I am delighted to sign up to STAG street trees manifesto

Posted by Natalie Bennett on 1st June 2017

Sheffield Green Party has been joined by national Deputy Leader Amelia Womack, with the focus of her visit being the loss of street trees in Sheffield to the decisions of the council and the actions of the for-profit private contractor Amey, which has a 25-year contract for managing the streets.

Natalie Bennett Amelia Womack Sheffield Tree Action Groups STAG

Sheffield Green Party members and councillors, myself included, have been supporting the Sheffield Tree Action Groups in their attempts to protect healthy, mature street trees around the city. Cllr Alison Teal from Nether Edge and Sharrow was among the people arrested in these peaceful efforts (although all charges against the protectors have now been dropped).

News of what’s happening here spread around the world after the astonishing 5am raid by the council and Amey on Rustlings Road. Sheffield is now becoming known as the “city that cuts down trees” rather than the green city.

Since Amelia’s visit, we’ve seen astonishing actions by the private contractor in racing around the city seeking to foil the public will and fell trees.

In this environment, it is great to see that the united Sheffield Tree Action Groups have produced a manifesto that simply, clear and conclusively points out that maintaining and enhancing the canopy of trees above our streets is in the interests of human health and wellbeing,  is important to tackling air pollution, and needs to be backed  by a comprehensive tree management strategy.

I am delighted to sign up to the manifesto and endorse all of its elements. If I am elected as the MP for Sheffield Central, I will make working on this a prioirity. That's what the health and wellbeing of Sheffielders demands.

More, the manifesto makes the point that Sheffield Green Party and I have been stressing ever since this issue arose – that handing public services over to private companies results in decisions being made for  profit rather than public good. Sheffield Green Party councillors have consistently opposed the initial decision to privatise street management, with the Green Party being the only party to consistently oppose privatisation of public services.

Historic trees like those the war memorial on Oxford and Tay Streets are an important part of our city’s fabric, but every tree is part of the life of its street and the residents past and present. Other cities are employing engineering solutions to ensure trees can be kept but pavements also made safe and accessible. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be happening in Sheffield. It is up to our democratic representatives to make sure this happens.

The Green councillors have expressed their concerns about a recent proposal to make some alterations to the Full Council meetings which will restrict the presentation of petitions on the same issues. This has been a major strategy of the wider tree campaign to raise councillors’ awareness of the strength of public feeling and the issues the Labour council have stubbornly refused to listen to. 

Electing the North’s first Green MP in Sheffield would send a message to the council about the importance of this issue, and about democratic decisionmaking, as will electing more Green councillors in upcoming elections.