Pruning to Kill – Chelsea Elm 12th Feb 2018

three-chelsea-road-elm750x455.jpgTense standoff expected as Sheffield Council come to severely prune rare elm tree, ahead of felling it
Date: 11/02/18

CONTACT: Paul Selby – 07973 228365; selbypaul@hotmail.com

  1. This Monday 12th February, Sheffield Council intend to attack a rare and
    competition winning heritage tree, the Chelsea Road elm tree, as they
    begin their recently announced process to fell it
  2. Local residents are furious about the lack of engagement and intend to
    block all work until there is proper engagement
  3. Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust have strongly criticised the
    Council
  4.  Free specialist tree care was offered to the Council by experts, but was
    rejected
  5. The battle over this tree symbolises increasing lack of trust in Sheffield
    Council about wider issues, as a growing non-party political movement
    develops.

Local Nether Edge residents are furious with Sheffield Council for their arrogant
behaviour and lack of engagement about the threatened Chelsea Road elm tree.

On Monday 12th February, Sheffield Council and Amey have said they will come to
the tree to carry out what they call “essential safety pruning.

Residents strongly dispute this. Paul Selby, who has led the efforts to highlight the
importance of this tree says:
“It is now 53 weeks since the Council agreed to talk to me or anyone else in the
community about working collaboratively to save this tree. They know the strong
feelings from local residents about this rare and important tree and rare butterfly
colony. But instead of logically discussing the evidence based options that remain
available, instead they have chosen confrontation.”

The Council claim that the tree is badly decayed and dangerous. Paul quotes from
an independent report commissioned by the Council itself:
“The Council’s own independently commissioned reports say the tree is in good
health, and that all that is needed is some canopy thinning. They identify only one
branch with decay of particular note. The report says the branch is ‘within current
scientific observations for potential failure, though there were no features in the bark to indicate the beginnings of such.’”

The Council claim that campaigners will be to blame if local residents block any
pruning. Fellow local resident Anne Barr says:
“I have spoken at length to hundreds of local residents, something the Council have
failed to do. None of us dispute the need for one branch to be removed in the near
future, nor the need for gradual canopy thinning over time. But local residents have
simply lost all trust in the Council and Amey. They have lied repeatedly to residents,
and failed to talk to us. As a result, and until they properly engage with us, we will not
allow any work to proceed. We simply do not trust them.

We know the Council PR department will accuse us of preventing essential safety
work. If it was so essential, why didn’t they work collaboratively with us sixteen
months ago when the most decayed branch was first spotted?

In September, elm experts contact the Council to say they would carry out the
careful pruning of the tree for free, to minimise the risks of it catching Dutch Elm
Disease. The intransigent Council refused.”

The real reason the Council are suddenly so desperate to prune the tree is because
they have suddenly realised that the rare White Letter Hairstreak butterfly eggs will
hatch into caterpillars in just two weeks’ time. Once they hatch, translocation of the
butterfly colony will become near impossible until September, when the colony will
again be at the egg stage of its lifecycle. Paul Selby, who is also a butterfly
enthusiast said:
“Translocation of butterfly colonies rarely works in the long term as all the academic
studies show. The Council are claiming that the Wildlife Trust support the
translocation plan. However, as the Wildlife Trust press statement says, the best way
of ensuring the survival of the colony is to retain the tree, and carefully manage it.
The Trust are only reluctantly helping the translocation efforts because the Council
have been so intransigent in insisting the tree will ultimately be felled.”

A tense standoff is expected at the elm when the Amey arborists arrive on the corner
of Chelsea Road and Union Road in Nether Edge on Monday morning.

All of this tension between the local community and Sheffield Council highlights an
emerging city wide movement against party politics, which has its origins in the street
tree campaign, most notably the “It’s Our City” movement.

For more information contact Paul Selby – 07973 228365; selbypaul@hotmail.com

Appendix – Additional Useful Information

Why is the tree important?
1. It is a rare 120 year old survivor tree. 60 million of its species have been killed by
Dutch Elm Disease (DED) since the 1920s.
2. Less than 1000 old elms survive in the UK, outside of the cordon sanitaire zones
in Brighton and Edinburgh
3. It is host to a colony of the rare White Letter Hairstreak butterfly, a species that
can only survive on elm trees, and which has declined by 97% since the 1970s
4. The tree was Silver Medal winner in the 2016 English Tree of the Year
competition

Why do the Council want to fell the tree?
1. Their original reason for felling was damage to the road and pavement
2. There is no doubt that some damage is being done, but nothing a simple repair
job would not correct on this quiet residential road junction
3. Amey have quoted £50,000 for a “bespoke” engineering solution, but an
independent engineer employed by the campaign quoted between £1500 and
£3500 for the same solution
4. To be fair, Amey later offered to do a “patch and repair” job on the junction for
free. The Council have yet to explain why they refused this
5. More recently, the Council have suggested the tree is “dangerous” and needs to
be felled. They have suggested independent arborist reports said the tree was
“badly decayed.”

Why do tree campaigners dispute the need to fell the tree?
1. The Council still have not answered why the free “patch and repair” job offered
by Amey has been refused.
2. Under pressure from the campaign, the Council has published the independent
arborist reports, which say the tree is in “good health.” The reports mention a
single branch which is soft and needs removing, and the fact the canopy needs
thinning to remove any further chances of decay where the tree was previously
pruned 20 years ago
3. As a very rare tree, host to a rare butterfly, everything should be done to protect
the tree, and the habitat it provides, in its current state
What is the official Council plan?
4. The Council plan is to severely prune the tree, to remove the “severe decay” in
February 2018, and completely fell it in summer 2018
5. As the severe pruning is taking place, under the guidance of experts from
Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, the plan is to inspect each branch
removed for butterfly eggs, and to remove any eggs found, translocating them to
a different elm tree (or trees)
6. The Council also plan to take cuttings from the elm tree, cultivate them, and to
plant these across the city.

Why do tree campaigners disagree with this plan?
1. Apart from the complete disagreement with the need to fell the tree in summer
2018 (reasons already described above), the Council plan is flawed for three
reasons
2. Firstly, severely pruning the tree will almost certainly mean the tree is unable to
fight off an attack from the elm bark beetle (and therefore Dutch Elm Disease)
next spring, and will die. Huntingdon Elms are resistant but not immune to the
disease
3. Secondly, whilst butterfly translocation plans can be successful in the short term,
they are rarely successful in the long term. The new host tree(s) to the
translocated butterfly eggs are unlikely to be resistant Dutch Elm Disease, and
given the current epidemic sweeping the city, are likely to die from the disease in
the next five years, leaving nowhere for the butterfly to lay its eggs on
4. Thirdly, the cuttings the Council plan to take are likely to die from Dutch Elm
Disease as soon as they reach maturity. Huntingdon Elms are resistant to the
disease when they are much older and able to “cut off” the disease by “selfsacrificing”
six feet of branches that have been infected. Young trees do not
have long enough branches to “self-sacrifice” and so the whole tree dies.

In summary, what do the tree campaigners want the Council to do?
1. Firstly we want them to have a full, transparent and honest conversation
2. Secondly, we want them to implement the free “patch and repair” pavement and
road solution which Amey has offered
3. Thirdly, we agree that the one badly decayed branch needs removing, to remove
any immediate danger
4. Fourthly, we want elm experts to be consulted so that a mutually agreed canopy
thinning plan can be implemented over a number of years. This plan to achieve
the aims of:
a) maximising the chances of the butterfly colony surviving;
b) minimising the chances of the tree being killed by Dutch Elm Disease; and
c) removing any weaker branches that may become unsafe as time goes by

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Posted in Blog, Citywide Tree Preservation Order, Healthy Felling, News, Uncategorized

#SaveSheffTrees Update – w/e 09/02/18

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Another incredible week in the tree campaign this week.

No Felling:
Firstly, the really good news, we’ve had another seven days without any felling of any Sheffield street trees anywhere across the city. We are now at 20 days since the pause began. We still don’t know the full reasons why, but we suspect it is because the Police have refused to attend felling sites and observe without action the private security staff assaulting peaceful campaigners. The Police’s already tarnished name is being further tarnished by being dragged into the mire. Sheffield Council and Amey will certainly be planning new tactics, and they could return to fell any day, so all of us need to remain alert.

Council Meeting “Sit in”:
Secondly, a big highlight of the week was the national coverage received on Wednesday night and Thursday morning as a result of a number of campaigners staging a peaceful “sit in” in the Council chambers during the latest Council meeting, where the campaign tables a motion for #transparency. The inventiveness of many in the campaign really is quite incredible.  More details here , note the “respect” some of these elected council members show the campaign speaker.

Chelsea Road Elm Imminent Vandalism Mon 12th Feb and how to support:
However the big low from last week was the Council announcing plans to come and severely prune the Chelsea Road elm tree this coming Monday 12th February. In their press release, the Council are saying they are only doing essential safety work. This is a complete lie! Nobody in the campaign disputes the need for one decayed branch to be removed in the short term, nor the need for careful canopy pruning spread over a number of years, but the Council intend to do severe pruning tomorrow, which will wipe out the butterfly colony on the tree, and expose the tree to Dutch Elm Disease. Full details can be found in the press release here.

What we therefore need is as many of you as possible to do tomorrow is be at the elm tree from 8am onwards. Even if you can only spare an hour, please attend. The more support demonstrated the better. We know that you and the community support saving this tree very strongly. We therefore need to demonstrate to Amey, Sheffield Council and the media in attendance that we won’t be bullied by a Council that refuses to engage in evidence based discussion.

We are of course alive to the fact that with so many campaigners likely to be at the elm, Amey may try some hit and run felling elsewhere in Nether Edge and Carter Knowle. Patrols in key locations will still be in place, but all of you, whether at the elm or elsewhere, need to keep your phones on loud for alert messages elsewhere, and attend those sites if needed.

Sheffield Tree Art Sheffield (STARTS) – Chelsea Elm paint-off :
Thanks so much to everyone who braved the rain and came along to paint the Chelsea Elm with Street Tree Art Sheffield (STARTS) – Community Art Project this morning. What fabulous folk you all are! Some awesome artwork and great chats with passers by – and a surprise visit from Caroline Lucas, with Alison Teal and Natalie Bennett, to see what we were up to. Pictures here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Blog, Healthy Felling, News, Uncategorized

#SaveSheffTrees Update – w/e 02/02/18

DVBdGA2WAAA6CdlFelling Pause:
As we write this on a Sunday, it has now been 13 days since an attempted felling on a street anywhere in Sheffield!

Labour Party waking up to campaign:
The divisions within the Labour Party ranks really are growing. More and more local branches are taking forward motions to ask the leaders of their own party to change course, and last week, the influential Momentum Group within Sheffield also came out against the PFI and felling, more here.

Amey next steps:
Over a week ago, in an interview on BBC Radio Sheffield, Toby Foster asked Darren Butt (Head of Amey in Sheffield) what the next move would be from Amey, after the pause. Would it be to give up, or hit the campaign harder? Without hesitation, Darren Butt answered, they wouldn’t give up. But the reality is that Sheffield Council and Amey are unlikely to be able to take that stance. Hitting the campaign any harder would likely involve proactive assault, (rather than reactive “reasonable force”), and the Police are unlikely to allow that to happen. Sheffield Council and Amey have been stupid before, but there may now finally be the realisation that compromise and negotiation is the only way out for them. Let’s see. But many in the campaign now feel there is real hope.

Campaign next steps:
However, like the motto “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”, learning from previous lulls, that is what the campaign is doing. Patrols continue every day, whatever the weather, to protect our lovely trees. The dedication of people is incredible.

And now is also not the time to relax. We might now have the advantage, so this is the time to press forward the advantage. Everyone reading this email needs to continue doing all they can to pressure the Council and Amey. Freedom of Information requests, complaints, letters to Councillors, letters to Amey, letters to the Police, literally all you can. The pressure cooker on the Council and Amey is creaking under the intense pressure at the moment, and we want it to break down.

Calvin’s Court Case:
There is a court case this week. It’s about the £16,000 fine Calvin was given in his September injunction case. Calvin has tried to reasonably negotiate a payment plan, but the Council have refused to negotiate, and are taking him back to court. Let’s hope this backfires on the Council again.

This week’s full Council meeting:
Should also be interesting! Lots more difficult questions will be asked by members of the public, and a motion has been tendered by the Liberal Democrat opposition requesting that the PFI contract is ended. It could be fiery. Join the discussion here. Sheffield City Council’s QC is a mouth watering £15k + VAT per day!

Campaign ‘Lego Set’:
Hilarious bespoke ‘lego set’ from one of the ‘master builder’ campaigners here.

Tales from Stump City Documentary:
In the pipeline and sounds like it will be a powerful, must see documentary, but needs support, see here.

Now then Magazine:
Laurence Peacock has written an excellent account of the campaign. You can access it on line at: nowthenmagazine.com


 

 

 

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Posted in Blog, Healthy Felling, News, Uncategorized

STAG meeting with Police & Crime Commissioner

STAG Meeting with Police and Crime Commissioner, 30/01/18

At PCC Office, Carbrook, 3:30-4:30 pm

Present:
Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner
His assistant taking notes
Chris Rust, on behalf of STAG Steering Group
Paul Brooke, Meersbrook Park Rd resident on behalf of Save Gleadless Valley Trees
Russell Johnson, witness and Tree Campaign evidence gatherer present at recent events on Meersbrook Park Rd and other felling sites.

Prior to the meeting we had sent Dr Billings a briefing note (below) setting out some recent history and some significant issues we wanted to discuss. As Police and Crime Commissioner he has no operational control, that’s up to the Chief Constable who has direct responsibility for enforcing the law and ensuring public safety according to his experience and expertise, but the PCC controls budgets and has a great deal of influence over policy in a general way.

We had three main aims for the meeting​:

1. To ensure that Dr Billings understood how matters had escalated and how each new development in Amey’s efforts to fell trees despite protests had resulted in a strengthening of campaign support and reciprocal efforts from campaigners that had made the Amey approach largely ineffective.

2. To explain to Dr Billings our view that there was a deadlock between Amey and SCC, with Amey apparently obliged to pursue increasingly uneconomic and draconian efforts to fell trees and SCC remaining obdurate in their unwillingness to seek a solution that would be acceptable to all parties.

3. To tell Dr Billings about the most recent events, in particular focusing on the role of the police and our concerns about police being unwilling to monitor the actual events at felling sites closely enough to see whether unreasonable or criminal force was being used.

We also took the opportunity to stress that protestors were undertaking peaceful action which sometimes involved standing or sitting in barriered zones but they were not interfering directly with the tree workers or their safety.

It was apparent that Dr Billings is very uncomfortable​ with the way things are developing and in particular the way the police are being drawn into what he sees as a political problem that should be solved by the council working with citizens. In his view “politics is about solving problems.” The cost to the police in terms of their limited funds, their reputation and their ability to work with the public is of great concern to him. He acknowledged that SYP have historic problems from well-known events such as Orgreave and Hillsborough and of course they are anxious to avoid being sucked in to further difficulties.

He was very interested in our account of the history and developing issues and asked pointful questions. He had the impression that the ITP was a pointless exercise as it led to no change in the felling programme and did not reduce public opposition to the programme.

We discussed the point that, in many cases, if ITP recommendations to save a significant proportion of trees had been followed, many residents may have been happy to accept the remainder of the fellings.

He was interested in the dynamics between Amey and SCC and we feel he gained a better understanding of how the contract was operating in relation to our trees. We made it clear that while it was Amey who are doing the work and seeking to enforce the contract on the streets, Darren Butt has acknowledged to several of us at different times that what they are doing is completely uneconomic but forced on them by their contract, the compensation consequences of not pressing on being potentially even more damaging. Meanwhile we believe that SCC Councillors and officers seem to be determined to stick with the contract and oblige Amey to carry on.

Political Issues

Dr Billings has no direct influence on the Council but he was deputy leader of SCC, when David Blunkett was leader, and is a distinguished member of the Labour Party who has dealings with both senior councillors and some senior officers of the council. It was clear that he was interested in any opportunity to help resolve this mess and was very interested in the political and contractual issues we raised. His own political instinct is for the council to work with the public.

We also mentioned the ‘Strong Leader’ model in force at SCC, and how it diminished the power of the cross-party Highways Committee who would normally have a good deal of say in these matters. Dr Billings commented that this was very different from his experience as a councillor so we hope we have alerted him to some significant problems, including the role of Council Officers who seem to him to have much more control of things than in the past.

We told him about our impression of the way council officers operate, especially the role of Paul Billington, who appears to be caught between professional highways engineering officers who work for him but have the technical authority and whose professional standing may be tied up in the contract, and his superiors Laraine Manley and John Mothersole who have been involved in the contract for a long time.

Police Issues

Regarding policing, especially in the past two weeks, we told him about some particular incidents where we believe excessive force was used. In particular we mentioned the evidence of SIA staff prising a protestors hands free of the park railings, and video evidence that an SIA person appeared to deliver a very vigorous punch to a protestor.

We explained that in these cases onlookers had attempted to draw Police Officers’ attention to the excessive or inappropriate use of force but the police officers had been determined to remain passive and at a distance from the action, as shown on video.

The point in each of these cases was that observers and evidence gatherers from the tree campaign were prevented from approaching closely enough to see properly what happened, eg a crucial part of the punch evidence on video was masked by a bystander’s body but would have been visible to an observer able to stand closer. Police Officers had the opportunity to enter the barriered zone and keep a closer watch for criminal, dangerous or disorderly behaviour but they chose not to.

We explained also that we were seeking a Barrister’s opinion on the use of force to enforce section 303 of the Highways Act and that may show that the law is not as liberal as Amey believe. It appears that previous court judgements may not support the use of force against people who do not enter an established barriered zone, eg if they were already in position when the zone is set up or they are protesting outside the barriers.

If this is established in an Opinion or in a court case, it is likely that some of the actions by SIA witnessed recently may be assault, and the Police may receive complaints of standing by while assault was committed. Dr Billings understood this point so we hope it will give him and the Police food for thought.

Current Situation – Pause in fellings

We discussed the current pause in fellings. Dr Billings was not aware of what decisions had been made although he had been told by SCC that there was a pause. We said we believed that the Police had the power to allow or prevent the use of force as it appears that Police observers must be present for the SIA to use force in situations like this.

This led to a discussion about the likelihood of Amey being able to persuade the Police that they can ensure a safe and secure workzone, clearly that was not happening last week in Meersbrook when large numbers of residents were engaged in treehugging and it is difficult to see how Amey might achieve that without the use of extraordinary numbers of staff and time-consuming preparations. Dr Billings was obviously very worried about the resources that police may need in such situations and the likelihood of escalation of protests as has happened in the past.

We also touched on the impending start of fracking work in South Yorkshire. Clearly the impact of political decisions on local communities that are prepared to protest imposes a huge burden on the police, Dr Billings mentioned the cost to Lancashire Police of fracking protests. We mentioned the situation revealed in the ‘Bentley Effect’ documentary in which the New South Wales Police were faced with 1000 protestors and, given the impossibility of enforcing fracking without a huge cost in resources and loss of political standing, the NSW government withdrew the fracking licences. The parallels with our situation with Street Trees were clear.

Police drawn into PR war

We mentioned the way that Amey had sought to embroil the police in arresting protestors for criminal damage or obstruction, largely to create an antisocial impression for Amey’s and SCC’s PR effort. We pointed out that so far none of these cases have come to court and all but one were dismissed very quickly when the police saw the evidence, despite frequent assurances from Amey’s Evidence Gatherers that they had witnessed and recorded the alleged crimes on video.

We also took time to explain some of the ways in which people protested at felling sites, stressing the peaceful and passive nature of direct action focused on standing in safety zones, and not attempting to interfere directly in the work or endanger the safety of workers.

We did not have time to mention the allegations of poisoning of Amey workers and the way the police, who appear to have given little credence to the claims, seem to have been railroaded into unnecessary action by SCC’s PR department releasing details of the case to the press. We are including it here so Dr Billings will be alerted when we send him a copy. The result seems to have been widespread public ridicule of the claim.

In conclusion this was a positive discussion​ with somebody who has influence, if not direct control, with both the Police and SCC. We felt he now has a clearer picture and we were particularly encouraged that he saw real dangers for the police in this situation, and sees the solution in political compromise rather than confrontation. The latest developments have brought the tree campaign back onto his agenda and he has a strong interest in avoiding further confrontations on the street so we will hope that he is able to influence the different parties for a worthwhile change of policy.

/pre-meeting briefing note follows…

STAG Meeting with Police and Crime Commissioner, 30/01/18 Outline of issues, sent to PCC ahead of meeting

Our main concerns are to do with the use of ‘reasonable force’ by Amey employees at tree felling sites, and the way in which this has escalated the conflict between Amey and citizens, with the Police caught in the middle.

1. The pattern over the past two years ​has been that SCC and Amey have sought to impose their tree felling plan on the city, despite objections, and each time the PFI contract partners have taken a new initiative it has heightened the conflict with citizens, who have pushed back in whatever way they can, generally the SCC and Amey schemes have failed to achieve their aims.

a. Summer 2016​ The first ‘dawn raid’ by Amey led to police involvement as well as stimulating the tree campaign.

b. Nov-Dec 2016 ​Amey’s request for arrests under TULRA at Marden Road followed by the pre-dawn raid on Rustlings Rd led to public outcry and a great many difficulties for the police.

c. Feb 2017 ​The attempts to use TULRA in February 2017 led to mass protests, 14 arrests and eventually a legal opinion that brought Police involvement to a halt.

d. Summer 2017 ​The injunction sparked a wave of civil disobedience with protestors defying the injunction to halt fellings.

e. Autumn 2017 ​The prosecutions for Contempt of Court in the autumn were, arguably, a complete failure. One defendant was found guilty but he had set out to break the injunction in a public and deliberate way, the other defendants were found not to have broken the injunction and it was clear that Amey had been cavalier in the interpretation of the law and gathering of evidence.

f. Since then campaigners have become ever more determined. Amey have made several attempts to involve the police with accusations of lawbreaking which have not been supported by the evidence.

g. January 2018 ​Once again the Police are involved directly, through facilitating use of force, but this has not enabled Amey to carry out their planned work. Instead it has led to even more determined resistance and large scale civil disobedience.

h. Since Christmas Amey have called the police to arrest campaigners on several occasions. Three people have been arrested following assurances by Amey’s professional Evidence Gatherers that they had video evidence of the alleged crime. One arrest lasted 10 minutes until it was pointed out that it was mistaken identity, another led to no prosecution once the police had examined the video. The third is going to court but only on one of the charges alleged by Amey and the defendant’s lawyers appear very confident that it will be dismissed as the video evidence contradicts the claim.

2. Public outrage against Amey is now complemented by outrage against the Police. ​Amey’s repeated escalation of efforts to fell trees has led to corresponding increases in the number of people coming out to protest. Unfortunately their anger is now turning into strong criticism of the police when they are perceived to be standing by and enabling unreasonable force and this can be seen every day on social media.

3. We are seeking a Barrister’s Opinion ​on use of force in relation to S303 Highways act and S3 Criminal Law Act. We believe that at least some actions taken by Amey contractors may not be sanctioned by precedent. If we believe that contractors have gone beyond what the law allows we may decide to seek prosecutions for assault.

4. You will know that, following her observations on Meersbrook Park Rd on 22 January, Louise Haigh MP ​has called for a halt and review of the situation which we welcome.

5. Darren Butt of Amey has acknowledged​ (conversation with Chris Rust) that the present situation is absurd and Amey are spending ridiculous amounts of money to fell very few trees. Any economic argument has been left well behind. It appears that Amey find themselves trapped by contractual obligations that they cannot avoid, and SCC are standing back and insisting that Amey meet those obligations. Our best interpretation is that the PFI contract has put both of the main partners in an impossible situation facing compensation claims from the financial partners and they are so determined to limit those claims that any consideration of what is technically or economically needed is off the agenda. The present debate about the problems of PFI and other large scale outsourcing schemes certainly indicates the problems that might lie behind this crisis.

6. STAG has recently approached SCC​ with a proposal for an open discussion and examination of the decisions to fell trees, following the widely used process of ‘Root Cause Analysis’, in the hope that might reveal unrecognised issues and lead to a better shared understanding. Such an approach may reveal decisions that might reasonably be changed within the contract scheme. However SCC have said that they feel it is too late to carry out such a review. We feel that it has always been difficult to have an open discussion with SCC. In 2015 we experienced great hostility from the then Head of Highways. In 2017 attempts to work together were frustrated by a very fragmentary process and lack of continuity in discussions. We are also very concerned about what we perceive as a culture of hostility and ill-temper in SCC.

7. The particular situation on Meersbrook Park Road​ encapsulates the problem. The first attempts to fell trees there started early in the autumn of 2017 and over the months the level of determination to resist by residents in that street and nearby has risen steadily. The great majority of protestors are local residents and most of them are older people who have never had any conflict with the law in the past. They are honest people who feel that civil disobedience is necessary if the authorities are no longer protecting their local environment from corporate power.

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Posted in Minutes from official meetings, News

#SaveSheffTrees Update – w/e 26/01/18

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Felling:

First the good news, not a single street tree was felled in Sheffield last week. The reason for this is the hugely brave efforts of campaigners on Meersbrook Park Road.

Violence:

On Monday they were subjected to the worst violence we’ve seen so far from the private security guards employed by Amey. Indeed even people who were standing outside of the safety barriers were subject to what most people view as assault (not reasonable force) and suffered injuries. This tweet on Twitter has also been doing the rounds. See this video on YouTube, it’s is not the worst example of violence by any means, those of you on Facebook will have seen the worst ones.

The local MP for that area, Louise Haigh, saw the violence first hand and so for the first time, spoke out against the felling.

It is therefore no coincidence that felling has been paused since then, with Amey’s Darren Butt confirming the pause in an interview on Thursday. This is good because it has put them on the back foot for the first time since 27th November. But be under no illusion that this is all positive. The heroic efforts on Meersbrook Park Road have caused yet another PR headache for Amey and Sheffield Council, but they have confirmed they will be back next week, having reviewed their options.

The Police have been in attendance for the last two weeks, and have stood by as the violence has escalated. They are trying to tread a fine line, allowing Peaceful Protest, and not arresting campaigners unless clear laws are broken. But they are also watching on as reasonable force by the security guards turns to unreasonable force, and then assault.

Importantly, there are things you can do to help. You don’t have to have been the victim of a crime to report one. If you have been shocked at either the videos shared with you or other videos and believe a crime has been committed (as we do), then click on the below link and report the crime. Be sure to note that the events occurred on Meersbrook Park Road on Monday 22nd January. The more people who report the crime, the more likely the Police are going to step in and prevent such violence from the Security Guards. Please do this. We need to pressure the Police into acting to stop the violence.

https://www.reportingcrime.uk/SYPincidentreport/

#Teagate

You may well have seen in the media a story about tree campaigners poisoning arborists with laced tea. This is clearly fake news and we’re genuinely appalled that such outrageous accusations have been mainly lapped up by the unquestioning media. This was clearly a planned diversionary media story by Sheffield Council and Amey to drown out the stories of assault. A lighter take on this story can be read here!

Alleged Injunction Breach:

We also found out this week that another campaigner will be taken to court for breaching the injunction. We are only aware of one so far, but expect more in the coming weeks.

STAG PR Team Vacancies:

But what it does highlight is the absolute need for STAG to have its own PR team and PR lead. Many of those previously doing this vital work have had to step down due to other life priorities. Anyone reading this who has PR/media expertise, and who has the time to be able to do such a role in STAG, please let us know via the website contact page.

Tales from Stump City Documentary:

Coming soon to a screen near you. A story of people from across the city and from all backgrounds, coming together, all bonding over the unnecessary felling of mature healthy street trees. The makers of this ‘must watch’ documentary need your support to get it over the production line, please visit here

No Stump City Group:

You may also be aware of the No Stump City group, which led the efforts on the Jeremy Corbyn petition, and which has also tirelessly picketed Labour Party meetings across the city. This has led to some success. Their latest set of picketing is coming up next week, see below details

WHAT: Information picket/ outside lobby of Sheffield Momentum meeting.
THEME: “Axe PFIs, not trees”
DATE: Wednesday, 31 January
TIME: 6:25 p.m. (sharp) to 7:15 p.m.
PLACE: Central United Reformed Church, 60 Norfolk St. S1 2JB
A special welcome is extended to our NVDA ‘brigades’ to also work a brief evening shift on 31 Jan. and give Momentum members ‘the straight goods’ on MPR trees (and elsewhere)
More details and a Facebook event (of course!) coming soon.
NO STUMP CITY   no.stump.city@gmail.com

Next Meeting:

Finally just a reminder about our own next Public Meeting being held this coming Monday 29th January in the upstairs room at the Banner Cross Pub. As ever, arrive at 7.45pm for an 8pm prompt start.

 

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Police investigate ‘poisoned tea’ plot in tree dispute | Daily Mail Online

A couple have been questioned by police and accused of handing poisoned drinks to workers on a tree felling scheme that has left a city up in arms.

Retired health and safety officer Dr John Unwin and his architect wife Sue said they were astounded to be visited by detectives last Saturday and spoken to voluntarily.

The couple, who have been fighting Sheffield council’s moves to fell the ‘beautiful’ limes outside their Victorian villa as part of a scheme to remove 6,000 trees in the city, even had their kitchen cupboards searched.

Neither has been arrested but Dr Unwin, who handed out the drinks, has been told he may have to attend a police station at a later date.

South Yorkshire Police said the accusations against them date from October when the Unwins served two cups of tea and an orange squash to three tree surgeons working near their home on Chatsworth Road in the upmarket suburb of Dore, where houses sell for up to £500,000.

All three men are said to have become violently ill, with one needing hospital treatment.

Dr Unwin, 60, and his 59-year-old wife, who have two grown-up sons, vehemently deny any wrongdoing and insist they served the drinks only as a ‘delaying tactic’ to frustrate the felling work.

So far, five of the lime trees on the street have been chopped down, with two more to follow. The city council is felling thousands of trees as part of a highways maintenance programme, including healthy species where it says their roots are causing an obstruction or damage.

Dr Unwin, whose front gates are decorated with the yellow ribbons which have become the symbol of tree protesters in the city, said: ‘Poisoning people’s tea sounds like a plot from an Agatha Christie novel or something involving a Russian dissident – but Sheffield’s a different place. We don’t do that kind of thing.

‘You couldn’t make it up. I’m just sorry the police are having to waste their time.’

Dr Unwin, who was involved in chemical safety when he worked for the Health and Safety Executive, added: ‘We were astounded to be visited by CID. There were two officers, a man and a woman.’

Mrs Unwin said: ‘Even though it allegedly happened so long ago, we never heard anything about it until last Saturday. It’s alleged we put something in the drinks which hospitalised one of them and the other two had to take time off work. I’m horrified that anyone could do something like that.’

She added that she and other residents have tried to negotiate with the council over the number of trees being felled. ‘We had a ballot on the street and 80 per cent said they shouldn’t be felled,’ Mrs Unwin said. ‘An independent panel advising the council said they were healthy and should be left but they are going ahead anyway. They said if they compromise for us they’ll have to do the same for everyone else.’

South Yorkshire Police confirmed details of the investigation. Officers have carried out forensic tests and taken witness statements, but no arrests have been made, a spokesman said.

The alleged poisoning comes as members of protest group Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) were accused of adopting intimidating tactics to disrupt contractors, including filming them and subjecting them to verbal abuse while wearing masks to prevent them being identified.

Action group treasurer Professor Chris Rust said last night the claims against Dr and Mrs Unwin were part of a ‘smear campaign’ to discredit the tree protesters.

He added: ‘The timing of the poisoning allegation being made public is interesting as it’s exactly when the city council and its contractors are facing allegations of using excessive force to remove protesters from work zones.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5317995/Police-investigate-poisoned-tea-plot-tree-dispute.html

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Sheffield tree-felling work to resume after ‘pause’ following assault allegations – Yorkshire Post

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Controversial tree-felling work on a Sheffield street will restart next week after being ‘paused’ following clashes between security staff and protesters.

Amey, which is carrying out the removal and replacement of thousands of street trees in the city on behalf of Sheffield Council as part of a £2.2bn highways improvement contract, has said work will begin again following a “review of on-site working practices”.

Amey workers withdrew from Meersbrook Park Road earlier this week following demonstrations which resulted in both campaigners and employees making allegations they had been assaulted to South Yorkshire Police. The company said yesterday the decision had been made “in the interests of everyone’s safety”.

But a spokeswoman said today: “Streets Ahead highway improvement works are ongoing across the city. This week, we conducted a regular review of on-site working practices around tree works and so, the programme of works was amended whilst this was undertaken. Work on highway trees will continue next week.”

The clashes came after Amey brought in a “specially-trained stewarding team” earlier this month to remove protesters going inside safety zones around trees. Around 5,500 trees have been removed and replaced with saplings since 2012 but campaigners argue that many removals are unnecessary.

Twenty trees on Meersbrook Park Road were previously referred to an Independent Tree Panel which said 11 could be saved through engineering works. But Sheffield Council has overturned the recommendation in nine cases.

Original article:
 https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/sheffield-tree-felling-work-to-resume-after-pause-following-assault-allegations-1-8982693

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