Michael Gove calls for end to Sheffield tree felling scheme
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has called for an end to Sheffield's controversial tree felling programme.
In a letter to council leader Julie Dore, the Conservative politician said the Labour-run authority's actions were of "grave concern".
Thousands of trees, assessed as dead, dying, diseased, damaging or dangerous, have been cut down, but campaigners say some healthy trees have also been lost.
The council said "the majority of people" want to see the work completed.
In his letter, Mr Gove - who was appointed as environment secretary in June - said that following a recent trip to Yorkshire "it is clear that many of Sheffield's residents are deeply frustrated and angry" at the programme.
He said that "despite the strength of local feeling" calls to end the felling had gone "unanswered".
"If our aim is to leave the environment in a better state than we found it we must examine how our actions impact the next generation," Mr Gove added.
"The destruction of thousands of mature tress from the Steel City will surely damage our children's rightful inheritance.
"To that end, I would call on the council to listen to the people of Sheffield and end [the] tree felling and replacement programme."
The work forms part of the council's £2bn 25-year Streets Ahead project, which is being carried out by contractor Amey.
Responding to Mr Gove's letter, Sheffield City Council's director of culture and environment Paul Billington said: "We were surprised to receive a letter from Michael Gove that is full of inaccuracies, and seems to call for us to breach the terms of the Streets Ahead contract.
"The government, through the Department for Transport, are party to the contract, and it was at central government's instruction that the PFI model was used to finance this programme of work."
He added that 65,000 trees had been planted in the city in the past three years and said "only a very small minority of people in Sheffield object to the tree replacement programme".
Mr Billington said the council intended to invite Mr Gove to Sheffield to show him "first-hand what is really happening".