Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Protests at Sheffield tree felling debate

Natalie Bennett
Image caption Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett addressed protesters outside the meeting

A number of people protested outside a meeting where a petition against plans to chop down trees honouring World War One heroes was discussed.

Twenty three trees on Western Road in Crookes, Sheffield, planted by school pupils in 1919 are under threat.

Ex-Green Party leader Natalie Bennett told the crowd Sheffield City Council must put "history before profit".

Seventy one councillors voted for the issue to be referred to a cross-party group.

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Ms Bennett, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Central, said: "This is, as has been said, a war memorial. This recollects the hideous slaughter - the slaughter we've all said we must not forget.

"These are hugely important trees... this is a place to say we [the council] are going to save Sheffield trees - we are going to put history before profit."

Image caption Protesters gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall in protest against the proposed felling of trees on Western Road

Contractors plan to remove 23 trees on Western Road as part of the council's street maintenance programme, Streets Ahead.

The council debate was triggered by an online petition of more than 5,000 signatures calling for a rethink.

During the debate, 71 councillors voted for the issue be referred to a cross-party group and one councillor abstained.

Originally 100 trees were planted on Western Road by pupils from Westways School and 60 remain, along with the original plaque.

Image caption Dozens of people gathered to protest in Sheffield city centre

The trees are a recognised war memorial, and resident Alan Story told the BBC prior to the meeting: "It is 98 years later and the trees are perfectly fine. They need maybe some pruning, some work, but let's not cut them down."

Image caption Campaigners claim the trees are healthy and need maintaining not cutting down
Image caption The trees are a recognised war memorial honouring men killed in World War One

Councillor Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment, said the council was exploring all "options", such as contractor Amey looking at engineering solutions to include root excavations, as well as identifying sources of external funding.

Sheffield City Council has felled almost 4,000 trees since 2012 in a £2bn project to remove dead and dangerous trees from the roadside.

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