Managing and looking after street trees

Sheffield’s trees and woodlands are one of the city’s greatest natural assets and contribute to its reputation as one of the greenest cities in the UK. They provide many benefits for the people of Sheffield and make urban areas and local neighbourhoods more attractive and healthy places to live and work. There is strong and growing evidence that exposure to trees increases physical and mental health wellbeing, as well as supporting the ecology and biodiversity of the city.

Street trees are a crucial part of the city’s urban forest. They provide shade and shelter, help to clean the air, reduce the risk of flooding, and connect people to nature on their doorstep. As the local highway authority, we have a statutory duty to maintain the city’s highway network, including street trees. This is delivered through the Streets Ahead highways maintenance contract between ourselves and Amey.

Sheffield Street Tree Partnership Strategy 

The Sheffield Street Tree Partnership Strategy was published in May 2021 as a supplement to the Sheffield Trees and Woodlands Strategy 2018-33. It sets out guidance and direction for the management and maintenance of Sheffield’s street trees. The actions in the strategy aim to maximise the benefits that street trees bring to people, the city, and the wider environment.  

The strategy was developed by a group of partners including representatives from the Council, Amey, Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG), Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust, and independent experts, and was informed by a public consultation in 2020.

The approach in the strategy is focused on retaining street trees where possible by using a combination of highway engineering solutions, enhanced monitoring and maintenance, and decisions on the removal and replacement of trees made on a case-by-case basis.

Street tree management standards

All our street trees are assessed by qualified tree experts who hold current professional tree inspector qualifications from Lantra, one of the leading awarding bodies for land-based industries in the UK. Street trees are inspected on a ward-by-ward basis every 3 to 5 years. Additional inspections will take place when tree wardens or members of the public report a significant concern with a tree.

Street tree management guidelines

The Street tree guidelines help answer some of the most common questions about street trees that people ask us. The guidelines cover: 

  • street tree inspections
  • routine street tree maintenance
  • pruning works
  • bird’s nests and bat roosts
  • street tree work that we do not do
  • street tree removal and replacement

Outcomes of tree inspections

Public consultation on street trees 

In cases where, following inspection, Amey makes a recommendation to the Council for the removal and replacement of a street tree, a public consultation will be carried out on Citizen Space, the Council’s public consultation hub. 

The consultation will run for three weeks. Once concluded, the Council has ten working days to consider the recommendation, the consultation feedback, and seek a view from the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership on possible alternatives to removal and replacement, or specific conditions for carrying out removal and replacement. Any decision taken will then be published on the Council website. 

The consultation process gives residents the opportunity to have their say and challenge decisions surrounding street trees through an open and transparent process. We will prioritise the views of the nearest neighbours, being those most impacted from living close to the tree.

Trees identified for removal after 1 February 2021 will now be subject to the new process and following recommendation for removal by Amey will be open to public consultation ahead of any decisions being made.

If a street tree is determined as immediately dangerous to life and/or property, Amey will attend and make the tree safe. In this situation, there is no consultation and Amey does not need the approval of the Council prior to removal.

You can find out more about the decision process for Sheffield’s street trees in the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership Working Strategy.

Street Tree Wardens

We have several volunteer Street Tree Wardens across Sheffield who champion street trees in their local ‘patch’. They are the eyes and ears on the ground that help us monitor the health of existing street trees. Street Tree Wardens can get involved in supporting the planting and care of new young trees, influencing the location where new street trees might be planted, and species selection. 

Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of 30 hours per year to the role.

Sponsor a street tree

One of the outcomes of the work of the Sheffield Street Tree Partnership was to highlight the need to support community funded street tree planting. This might be in specific locations where feasible, or across Sheffield to contribute to a more equal distribution of urban forest across the city. 

We have secured a partnership with the charity, Trees for Streets, who run the National Street Tree Sponsorship Scheme.

If you, a resident, or community group want to sponsor a tree or trees, they can use the Trees for Streets website to select their desired location(s), maybe in their street, outside their homes or schools. These sponsorship requests are then surveyed by the council’s tree team, and if they are ok, the tree(s) will be planted that forthcoming winter. Residents can even take on the job of watering the new trees.

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