Background

Due to lack of public consultation often, the first time people hear about the Streets Ahead (SA) programme is when felling notices are attached to trees. As a result, this campaign has grown in stages, as felling notices have appeared in more areas of Sheffield. We protest strongly against the cutting down of thousands of trees lining the streets of Sheffield – often said to be one of the greenest cities in Europe.

Previously, the Council had built up 30 years of agreements on street trees, based on consultation with communities. These agreements were a commitment to the people of Sheffield – after all, they are our trees. When in 2012 the street management was outsourced to Amey, these agreements were lost or ignored. Amey have a clear profit motive – if they blitz the city’s trees in the first 5 years of their 25-year contract, they can spend the next 20 years with much lower maintenance costs.

When Councils outsource to private companies, with PFI contracts it’s bad for democracy (for more on the PFI contract see Resources). If you are a private company you are not subject to Freedom of Information laws, so there’s no scrutiny and no accountability. This is exactly what is happening here, and it has left people like you and me to try to regulate Amey’s actions. We have repeatedly called for our Councillors and MPs support to little avail. Sheffield City Council still have to sign off on every felling.

We want our Councillors to halt this destruction.

In September 2014 Dave Dillner and other Heeley residents started campaigning to stop the felling of 129 mature trees to make way for a new bus lane in Heeley. In Stocksbridge, in July there was disagreement about the controversial felling of the Melbourne Veteran Oak (a 450 year old tree). The tree was deemed “diseased”. But when an independent Arborist assessed this tree using the adequate and current assessment methods the structure of the tree was found to be uncompromised. Despite protests, the tree was still felled.

Meanwhile in West Sheffield, felling notices were attached to 11 mature trees on Rustlings Road which were due to be felled in Summer 2015. Local residents lead by Dr Deepa Shetty and Louise Wilcockson, decided to make a stance against the felling and started a petition under the heading SORT (Save Our Rustlings Trees). Due to SORT and other campaigners fantastic work, news of the SA programme and intentions began to spread. SORT presented their petition (now over 15000 signatories) and 32 page letter at Full Council on 14/07/15. See the letter here.

The Labour Council voted not to take the issue forwards, but set up a Tree Forum chaired by Cllr Terry Fox himself, to act as a place for ongoing “dialogue” about the SA programme. To date the first two Tree Forums have been fraught with problems. (See FAQs and Resources for more info).

During this period word continued to spread around Sheffield. Throughout the summer Greenhill suffered the loss of many trees and campaign groups sprung up in Bowood Road, Crookes, Sharrow, Netheredge, Dore, Abbeydale and more recently Crosspool, Norfolk Park and Burngreave. In August 2015, we had the fantastic news that the plans for the Heeley bus lane were to be “shelved” until further notice. Since then Dave Dillner has worked tirelessly to visit new campaign groups and support people in launching their local campaigns. He originally set up the STAG group on Facebook to help guide concerned residents of Sheffield to take peaceful action and call for a moratorium on all tree felling until an adequate tree strategy has been implemented as Council policy.

STAG seeks to encourage a systematic, integrated, sustainable, strategic, proactive approach to all aspects of the urban forest management and practice in every land use category. The tree strategy will encourage and enable a more open, honest, transparent, consistent approach, with greater accountability; it will also help ensure that assessments are balanced and that acts and omissions are proportionate, defendable and not unduly influenced by transitory or exaggerated opinions.

STAG has become the umbrella name for the various Save Sheffield Tree groups those established and those emerging. So far above 4000 trees have been felled in Sheffield. On November 17th the results of the Independent Tree Panel (ITP) for the 8 trees on Rustlings Road were published at 4.30am. The ITP set up by SCC recommended that 7 of the 8 trees should be retained. By 5am all but one of the trees had been felled. Assisted by South Yorkshire police who woke residents to move cars, Amey went about their work. Two pensioners were arrested on their doorstep for peacefully protesting. We feel this is a breech of our rights as citizens and an appalling waste of resources.

Please join us on social media, contact a local group or start a campaign in your area to help us end this unnecessary destruction. See the Take Action page for more on this.

We have a crowdfunding page specifically set up to help legal funds of the 5 brave souls who have now been arrested for peacefully protesting. We a thrilled to say that on January 26th the Rustlings Road 3 case was dropped. Thank you for all your support.

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/sheffield-trees-legal-fund

Thank you for your support.