A voice of calm and reason………and common-sense….

A voice of calm and reason………and common-sense….


(Caution against a reckless approach to stewardship of Sheffield’s urban forest)

The following letter was published on page eight of Sheffield Telegraph, on 7th September 2017 (on sale for seven days).


“22 August 2017

Dear Editor

Now that the issue of tree-felling in Sheffield has come to the notice of the national news media, I have felt it my duty as Master of the Guild of St George to write to the City Council on behalf of the Companions and friends of the Guild who have communicated their concerns to me. I visit the city rather often and am conscious of a growing anxiety among my acquaintance there.

I think I understand the difficulties the Council must be facing as splendid trees grow old and as those that have matured expansively begin to damage infrastructure and occasion safety concerns. Nevertheless, one of the things that make Sheffield a fertile centre for creativity and humane culture is the sense one always has of living close to the natural world and its processes, something exemplified by the generous spread of trees, young and old, across the city.

This is one of the things celebrated in the work of our founder, John Ruskin. It was his feeling for the grandeur of the Peak District and the need to bring nature into the urban environment that caused him to choose Walkley as the site for his museum, and the same concern informs the modern Guild’s care for its Collection in the Millennium Gallery and its desire to spread the values of that Collection across the city. For the past three years our ‘Ruskin in Sheffield’ project has sought to root those values more deeply in the lives of Sheffield people, and we have been charmed and sometimes amazed by the depth and resonance of their response.

That response must have its origins in the ordinary life of Sheffield – the way nature is woven into the work and culture of the city. As Ruskin would have been very quick to notice, part of that richness has to do with the processes of time. Saplings are very good and necessary and to be welcomed, but there is no substitute for the presence of old and venerable trees that refresh the spirit and contribute to the health of urban life. If trees are dangerous or dying, of course they must be cut down. But there must be no suspicion that the economy and the needs of bureaucracy are being conveniently served by the elimination of healthy trees along with the sick ones.

I have heard that suspicion voiced and I very much hope that there is no justification for it. Of one thing I am certain: if Ruskin were alive today, he would be raising his concerns both in Sheffield and in the country at large, not pointing fingers at those who take responsibility for the city, but wanting to know in what way this mass felling serves the common good. For those looking in from outside, it is hard to believe that it does.

Yours etc.


Clive Wilmer

Master of the Guild of St George”


Content From The Sidney Sussex College (University of Cambridge) Website:

“Personal Biography
Clive Wilmer is one of the English team at Sidney. He teaches the period 1830 to the present day and PRACTICAL CRITICISM. His special interests reside in the areas of Victorian and Modernist poetry, as well as in Victorian aesthetics and SOCIAL CRITICISM.
He is the author of seven books of poetry, the latest of which is his New and Collected Poems (Carcanet Press, 2012). The editor of Penguin selections of John Ruskin and William Morris, he has written and lectured extensively on Ruskin, Morris and Ezra Pound; he is also the current Master of Ruskin’s charity, the Guild of St George. He has published a book of interviews with contemporary poets, Poets Talking (Carcanet, 1994), and Cambridge Observed (Colt Books, 1998), an anthology of writings about Cambridge over the centuries. In 2005 he was awarded the medal Pro Cultura Hungarica by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture in recognition of his many translations of Hungarian poetry. He is currently editing the posthumous Selected Poems of Thom Gunn for Faber and Faber.”
You can learn more about the Guild of St George here:

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2 Responses to A voice of calm and reason………and common-sense….

  1. Technotronic says:

    Forestry Journal – September 2017. Page 73.

    Comment from the Arboricultural Association:

    “THERE IS A DISTINCT LACK OF ATTENTION PAID TO issues other than simply planting a tree, including species selection, environmental and other factors like SURFACE MATERIALS. Mortality rates of 30-50% are still commonplace during the first year after planting urban trees. This is clear evidence of the NEED for more consideration of a post-planting tree-management STRATEGY and CONSULTATION of tree-care professionals”


  2. Technotronic says:



    From: Sheffield Branch Society of Architects
    Sent: 18 August 2017 17:56
    To: julie.dore@sheffield.gov.uk
    Subject: An open letter from the Sheffield Society of Architects (SSA)

    Dear Councillor Dore,

    We are becoming increasingly concerned about the negative effects that the Streets Ahead contract is having on Sheffield’s built and natural environment, including the impact on the ability of the city’s trees to reduce pollution, provide habitats for wildlife, provide shade, and amenity value.

    As built environment professionals, we often work closely with landscape architects, urban designers and other specialists, and understand how important landscaping is to residential areas, particularly in the urban environment.

    As cities become denser and more crowded the effect of trees and other landscaping is critical to the physical and mental wellbeing of the inhabitants. The overwhelming evidence of the positive social and environmental impact of urban trees, and particularly street trees, is well documented in numerous publications and reports, including those by Trees for Cities, The Forestry Commission and Natural England.

    We understand and accept reasons for felling badly damaged or diseased trees, but we do not believe there are acceptable reasons why trees that are healthy and have many decades of life left are being felled now. Problems with ground surfaces around tree roots can easily be dealt with by the correct technical detailing of the surrounding build-up. Typical technical solutions have been drawn up and sent to the Working Party – although similar solutions are already outlined by the Council in the Streets Ahead 5 Year Tree Management Strategy, which includes engineering and alternative options that should be considered in order to retain trees (section 3.2, page 11). The Strategy also confirms that these proposals would require ‘no additional funding’ from the council. As these solutions are set out in Streets Ahead’s own document, they must fall within the contract between the Council and Amey and therefore can and should be implemented in preference of felling.

    Nationally recognised arborists have reviewed the condition of the threatened trees and have confirmed that were the solutions outlined above to be implemented, the majority of the threatened trees could be retained.

    Whilst we recognise that felled trees are to be replaced, we are of the opinion that although the chosen species may reduce issues such as sap drip, even when mature the replacement trees will not have the same stature, environmental benefits or aesthetic appeal as the originals, particularly where they are sited well away from the current location. A better compromise is possible and must be found.

    ARUP landscape architects report, ‘The benefits of large species trees in urban landscapes: a costing, design and management guide,’ shows that the annual net benefit of planting large species of trees is 92% greater than for small species. It also outlined the financial, social and environmental benefits of large tree species, and how they be successfully retained and planted in urban environments. Rather than remove mature trees and replace with small-species saplings, it of course makes the most financial, social and environmental sense to retain large mature trees wherever possible.

    The 2011 report, ‘Torbay’s Urban Forest: Assessing Urban Forest Effects and Values’, concluded that the structural asset of their trees was worth a remarkable £280millon. Sheffield is well known as being a green, leafy city and its trees will also undoubtedly have a significant financial value.

    Whilst we understand that street trees make up a small percentage of Sheffield’s overall tree cover, we recognise the special importance of large street trees, and are therefore increasingly worried about the negative impact of the current implementation of the Streets Ahead contract. Notwithstanding the disturbing content of the tree works, the often bizarre phasing of works to trees and neighbouring roads/footpaths, and numerous examples of potential health and safety breaches also lead us to conclude the contract is not being delivered in a manner deserving of this great city. We therefore urge the council to review the contract and act in the strongest terms in the interest of the city (and beyond) to ensure street works are administered in a safe, neighbourly manner, including the cessation of tree felling and preference for retention.

    Yours sincerely,

    SSA, 18/08/2017

    — ENDS —

    If you have any queries please contact the following who are cc’d to this email:
    Dan Brown, President SSA: 0780 390 7221



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