Sheffield City Council plan to cut down some of the most beautiful green suburbs in the country. The reasons they give do not make sense, either in arboricultural or highway engineering terms. That sounds like a rather wild claim, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you read this and thought that was an exaggeration. Come and look at what is happening in Shefield and you will see that it is not.
Sheffielders have a strong sense of place. It is one of the reasons why our city has avoided rioting (when nearby cities rioted) and has not shown the worst aspects of social division, even though we have areas of significant deprivation. That’s because we feel that Sheffield is ours. Our city. Yet Sheffield City Council and Amey PLC are hell-bent on destroying one of our city’s most outstanding features, our magnificent tree-lined streets.
This week, instead of listening to the citizens who voted them into the council-chamber, they have brought in security guards to come and film us secretly, disguised as tree-surgeons. Can you imagine what this feels like, to be spied-on in your own streets, when even the South Yorkshire Police have accepted that arresting peaceful campaigners is pointless becasue we are not breaking the law and the courts refuse to try us?
And all because we don’t want Amey to destroy avenues of cherry-blossom so lovely they take your breath away and people come from miles around to see them? Or ancient oaks that have stood for centuries on forgotten boundary-lines? Or towering limes that soften the brick and tarmac? Or Living War Memorials planted by the grieving survivors of young men whose bodies were never retured from WW1?
This week Sheffield City Council has brought in crews from other cities and sercret enforcers to spy on the peaceful protests of grandmothers and children. A senior manager in Amey is alleged to have assaulted a cheerful and urbane campaigner whose behaviour is known to be unprovocative. Arborists have been told to work 13-hour shifts in the boiling heat with dangerous machinery. They have felled trees in ‘hit-and-run’ strikes without safety-barriers that could have killed passers-by. Arborists have driven around in un-marked cars to make it easier to avoid scrutiny and make short-cuts on Health and Safety. They have nipped-out with their chain-saws to maim trees so badly that they have to be felled because they are dangerous. This is more horrible than anyone could imagine who has not seen it for them selves.
What we want is a halt to indiscriminate felling. We want SCC and Amey to talk to our arboricultural experts and finally agree to an expert-lead tree-policy that will make sound arboricultural and civic sense.
They don’t have to secretly film us to find out what we are about. All they have to do is listen when our 6,000 plus member try to tell them. Or listen to any Sheffield taxi-driver or primary-school child. We want our trees to be looked after because we love them and because they are ours.