip, named: “Cllr Lodge – SCC Cabinet Member For Environment And Streetscene – 1st August 2016_Amey_Streets Ahead_PFI_Fines_160801_002_4_2”

    See the SORT letter, dated 29th January, 2016, distributed by SCC to EVERY councillor in the city, as the Nether Edge petition hand-out. It can be accessed using the following link:

    Listen to the attached audio clips, named as follows:
    “4_Cllr Lodge_1st August 2016_PFI_Client Team_160801_002_4_2”

    “Amey_Roadshow_Sharrow_Nether Edge_14th Sept_2016_Enquiries_PFI_Client Team_160914_003_7”

    An e-mail from Cllr Jayne Dunn to a lead participant within the Save Our Roadside Trees Sheffield Tree Action Group. It can be viewed using this link:

    See the Amey PFI contract document for tree management that was made public on 2nd February 2016 (the day before the Nether Edge Sheffield Tree Action Group presented their 6,295 plus signature petition at a meeting of Sheffield City Council). It was released in response to a letter from the Save Our Roadside trees Sheffield Tree Action Group, addressed to Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport (Cllr Terry Fox), dated 29th January 2016 [4]:

    Also see:

    See D.Long’s previous letter: “The Battle For Sustainable Stewardship of Sheffield’s Street Trees” ( ).

    Also listen to the attached audio clip, from the second meeting of the “bi-monthly” Streets Ahead Highway Tree Advisory Forum, held on 2nd September 2015:

    “HTAF 2_2nd_September_2015_Steve_Robinson – SCC Head of Highway Maintenance_NO EXTRA COST SOLUTIONS_150902_001_2_3_2” (transcribed on page 47 of the SORT letter [4, above]).

    Please note that to date (6th December 2017) there has not been a third meeting, despite the SCC website continuing to assert:

    “Anyone who cares about the trees on Sheffield’s streets can come along to the Highway Tree Advisory Forum meeting.

    The forum has been set up to give people an opportunity to hear from a variety of experts from various fields from across the city to debate how highway trees should be managed.”

    (web-page last updated on 2nd November 2017 at 10:39AM)

    Listen to the attached audio clip, from the second meeting of the “bi-monthly” Streets Ahead Highway Tree Advisory Forum, held on 2nd September 2015:

    “HTAF 2_2nd_September_2015_Steve_Robinson – SCC Head of Highway Maintenance_Section 58 Defence – Insufficient Funding_150902_001_2_3_2” (transcribed on page 45 of the SORT letter [4, above]).

    Reference: The British Standards Institution, 2012. British Standard 5837:2012 Trees in Relation to Design, Demolition and Construction – Recommendations”. London: BSI Standards Ltd.

  4. Technotronic says:

    In support of Ian’s comments, I thought I’d just share this, again (upper case has been used by me to highlight key points):


    Comment by JEREMY BARRELL FICFor
    Managing Director at Barrell Tree Consultancy

    (One of the world’s leading arboricultural consultants and spokesman for the Arboricultural Association )

    Published on 7th February 2017

    “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.

    AT THE HEART OF THE RHETORIC IS THE CONTENTION THAT THE TREES ARE MATURE, with little useful life expectancy, and it is in the best interest of the community and good management, to fell and replace them immediately. Two technical pillars support that position; life expectancy, and the optimum felling point, or rotation length.

    Taking life expectancy first, I have seen a significant selection of the condemned trees and I assess that most of them have decades, if not centuries, of life left in them, so


    Of course, that is my opinion, and there will always be scope for disagreement, but the trees are there for all to see, so doubters can form their own opinion.

    This leaves us with ROTATION LENGTH, and more specifically, what is the optimum point in time to fell street trees. While there is plenty of research on forestry rotation length, there is very little guidance for street trees, and thus this post. How can we as professional tree managers assist in deciding the optimum time to remove and replace street trees? Foresters grapple with this concept on a daily basis, with THE PRINCIPLES OF CURRENT ANNUAL INCREMENT (“CAI”) and MEAN ANNUAL INCREMENT (“MAI”) being the foundation for many decisions where optimising the timber volume is the priority.

    From research and practical experience, we know that the optimum time to fell is the age where the curves of CAI and MAI cross, but can this principle be reasonably transferred to urban tree management, where ***** THE PRODUCT IS TREE BENEFITS ***** rather than timber volume?


    There are plenty of MODELS identifying how much it costs to buy, plant and maintain a new tree through to removal, but very few FACTORING IN THE MULTIPLE BENEFITS THAT TREES PROVIDE.

    Accountants are exploiting this knowledge gap at the expense of communities, creating an urgent need for the tree profession to stand up and ***** INJECT SOME BALANCE INTO THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS. *****



    CONCEPTUALISING TREE BENEFITS is tricky for multiple reasons; primarily because most are difficult to reliably VALUE, but also because some are linked to SIZE, e.g. pollution buffering, water buffering, health and wellbeing, etc, while others are more related to AGE, e.g. ecology, heritage, etc. I accept that THE PRECISE FORM OF THE CURVES WILL VARY WITH SPECIES, growing conditions, local benefit values, etc, but that aside, the primary question is whether this conceptualisation reasonably captures the principle.

    ***** With INCREASING INSTANCES OF STREET TREES BEING PREMATURELY REMOVED across the country BASED ON COSTS RATHER THAN A BALANCE OF COSTS AND BENEFITS, ***** this is becoming an increasingly important built environment management issue, which is why I would be grateful for feedback on any fundamental flaws that this CAI/MAI approach may have.”


    The Institute of Chartered Foresters website:

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