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City's investigation into tree dispute dropped

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An investigation has been dropped into a dispute about a £2.2bn highways maintenance contract that has led to the arrests of protesters and a Green councillor being taken to court, LGC’s sister title New Civil Engineer reports.

Sheffield City Council, contractor Amey and Sheffield Trees Action Group (STAG) have reached a joint resolution after Amey agreed to reduce the number of trees it planned to fell by a third from the original 305 earmarked for replacement.

Consequently, Sheffield City Council has confirmed that it will not be carrying out an investigation into Amey as previously called for by protestors. 

Amey will pick up the additional costs of works, with a longer replanting scheme put in place as part of the resolution.

“The extra costs associated with retaining or phasing trees will be met in full by the council’s contractor, Amey, and there will be no additional cost to the Sheffield taxpayer,” the joint statement reads. “This also means that delayed resurfacing work on affected roads and footpaths will now go ahead in 2019.”

Amey Streets Ahead account director Darren Butt added: “Our inspections team will be made up of trained and experienced tree and highways professionals equipped with specialist kit, and with independent input from STAG as requested.

“The team itself will not remove any trees, but will carry out on-site inspections and may carry out immediate highway remedial work there and then if it will retain a tree while maintaining agreed highway standards.

“Crucially, we’ll be working with residents and stakeholders whilst still delivering the long-term benefits of the Streets Ahead contract at no extra cost to Sheffield’s taxpayers.”

It comes as Amey’s Spanish parent company Ferrovial looks to sell its services division.

Rumours have been circulating about interest from private equity firms, however a Ferrovial spokesperson insists that a final decision on whether to sell Amey has yet to be made.

“There are so much rumors and speculations in the market, but the fact is nothing has changed from our side since 16th October announcement,” a Ferrovial spokesperson said:

“The company has engaged an external consultant to explore the possibility of divesting part or all of the assets of the Services division that the company owns directly or indirectly. There hasn’t been made a decision yet.”

An industry insider told New Civil Engineer that Far East consultants would be likely frontrunners for a takeover when Ferrovial first made its announcement.

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