Sheffield’s ‘bonkers’ tree felling programme fell short of good practice, says regulator

Sheffield City Council’s tree felling programme, once described as “bonkers” by the former environment secretary Michael Gove, “fell short of good practice”, according to an investigation carried out by the Forestry Commission.

The forestry regulator’s assessment was published late last month, following a year long investigation into whether or not the council had committed a statutory abuse by allowing the axing of thousands of trees across the city without a felling licence. 

While tree felling requires a licence under the Forestry Act 1967, some exemptions apply, including when a duty is imposed by another act of parliament. 

Sheffield City Council has long argued that the Highways Act 1980, which requires local authorities to maintain safe roads, including felling trees where necessary, gave it authority to fell some of its 36,000 city trees without a licence. In 2016, a High Court decision affirmed this legal duty to carry out the tree felling works.

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