A £500,000 price tag put on saving war memorial trees threatened with the chop is “a slap in the face to the community, residents and our nation’s World War One war memory”, according to campaigners.
The trees at the centre of the controversy were planted in Western Road, Sheffield, to mark the sacrifice of men who went to the primary school on the street.
Of the 97 trees originally planted on the street in the Crookes area of the city, campaigners say 53 remain and, of these, at least 23 are earmarked for removal as part of Sheffield’s controversial street tree felling programme.
Now, Sheffield City Council has responded to the outcry over the plans by putting forward a proposal for special “engineering solutions” which will cost £310,000 in Western Road and a total of £500,000 for memorial trees city-wide.
But, in a report to councillors, officers have warned that undertaking this work “would require prioritisation of the potential tree works against other pressing council priorities such as social care”.
Councillors will decide what to do next week.
On Armistice Day last month, 150 artists staged a Draw the Living War Memorial event on Western Road to mark and record each of the 53 remaining memorial trees.
Dan Llywelyn Hall, the artist who organised that protest, said: “After encouraging comments from Sheffield Council that they were looking at serious alternatives for the Western Road war memorial, this bogus figure of half a million pounds on top of the contract committed, is a slap in the face to the community, residents and our nation’s World War One war memory.
“We thought the sentiment of the Armistice Day was clear and attracted people from all over the country to take part and celebrate these living beauties.
“We vow to continue with our peaceful drawing and shall not be moved from the easels when the time comes.”
The council report says that the trees earmarked for removal “fall into one or more of the council’s replacement categories of dead, dying, dangerous, diseased or causing damage or access problems”.
It also pledges to plant 300 new memorial trees in Sheffield’s parks before November 2018 “to create a permanent lasting war memorial for the city”.
The war memorial trees controversy is just part of the ongoing and long-running row over Sheffield’s street trees which has seen daily demonstrations in some of the city’s leafiest suburb.
The council says only a small proportion of the city’s 36,000 street trees are being removed because they are diseased or dangerous, and all are being replaced.
But protesters say many of the trees are being felled because their roots are getting in the way of the resurfacing methods used as part of a £2 billion private finance initiative agreement with contractor Amey.