Another week, another escalation by Sheffield Council and Amey.
Felling and “Reasonable Force”
This week began with them taking to the media announcing that they had been allowed to start using “reasonable force” to remove campaigners from blocking felling. What this has seemed to mean in reality is that the security guards have used some pretty questionable force to remove campaigners from insider the barriers. Not only that, but after an absence of 11 months, the Police are now attending felling sites and twice in the last 8 days made arrests. There is reason to believe that both the Police and the security guards are acting illegally and/or unreasonably, and these legal avenues are being explored.
Despite this further escalation, campaigners have shown ever more bravery in their attempts to peacefully prevent felling. Events this week focused on Meersbrook Park Road S6 (pictures here say a 1000 words, thanks Luis!) and some incredible bravery and ingenuity meant that over the course of 5 days only 4 trees were felled, two of which had been part felled already.
Whilst most felling crews were tied up there, other crews were circling the city for “hit and run” felling attempts. Dedicated campaigners across Nether Edge and elsewhere (Aldam Rd, Chatsworth Rd, both S17, Sackville Rd S10) in the city prevented these attempts valiantly.
This week ended with two pieces of news which we can now reveal for the first time.
Tree Preservation Order (TPO):
The first is that key campaign individuals have been, since September, working with DEFRA and DCLG to see if we can have a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) put on all 36,000 Sheffield street trees, given the lack of careful management being shown by Sheffield Council and Amey. You may or may not be aware that the right to impose TPOs has until now only been thought to be able to be done by Local Authorities. Actually, the 1993 legislation allows central government to do so also, if it feels that the Local Authority is not acting as it should. This part of the legislation has never actually been used in reality, and isn’t known about by many people. However DEFRA/DCLG seriously considered our application over a period of nine weeks, receiving multiple pieces of advice from their departmental solicitors. In the end, the advice Ministers received was that whilst they could impose the TPO, Highways Act legislation overrides TPOs when it comes to street trees. So there would likely have been a big court battle that cost central government significant amounts of money, only to lose. You can see the excellent evidence based application document for the TPO which campaigners submitted at the following link:
The evidence in it really is a treasure trove if you’ve never looked into some of the details of the campaign before.
Despite the TPO not being granted, the links we have made with DEFRA and the trust we have built with them is very strong, and they continue to support the campaign, aghast at the actions of Sheffield Council and Amey. We are supporting each other in a number of ways.
The saddest thing is just how constrained central government is when it comes to areas of responsibility devolved to the local level (such as highways and trees). We think the average person thinks that central government presides over everything, when the reality is very different, with local government presiding unchecked on many matters.
Yorkshire Post Amey Conviction Non Disclosure Article:
In other positive news, many of you might have seen that we have finally been able to publish in the media this story:
Huge thanks to the Yorkshire Post for doing some proper investigative journalism and confirming all the evidence campaigners had collated over the course of 14 months to bring this shocking tale.
In summary, Amey broke contract law when bidding for the PFI contract by failing to disclose information about an ongoing investigation into a health and safety violation related death, and then again when this investigation resulted in a conviction. By breaking the law, it invalidates the contract, and so Sheffield Council are entitled to terminate the contract without penalties. But they are choosing not to. There is more to come on this story….
Acorn Group Ltd Arb Association Accreditiation Saga:
For the avoidance of doubt, the eco vandals Acorn felling our healthy streets in Sheffield are NOT approved by the Arboricultural Association, but have been misleading Sheffield residents for a number of years by displaying the Arboricultural Accreditation badge on their vans. This was removed this week and was followed up by this statement. We like the reference to a “moral choice”, not sure how that aligns to a company senselessly felling healthy mature street trees!
No Parking Notices Complaints:
One of our supports has asked to include the following appeal in this update:
I wonder if you could publicise in your email to encourage people to complain about the No Parking notices. I have complained again this morning with a view to escalating this to the Ombudsman. A complaint has to go to the Council first and then to the Ombudsman if no action taken. I enclose a copy of my wording if anyone wants to use this as the basis for their compliant.
I would like to make a formal complaint about your abuse of power in relation to the continued display of No Parking Notices on ………. Road.
These notices have been placed on at least …….. occasions now, the current one running from 19th January for 8 days. This is the second notice that continues over a weekend.
This has caused me considerable disruption (reorganising building works and deliveries), inconvenience, uncertainty and stress.
There has been no work carried out on this road as stated in the notices and this appears now to be a blanket policy of displaying No Parking Notices for no good reason.
As such you are causing me unacceptable disruption through your maladministration and casual abuse of powers.
Please let me know within 5 days how you propose to deal with this formal complaint”
We think this is a good idea, so please take the time to make these complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org
French poet on the steets
There has been a passionate French poet (Benoit) on the streets this week, sharing his heartfelt passion on how he feels about the controversial healthy street tree removals in Sheffield:
Rivelin Valley Rd 24hr Charity Bike Ride:
“Gandalf” completed (240 miles!) a 24hr Charity (raising over a grand for the STAG Legal Fund!) Bike Ride up and down the iconic Rivelin Valley Rd, where several healthy trees are at risk. What a legend!:
Acorn polluting van:
This is Acorn’s van demonstrating their version of environmental management, it has been reported!
An early heads up for the next Save Nether Edge Trees public meeting. As usual it’s upstairs in the Banner Cross Pub, on Monday 27th January. Arrive at 7.45pm for an 8pm prompt start.