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Woodland Trust grant will see Council ‘plant 10,000 trees a year’

A few short years after the charity joined forces with residents to battle Sheffield City Council, the combative relationship may have turned over a new leaf.

Treevitalise Pupils from Pipworth Community Primary School heading home after a day of planting at Manor Playing Fields with the Sheffield Community Forestry team

Pupils from Pipworth Community Primary School head home after a day of planting at Manor Playing Fields with the Sheffield Community Forestry team.

Sheffield Community Forestry

One of Sheffield City Council’s biggest critics in recent years has this month granted funding for a new Council project.

The Woodland Trust, which became embroiled in the infamous tree felling dispute after residents contacted them for support, has announced Sheffield is one of the 11 local authorities set to benefit from its £2.8 million Emergency Tree Fund.

Sheffield’s Treevitalise project, designed to encourage community involvement in the creation and protection of green spaces, will receive around £180,000.

Speaking of the new-forged relationship Joseph Coles, Urban Programme Lead at the Woodland Trust, said, “Beforehand it was always combative. We watched the challenging situation develop, and it is really heartening to see that in the last couple of years things have really changed.”

Coles said the Woodland Trust was ready to make good on the support it had previously offered the Council on the condition that it stopped felling trees.

“It seems like a really good time for the Woodland Trust to put its money where its mouth is. Now felling has stopped we can feel confident that we can work with them to showcase what can actually be achieved.

“It is the dogged determination of the residents that has made the change that got us here.”

A fragile truce was reached over the felling of street trees following negotiations between the Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG), the Council and private contractor Amey.

Thousands of healthy trees were cut down as part of the £2.2 billion Streets Ahead contract. Largely intended to improve pavements, many opposed the rationale behind the destruction. The ‘tree massacre’, as the Woodland Trust termed it, was paused in 2018 following a wave of protests.

Sheffield Street Tree Partnership, which brings together representatives from STAG, the Council and Amey, was formed in 2019. This collaboration has since enabled maintenance work to resume in South Sheffield, using a new, flexible strategy when handling trees.

Through Treevitalise, Sheffield City Council says it aims to plant 10,000 trees a year.

The new project, which will begin next month, boasts a wide range of other goals. The Community Forestry team will partner with six local schools to run tree education and planting sessions. The creation of community orchards and community forest gardens is also planned.

Treevitalise Pupils from Dore Primary School learning about tree planting techniques with the Sheffield Community Forestry team last December

Pupils from Dore Primary School learning about tree planting techniques with the Sheffield Community Forestry team in December 2020.

Sheffield Community Forestry

The news comes as a spokesperson for STAG told Now Then they believe more needs to be done at an institutional level within the Council.

A spokesperson for the group said, “I don’t think the concepts of trees, nature and biodiversity having real value are embedded within the entire organisation.”

Catherine Nuttgens, Community Forestry Manager at Sheffield City Council, explained that her team is looking to produce long-term changes.

“When Covid-19 restrictions lift, we want to run a lot of community events, not just around tree planting but also tree care. It’s about making sure we have a sustainable woodland for the future.”

In what the Woodland Trust says is rare move in tree funding, the Emergency Tree Fund can also be used to hire staff. Sheffield Council plans to recruit two part-time members of staff to help oversee the programme.

“The big hope is with those staff in place they then have opportunities to go and look for additional funding,” Joseph Coles of the Woodland Trust said. “£180,000 sounds like a lot of money, but it isn’t for a council.”

It’s not certain yet whether the greener future the Woodland Trust hopes to help the Council build will be realised, but a brighter relationship between those invested in the future of Sheffield’s trees at least signals a positive start.

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