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Save Chelsea Road elm tree

The British weather is always unpredictable, so when heavy rain was forecast in Sheffield yesterday, we didn’t know quite what to expect.

We were heading there to support the Chelsea Road elm tree, a much loved 120 year old street tree that local residents are fighting hard to protect. The tree is scheduled for removal as part of the city’s highway maintenance program.

The day

When we arrived in the Nether Edge part of the city we were greeted by an impressive sight. Not only was the weather good, but a large open top bus was parked on the side of a road right next to the huge canopy of a mature elm tree. It was filled with people looking up to try and spot the White-letter Hairstreak.

The event, put together by Save Nether Edge Street Trees, drew together experts from the Conservation Foundation (elm experts), Butterfly Conservation, Sheffield Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and, in the end, hundreds of local residents. It had a celebratory atmosphere, with face painting, storytelling and butterfly sighting opportunities all taking place around the tree.

The day’s aim was to draw attention to the significance and value of this tree in an attempt to help convince the city’s independent tree panel that it is worth saving. A decision on the tree’s future (and a possible reprieve) could come any day.

The clear consensus from young and old, expert and lay-person at yesterday’s event was unequivocal; the tree is causing minimal negative impact to the local environment, through a minor lifting of the pavement and road. It also provides huge benefits from everyday amenity value for the local community, to environmental and wildlife value.

Sadly this elm tree is far from alone in its uncertain future as part of Sheffield’s treescape. In fact thousands are scheduled to be removed with saplings planted to replace them as part of the aforementioned street tree program. It’s a contentious time with legal battles, protests and arguments continuing to shadow a city known for and rightly proud of its green heritage.

What next?

So what does the future hold? Well, only time will tell. We continue to look for opportunities to influence and help play a constructive role. Indeed we will continue to engage with the Council and look to ensure felling truly remains a last resort. This will be backed by expert evidence and we will support communities where VITrees such as the Chelsea Road elm are threatened.

So the argument about the future of Sheffield’s street trees rumbles on, but for this one mature elm tree, yesterday really was its day. Let’s hope it is not its last.