Hello Assistant Chief Constable Hartley
I am one of the councillors for Nether Edge & Sharrow ward, Alison Teal. The ward I represent has a high concentration of people involved in the tree protection campaign. They chose to live in the area because they love the street trees. I hope you will do me the courtesy of reading this email, I write with South Yorkshire Police’s best interests at heart.
The StreetsAhead organisation, a partnership of Sheffield City Council and Amey Hallam Highways, intends to fell a further 160 (approx) street trees in my ward as soon as possible.
I had a candid conversation with an Amey arborists recently who explained to me why he and his colleagues are no longer felling healthy street trees, and that a subcontractor, Acorn, has been brought in to do the work. He told me they had refused to continue with the felling programme because they could not get a reasonable answer from their managers for why one particular tree was being felled, and another was not, even though the extent of kerb displacement or pavement disruption was the same. The Amey arborists believe that the work to fell trees is not about highway maintenance, but about fulfilling a quota generated by financial modelling. The contract lasts for 25 years and to meet financial targets a percentage of mature trees are felled to reduce on-going maintenance costs. Amey arborists think this is not right. Neither do campaigners.
At this point you may be thinking about Mr Justice Males ruling, that the work is legal. Yes, there is no dispute that the statutory authority has the right to maintain the highway as it sees fit. It also had the legal right to neglect the highways for decades, which it did.
Do you recall the Rustlings Road fiasco? How the council mislead the police into thinking that the trees on Rustlings Rd posed an imminent safety risk which prompted the dawn raid? It was false. The trees were not dangerous, one still stands. From an FOI request we obtained an email from police saying that the council had “thrown us under the bus”.
Please take a circumspect view of the information you have been given from Sheffield City Council, Amey Hallam Highways, Acorn and SIA whom I understand you have held meetings with. You appear to have formed a view which you expressed during an interview on BBC Radio Sheffield on the Toby Foster programme, that it is ‘protestors’ who are violent and that they are the ones committing assaults against SIA operatives. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have listened to only one side.
The arrest of a campaigner for breaking an SIA operative’s wrist is a complete fabrication, anyone who knows him and has seen video footage of his interactions with SIA would be left in no doubt of his innocence. Neither the police or SIA have any evidence that he committed this assault. I am disturbed that you gave this any credence whatsoever.
Campaigners have been repeatedly assaulted by both SIA and Acorn operatives. Numerous reports have been made to the police who are moving very slowly in their investigations.
It is outrageous that peaceful campaigners are being tarnished by a person of your standing when it seems you have yet to examine the evidence that campaigners could readily provide you with, and have offered to the police under your command.
Thankfully, a small group of us had the opportunity to discuss the situation with three excellent officers yesterday, PC Rick Revitt, PC Mark Roxbrough and PC Phil Reed. I would urge you to speak with them at the earliest opportunity to gain a fuller picture of what has been happening on the streets of Sheffield. How residents are being treated with contempt by their Council and its partner, Amey, and subcontractors, Acorn.
The police are at risk of damaging their reputation by acting on spurious biased information from the StreetsAhead partners. I urge you to seek a full understanding of both sides of this horrible travesty of democracy and environmental injustice. There are sound rational reasons why residents are seeking to protect their healthy street trees, and I have no doubt they will continue to protect them.
Best wishes, Alison Teal
Cllr Nether Edge & Sharrow