Independent Inquiry into the Street Trees Dispute

Sheffield City Council staff will be stepping back from direct involvement to allow Sir Mark Lowcock KCB to develop the work of the Inquiry as he sees fit. All questions about the work of the Inquiry should now be directed to streettreesinquiry@weightmans.com.

Following the signing of the Co-operative Agreement between Labour and Green Groups, we have established an Independent Inquiry into the management of the street trees dispute.

The purpose of this inquiry is set out in the Independent Chair's Terms of Reference.

We want to make this inquiry as transparent as possible and keep the public up to date with its progress. This page will share:

  • updates on the inquiry progress and next steps
  • dates and times for all public meetings and evidence sessions
  • public meeting minutes and other documentation
  • how to have your say

Inquiry progress

Following completion of a robust national recruitment process, Sir Mark Lowcock has now been formally appointed as the Independent Chair of the Inquiry.

Sir Mark joins the inquiry as a highly regarded public servant with 35 years’ experience in public policy and international affairs. Until 2021 Sir Mark Lowcock held the position of United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. His previous work has also seen him negotiate on international treaties and agreements covering climate change, biodiversity and forests as well as supervising UK aid programmes to protect and sustainably manage tropical forests and other environmental assets.

Sir Mark’s previous roles also include Permanent Secretary for the Department for International Development (DFID) and Head of Environment Policy at the Overseas Development Administration, the predecessor to the Department for International Development. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and Distinguished Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Sir Mark has issued progress reports.

Public Hearings

From September 2022, Sir Mark will be holding public hearings. They will be broadcast live online. This page will be updated with a listing for each hearing before they commence. Each session will also be available to watch online shortly after it ends.

The public hearings will support the ongoing recovery in Sheffield from the street trees dispute, by providing an opportunity for those affected by the dispute to understand what happened, why actions were taken and to hear the story of the dispute from each other’s perspectives.

Each hearing will be a conversation between the Independent Inquiry Chair and a person relevant to the dispute who has been invited to attend. They will discuss key elements of the dispute, and the Chair will pose questions.

Public hearings will be broadcast on the following dates:

22 September 2022

27 September 2022

28 September 2022

29 September 2022

Details of further public hearings will be published in due course.

Independent Inquiry timeline

The key milestones in establishing the inquiry are:

19 May 2021

Following local elections the Leaders of the Labour and Green groups in Sheffield City Council signed a Co-operation Agreement. This contained a commitment to "appoint an independent person to conduct a local non-statutory inquiry into the management of the street trees dispute."

14 July 2021

Building on this commitment, we set out the initial steps towards appointing an Independent Chair for the Inquiry.

26 August 2021

Weightmans LLP are appointed as independent legal advisers for the duration of the Independent Inquiry. They will provide support and advice to council officers around recruitment of the Independent Chair and will remain in place to support the chair once appointed.

1 September 2021

We ran an online public meeting open to all stakeholders to brief them in more detail on our planned approach to the inquiry and offer an opportunity to engage, comment, or raise concerns. Watch a recording of the meeting.

9 September 2021: 

We ran an in-person public meeting as a second opportunity for stakeholders to engage, comment or raise concerns. You can find a summary of the key points raised in this meeting in the Independent Street Trees Inquiry Public Meeting – Record of Questions and Answers under Documents.

15 November 2021

Open recruitment to the position of Independent Chair of the Inquiry started. This followed an application process designed to identify an independent person, including an opportunity for key stakeholders to meet the short-listed candidates.

10 December 2021

Applications for the position of Independent Chair of the Inquiry closed.

11 January 2022

We held the Independent Chair Interview Day. This included an opportunity for the public to meet the short-listed candidates. Following this it was recommended that Sir Mark Lowcock be appointed as the Independent Chair of the Inquiry. You can read more about this on our Sheffnews page.

19 January 2022

The Council’s Co-operative Executive approved a recommendation to appoint Sir Mark Lowcock. You can find the report making this recommendation in Appointment of the Independent Chair of the Local Enquiry into the Street Trees Dispute under Documents.

January to March 2022

Sir Mark engaged broadly to develop the terms of reference for the Independent Inquiry, seeking to establish an approach that is acceptable to all parties. Recruitment to the team supporting the Inquiry also began.

9/10 March 2022

Sir Mark published the final Terms of Reference for the Inquiry.

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