Former Sheffield leader calls on government to intervene in street tree "chainsaw massacre"

Former leader of Sheffield City Council Paul (now Lord) Scriven used a planning debate in the House of Lords yesterday (14 April) to call for the government to heed residents' views in the ongoing debate over the city's tree-felling programme.

Having established that no changes are planned to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 Part VIII which covers urban trees, he asked Department for Communities and Local Government minister Baroness Williams: "Will she agree to meet me and a few people from the city of Sheffield who are fighting the felling of 18,000 trees by the city council?

"They feel both powerless and not listened to and have some suggestions about how communities could have a bigger voice and more power in trying to save tree-lined streets from what has been dubbed in Sheffield the 'chainsaw massacre' of trees."

But Williams pointed out: "The Streets Ahead initiative, which perhaps he is talking about, was implemented under his administration."

Lord (formerly David) Blunkett, home secretary under the last Labour government and previously also a leader of the council, added: "Would the Minister reflect on whether she has ever received a Question in this House from the leader of a city which was responsible for drafting the contract and service-level agreement, who then, when his party was in coalition, continued to claim credit for the deal signed off in 2009, and who now comes to ask your Lordships' House to intervene on something that is deeply sensitive—and for which I have a great deal of sympathy—but which requires to be settled locally as part of democratic local procedures?"

Former Arboricultural Association president Michael Nicholson Lord, Baron Framlingham, said: "The situation there is that a civil engineer is being asked to look after trees that he does not properly understand.

"I think the very least that the Minister could do is think about encouraging every local authority to put the issue of trees much higher on their list of priorities than they are at the moment."

The Labour peer Lord Kennedy of Southwark added sarcastically: "I think that we have all twigged why the noble Lord asked his Question: he is standing for election to the council in Sheffield next month. He is of course hoping that people will not see the wood for the trees and realise that he was leader of the council."

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