STAG Steering Group meeting: 2 April 2019

1. Update about 3rd Party Fellings
1.1 At the previous STAG Steering Group meeting, there had been a lengthy discussion about 3rd party reasons for felling. Specifically, about the reasonable process relating to Insurance claims against street trees from residents but also about the very weak process for simple accusations of damage.
1.2 Paul Brooke and Heather Russell met Darren Butt and Amey colleagues in early March to discuss concerns about the process in general, plus specific concerns about a number of trees recently listed for felling for this reason, including the most prominent one, on Upper Albert Road.
1.3 The discussion went positively, with Amey removing all but one of the trees listed for felling from the list, with hardly any discussion.
1.4 The one tree still listed for felling is in Fulwood, and relates to a resident chopping big roots of a street tree that were within the households boundary. This is something the resident is legally allowed to do, but was advised not to by Amey. The tree is now unsafe, and Paul Brooke visited to confirm this, so it will have to be felled.
1.5 Ensuring the 3rd party felling process is satisfactory in the long term will be dealt with in the upcoming Street Tree Strategy Review

2. Finance Update
2.1 Ahead of the meeting, Chris Rust had shared the latest update on STAG Finances.
2.2 Discussion took place about the summary, and the four recommendations put forward by Chris for action.
2.3 consensus decisions were reached on the 4 recommendations for action.

3. Joint Inspections Feedback
3.1 The daily reports on the STAG Facebook page contain most of the relevant information required so not much need for discussion at the meeting.
3.2 There was a brief discussion about the shocking organisation and communications of Streets Ahead.
3.3 All agreed to formally record in the minutes of the meeting the huge thanks to all who have taken part in the joint inspections so far.

4. Publishing Outcomes of the Joint Inspections
4.1 Despite regular chasing emails, and fortnightly meetings, SCC are prevaricating.
4.2 The Joint Agreement that was published in early December makes clear that all trees inspected would be reported on, and would include the asset value of the tree, the joint assessment of any damage caused, a cost benefit analysis of retaining the tree, and the SCC decision.
4.3 SCC seem to have woken up to the fact that this would mean publishing on their own website the information that they would be felling trees worth £30,000+ despite a solution being available that may cost less than £1000. Also that Amey would be responsible for the cost and all because SCC wouldn’t accept a kerb that isn’t completely straight.
4.4 The prevarication led Paul Brooke to ask Bishop Pete to get involved, which has caused SCC to agree once again to comply with the Joint Agreement.
4.5 Some of the finer details of the decision making process from SCC are still to be agreed on.
4.6 However, Amey will be sending their assessments to STAG first, for us to complete our own assessments on the same document, prior to submission to SCC.
4.7 Agreement that the first set of decisions would be on 8 trees out of the 47 or so trees inspected in the first few weeks of the Joint Inspection Process.
4.8 Still no dates for when this will be, but likely to be sometime in the next six weeks.

5. Phytophthora
5.1 The Whitely Wood trees which are looking very sick, and have absolutely confirmed diagnosis, will be felled this week, subject to weather conditions.
5.2 The other trees, including those on Thornsett Road, still need their disease to be absolutely confirmed.
5.3 New insight is emerging about potential ways of treating trees with Phytophthora, including with fungicide injections.
5.4 Also, whilst the best practice of clear felling trees with infectious disease makes sense in commercial forestry, it is not completely clear this is best practice in urban forestry so work to bring in outside experts is ongoing.

6. Independent Street Tree Strategy Review
6.1 Paul Brooke, Paul Selby and Deepa Shetty met with Paul Billington and Liz Ballard.
6.2 The aim had been to not say too much up front and get Liz to outline her own thoughts on how she would want the review to be conducted.
6.3 All present were extremely positive about Liz. It was clear she was not afraid to challenge Paul Billington, and had a reputational stake in getting it right, recognising that her and the Wildlife Trust would be criticised by campaigners if not.
6.4 She made a number of good suggestions for other experts who should sit on the group that she would chair.
6.5 STAG Steering Group agreed with the choice of Liz Ballard as chair of the Independent Review
6.6 The next meeting is likely to be in roughly a months time, and would get into the detail of Terms of Reference, governance, membership and timescales.

7. Tree Planting
7.1 Paul Brooke reported that the Paul Powlesland/Calvin Payne tree planting the previous weekend had gone well.
7.2 The intent is to do something similar, with more notice, in the 2019/2020 planting season.
7.3 Russell Johnson offered to lead on this topic for STAG Steering Group.

8. Inquiry
8.1 At the previous meeting, Christine King and Helen Kemp had offered to work with Chris Rust to draw up a high level plan for what 10 or so key topics the Inquiry needed to cover and which we would to collect evidence for. This followed Chris’s offer previously to set up a repository for storing the key evidence.
8.2 Christine and Helen reconfirmed their support for this and had contacted Chris.

9. It’s Our City
9.1 Shelley Cockayne gave an update on this initiative for our information.

10. Overly Small Saplings
10.1 Phil Yates has worked hard and collected evidence about lies and incompetence from both SCC and Amey on this topic, something we’d discussed in more detail at the previous months meeting.
10.2 Paul Brooke asked Phil to condense the evidence into a simple two page story, that could be used by the media, for example.

11. AOB
11.1 Paul Billington had announced in the Street Tree Strategy meeting that he was taking early retirement, and will be around for the next three months only. He doesn’t know who his replacement will be, or indeed if there will be one.

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Posted in Minutes from official meetings

STAG Steering Group meeting: 5 March 2019

1. Update on Inspections and recent conversations with Amey and SCC
1.1 Broadly positive feedback on new approach as all the Facebook updates etc show.
1.2 Amey drawing up recommendations to go to SCC. Most reports recommending to SCC that inspected trees are retained.
1.3 Even with the ones that can’t be retained by immediate solutions, Amey are generally recommending that trees be retained, should the Council agree to vary the contract specification.
1.4 Some solutions might require technical drawings which could delay decisions as they will have to be submitted to SCC Highways dept.
1.5 The main problem is delay on the SCC side on making any decisions official.
1.6 There does seem to be disconnect between the politicians and the officers, with the politicians believing that flexibility is being allowed and communicated to Amey whilst Amey operatives are telling STAG that this hasn’t been communicated to them. It would be helpful to clarify this at the next STAG/SCC meeting.
1.7 The very recent move by Amey to inspect all trees on a road (including phased felling trees and currently non-threatened trees) is broadly seen as a good thing. Amey’s aim is to put in place a “whole road solution” that saves all the trees in one location also ensuring that currently safe trees don’t get identified for felling later on. For example, a “whole road solution” for Rundle Road might involve bringing the whole kerb line out by a few centimetres.
1.8 Whilst this was recognised as a good idea there are risks if SCC do not agree. The inspection of currently safe trees on Rundle Road is identifying roots in the carriageway, potentially meaning they are added to the felling list, should SCC not allow the kerb line to be brought out or curved kerb lines to be implemented. This will be added to the list of things to be discussed at the next SCC/STAG meeting.
1.9 Agreed to target Hugh’s time at investigations to reduce strain on his time.

2. Street Tree Strategy
2.1 Meeting arranged with potential chair for meeting on Street Tree Strategy, Liz Ballard.
2.2 Some campaigners are very concerned about Liz Ballard being compromised and not a suitable chair for a meeting. The specific concerns are that the Wildlife Trust receives a small amount of its overall funding from SCC, and that it has to maintain good relations with SCC in the long run.
2.3 There was some discussion. A decision on the chair still hasn’t been made. Others have been approached, but none have yet shown interest.
2.4 An exploratory meeting with Liz is planned in the next few weeks where questions will be posed to ascertain her suitability as a chair as far as STAG is concerned.

3. Third party damage fellings
3.1 Four more third party damage trees have recently been notified to STAG by Amey, and their intention is to fell soon. Of these four, three are scheduled for simple third party damage, one for subsidence.
3.2 Heather pointed out that she and other Steering Group members had met Darren Butt in the late summer to discuss Amey processes around this. They were relatively confident about Amey’s processes around subsidence, as it involved insurers, and a proper monitoring and inspection process.
3.3 However they were not at all confident with the process Amey use to investigate simple third party damage claims. If a resident blames a tree for damaging a boundary wall, an Amey staff member visits, makes a judgement and a recommendation.
3.4 Steering Group agreed that this process potentially opens up many more trees for felling should residents make debatable complaints.
3.5 In the short term Steering Group agreed that these concerns needed to be expressed to Amey and SCC urgently at the next meeting.
3.6 In the longer term robust processes for Third party damage claims need to be reflected in the Street Tree Strategy.

4. Inquiry
4.1 There was a brief discussion. Currently no agreed list of the issues that need to form the basis of any inquiry.
4.2 Helen Kemp and Christine King agreed to work with Chris Rust on this. Paul Brooke said he’d contact Chris.

5. SCC Cabinet changes
5.1 it was noted that Cllr. Dagnall now has additional responsibilities following Cllr. Scott’s removal and that the Cabinet now has only 9 members.

6. Local Groups and the upcoming Local Elections
6.1 Local groups may wish to look at who they might want to support in their area.
6.2 Theresa Green has drafted some questions for local candidates. Local groups may wish to use these in their area. Paul S and Paul H happy to comment on these if required.

7. Roles and Responsibilities of local group representatives
7.1 The question was raised as to how much activity local reps should be organising. Agreed this was a matter for local circumstances to determine. Communication, via whatever means is most appropriate for each group, is the key responsibility.
7.2 SNET has an informative information dissemination mechanism and anyone who wishes to sign up can do so via the SNET website.

8. Facebook Group daily “Pink Boxes”
8.1 Agreed to continue sharing pink boxes on local websites despite one complaint. SG members encouraged to like and comment on these where possible and/or appropriate.

9. Saplings
9.1 STOMP have been measuring a large number of the replacement saplings as they believed they were smaller than the contract specification and not what had been quoted in multiple court cases. Their evidence from around 295 saplings is that 100 or so of them are indeed too small.
9.2 This is not just recent ones from the “dodgy batch” (see below) that Amey records acknowledge are too small, but also ones which Amey records say are the correct size
9.3 The “dodgy batch” of saplings are a large order of trees which Amey had mistakenly accepted and paid for even though they were the wrong size. Darren Butt has openly admitted to this error. No evidence that SCC have requested any action as a result.
9.4 Christine and Caroline agreed to work with Phil to come up with a simple document of evidence to be sent to Cllr Dagnall requesting answers and rectification.

10. Anniversary Celebration
10.1 Cecilie mentioned that she was organising a social to celebrate it being a year since the felling pause began. Agreed that this was a good idea, so Cecilie will continue arrangements.
10.2 Also mentioned that it was John Errington’s memorial party on 24 March.

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STAG Steering Group meeting: 5th February 2019

1. Joint Investigations
1.1 Amey teams are currently averaging one investigation per day.
1.2 Most of STAG observers have now seen at least one investigation.
1.3 Amey pavement crews have been authorised by Arbs to cut tree roots up to 25mm in diameter.
1.4 The works that save trees could throw up information for test cases around the issues of work outside the narrow limits of the contract that could have been done before.

2. Meeting with SCC/Amey
2.1 Notes of meeting have been produced by Christine.
2.2 Issue of straight kerbs raised by Julie Dore. She has stated that the teams have been authorised to be flexible about this within the bounds of ensuring public safety and mitigating flood risk issues.
2.3 The learning from the investigations will be taken into the joint review process involving Amey, SCC and STAG.

3. Ecclesall Road parking meter works
3.1 Shelley raised an issue that had arisen following recent works to dig holes for new parking meters. One hole outside Spencer’s Estate Agents had a root from a nearby tree tracking through it.
3.2 Russell to query with Arbs at next investigation to see whether they had been consulted about how to proceed.

4. Street Tree Strategy – Chair
4.1 Paul B had initiated exchanges with Liz Ballard from SRWT.
4.2 Ian Rotherham has stated that he is willing to be on panel, but not willing to Chair it.
4.3 Therefore Liz Ballard is the only currently proposed Chair.
4.4 Queries have been raised over potential conflicts of interest with SRWT because of some of their contractual relationships with SCC.
4.5 It was felt important that there was at least independent arboricultural expertise to input to the panel.
4.6 Paul B to express our potential concerns to Liz Ballard to gauge whether they were valid.
4.7 Agreed that if there was another Chair we would still be happy for her to be on the panel.

5. Tree Officers
5.1 Deepa raised the issue of the lack of Tree Officer expertise in the Council. Now is an opportune time to raise with SCC. To be raised at next joint meeting.
5.2 Lee mentioned that an FOI found that the contract states that a “Council Tree Officer” has to sign off trees that need felling according to Amey. He will send another FOI to ask for details of who has signed off fellings.
5.3 Paul B and Chris R to raise at next joint meeting.

6. Ombudsman decisions
6.1 Ombudsman has stated that SCC have lied about the information they gave to a resident about he Aldam Way alder tree. Has stated that they must apologise.
6.2 Chris R has prepared a press release which will go out after the news about the SYP compensation to protesters has died down.
6.3 In addition a complaint about repeat parking notices has been upheld by the Ombudsman.
6.4 Once the Ombudsman report has been published local groups may wish to take out additional complaints in relation to some of their trees.

7. DEFRA consultation
7.1 STAG response to this would be good.
7.2 Christine has put Woodland Trust information into the document to help with responses.
7.3 Phil will forward Paul S email to Christine to put on Steering Group page.
7.4 Christine will try to amalgamate comments and input into joint response.
7.5 Deadline is 28 February.

8. STAG Aims and Objectives
8.1 Some aims and objectives are on Facebook Page. Slightly different ones are on the website.
8.2 The terms of reference for the talks would seem to form basis of a reasonable set of objectives which may reflect the changed situation better. Only item missing is desire to increase street tree canopy cover.
8.3 Paul B to draft new set of objectives on basis of 8.2 above and circulate for comments.

9. Co-chair
9.1 Position remains open. Work will be shared around SG while this remains the case.

10. Steering Group Representatives
10.1 Cecilie will be stepping down from representing Crookes, Walkley and Western Road group. May continue on SG as 2nd rep for Fun Group. Elizabeth Mountain will replace her for Crookes group.
10.2 Question of how many reps from which groups to be returned to at a later meeting.

11. Compensation from SYP
11.1 Some queries have been raised about what happens to this money. Stated that this is a matter for individuals concerned and is not a STAG matter.

12. Town Hall 6 February
12.1 Joint protest tomorrow with Extinction Rebellion group.

13. Decorations on saved trees
13.1 There was no agreement on what style or colour should be used. Local groups should do their own thing. Recommended that yellow ribbons be left in place

14. Next meeting – 5 March 2019, venue tbc

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Latest #saveshefftrees Update – w/e 15th February 2019

Hello everyone,

Latest #saveshefftrees update, please enjoy, share………..

Chelsea Elm saved!!!!

So it only took 38 months…

Finally, today the Chelsea Road elm tree, the 120 year old Huntingdon Elm tree, resistant to Dutch Elm Disease, has been saved.

Many hours were spent on various activities to save this tree, turning it from “just another street tree” to the 3rd most famous elm in the UK.

But we couldn’t have achieved it being saved without all you lovely street tree campaigners out there, particularly Anne Barr who led the efforts in February 2018 to block the unnecessary severe pruning.

Thankyou everyone

Sheffield council says sorry for misleading residents over tree felling

Sheffield council has been told to apologise after a year-long independent investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman found it “deliberately” misled residents over the city’s street tree-felling programme.

Full story here

No proof for ‘lurid’ allegations against Sheffield tree campaigners made in panel’s police review

Unproven ‘lurid’ allegations that anti tree-felling campaigners in Sheffield had cut workers’ safety ropes and studded nails and glass into trees in attempts to cause serious injury were included in a police communications plan and prominently highlighted in a public report exonerating the controversial police response to protests – despite there being no evidence for the claims made by contractors.

Full story here

Sheffield tree protesters win wrongful arrest payout:

The most significant news was the announcement in the local and national press about the compensation payments made to seven of our fellow campaigners for unlawful arrest and detention back in late 2016 and early 2017. Sadly the Police didn’t apologise, despite being forced to pay the significant amount of compensation, quite incredible really. We should all be very grateful to those who put their liberty at risk, blocking the felling of trees, both then and subsequently. Without their efforts, many of our trees would not be standing today.

Full story here

Joint Tree Inspections:

The joint tree inspections with Amey have been continuing again this week. As we write this, since the inspections began on Tuesday 15th January, 25 trees have been inspected across the city. Of the 34, 29 have been confirmed as saved, with 5 needing further conversations. 14 more trees still need to be inspected over the next few weeks from this list. The 60 trees in the different list of trees which are due to felled in 2019 will also be jointly investigated after this, and if done in the same way, the process will take some time.

It’s been a mixed emotion process for all involved. The Amey workers have been great, implementing simple pragmatic solutions to save trees. For that, everyone is very happy. But the simplicity of what is being done, what could have been done for many/most of the 5500 trees already felled, is galling. Perhaps as many as 3500 street trees across the city would still be standing had such pragmatic solutions been used in the past. We can all think of some of our “favourite” trees that have been unnecessarily lost, such as.the Planes on Swaledale Road, all those different trees on Coverdale Road, the two lost on Kenwood Road, and many many more.

It’s Our City!

We’ve been flagging the efforts of It’s Our City since it launched its petition in late August. Whilst not a street tree campaign, many of the leading members of the organisation came from the street tree campaign, and set the organisation up when they learned just how Sheffield Council worked (or didn’t work). In these quiet times (for some!) with no felling going on, we encourage all who have the time to get involved in It’s Our City. Signing the petition is easy, if you haven’t already, see the link below. But even better would be to get more involved and join in efforts to encourage more people to sign.

The petition is still live. If you haven’t yet signed the petition, then can we politely ask that if there is one thing you do this weekend, please sign it if you haven’t already! You can do so at the following weblink:

Clean Air Talk:

We are delighted to announce another of our well attended fund raising talks about various issues related to the Street Tree Campaign. This one is about Clean Air from loyal campaigner Graham Turnbull at Kenwood Hall on Monday 11th March at 7.30pm .

Cost of entry will be £10 per person, paid on the night.

In advertising the talk, Graham says:

“We constantly read and hear on the news that air pollution is killing 40,000 people in the UK every year but what does this actually mean and what can we do about it?

Pollution is very closely linked to climate change and is being driven by the same activities. I like to think of air pollution as a day to day indicator of the impact that human activity is having on the planet. Unlike climate change, where people may wonder what difference we can make to a global problem, air pollution is caused right here in Sheffield by all of us and we are affected by it on a daily basis.

I am a ‘Citizen Scientist’ building a network of low cost sensors across Sheffield in order to study fine dust particles which are created when we burn things: diesel, wood, coal, garden waste. There are other efforts to measure these and other pollutants but they are usually quite limited in scope. We are taking an idea from the Germans and instead of measuring in 3 places with £50,000 of equipment as DEFRA does, or in 40 places with £8,000 sensors as the University will do, I want to study pollution in hundreds of places with a sensor that costs about £30 to make and can be looked after by anyone with a tiny bit of electricity and a Wi-Fi connection. Some have already been deployed and data is already starting to come in.

If you would like to learn more about air pollution, it’s effects, and what we can do about it, please come along on to the Kenwood Hotel on Monday March 11th at 7:30pm.”

Complaining about Amey

It has been a while since we mentioned complaints about Amey. Back in April 2017, an organisation called Sheffield Residents Holding Amey to Account (SRHA) was established to make it easier for residents to make genuine complaints about the shoddy work of Amey in Sheffield. The reason we did this was because it was really hard to navigate the Sheffield Council website to find the way to complain. So the website was established as an easy to use form to make a complaint.

Since then, our estimate is that around 10% of all the complaints made about Amey in Sheffield have been directed through our site. Even as early as one month into the site being live, Amey workers were heard talking to themselves about how they’d better be more careful in their work as more complaints were being made by “tree huggers via their new website.”

So we’d just like to re-promote this site, and encourage you all to use it to make genuine complaints. They don’t have to be tree related, although some are (issues with saplings or tarmacking up to tree trunks). Many in the winter are about the dangerous slippy new surfaces. What about the fact that Amey seem to be only sweeping leaves once a year, or only after people complain? Are you happy about that? Or the constant no parking notices that never turn into actual street work? Or the shoddy new road surfaces on some roads? Or the surfaces that break up after less than a year? Or blocked drains? Or street light issues?  

We walked down Montgomery Road last week, which is only about 450 metres long, and counted 20 separate issues worthy of complaining about. It is the same on all roads.

But are you actually complaining? Are you holding Amey to account for its shoddy work?

Making the initial complaint via takes less than 5 minutes. You’ll then need to keep on at Amey, when they eventually respond to you, which should be within 5 days. They may try to fob you off. Don’t give up, keep escalating the issue if you aren’t happy. Copy in your local Councillors or Cllr Lewis Dagnall if the issue is dragging on. Keep on at Amey and make sure your complaint is resolved to your satisfaction.

Upcoming Events  

Thursday 14th February (12.30pm to 1.30pm) at 90-96 Montgomery Road in Nether Edge – Launch of the Heartwood CD – There will be a chance to buy the CD, as well as to listen to choir singing the song Heartwood. (Note: Should the weather be very wet, the location will change to Shirley House, next to St Andrews Psalter Lane Church)

Saturday 22nd February (Final details TBC) – Probable date of a Bird walk around the streets with our lovely street trees with resident bird expert and loyal street tree campaigner, Jim Clarke

Monday 25th February (7.45pm arrival for an 8pm prompt start), at Kenwood Hall – The next of the Save Nether Edge Trees Public Meeting’s.

Best wishes,


Visit our lively Facebook Group here!

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STAG Steering Group meeting: 8th January 2019

1. Joint Inspections with Amey
1.1 SG members involved in the talks updated SG on the conversations held with Amey followed by questions and discussions.
1.2 Chris Rust and Paul Brooke updated SG on the meeting they had held with Darren Butt that day to finalise details of the joint inspections.
1.3 A briefing session will be held on Thursday 10th January where the Amey team, STAG representatives and the independent highways engineers (if available) will meet and be briefed on health and safety issues, and the process that will occur each day.
1.4 The joint inspections will begin from Tuesday 15th January onwards. The announcement of all the details will be made this evening.

2. Joint inspections of the 60 trees due to be felled in 2019.
2.1 Some of the 60 trees due to be felled in 2019 under the SCC plan will be inspected according to Darren Butt.
2.2 However he has also suggested that some don’t need to be inspected because STAG and Amey are agreed about the visible problem. The issue then becomes that the Council will not allow the STAG proposed solution.
2.3 Paul Brooke and Chris Rust have pressed Amey on this. They have reiterated what the joint declaration stated about all trees being reviewed jointly, prior to them being felled.
2.4 Given the points above the ball is now clearly in the SCC court in terms of how they want to proceed and the consequences that will follow from that.

3. Straight Kerb Lines
3.1 Paul Selby updated Steering Group about ongoing conversations with Paul Billington about strict straight kerb line specifications and the political issues that continue to prevent further progress on this issue.

4. Forestry Commission investigation and DEFRA consultation
4.1 Paul S updated SG on the ongoing Forestry Commission investigation. Not much has changed in the last four weeks owing to the Christmas break.
4.2 He also updated people that he had requested a face to face stakeholder event in Sheffield for the DEFRA consultation, as the consultation document had suggested this may be possible.

5. Local Group consultation about the Council proposal
5.1 It was confirmed that all local groups had either had (or planned to have) meetings or other consultations to discuss the Council proposal.

6. STAG Legal Group
6.1 Chris Rust and Russell Johnson had discussed the STAG legal group. It was confirmed that it continued to exist but was currently inactive and would remain so until such time as any actions were needed.
6.2 In consequence it wasn’t felt appropriate for the Legal Group to continue having any representatives on STAG Steering Group.

7. Co-Chair resignation
7.1 Chris Rust had resigned as co-chair with effect from the end of December 2017, but had agreed to stay on for a few months, whilst Paul Brooke settled in to the role. One year on, Chris confirmed he really did need to leave the role now.
7.2 He would remain as Treasurer and as a member of the Media Group, but would not attend STAG Steering Group any more.
7.3 Everyone thanked Chris for his dedication over the last 3 and a half years.
7.4 Paul Brooke then asked all Steering Group members to think about putting themselves forward to support him as co-chair.

8. Supporter Conduct
8.1 There was a brief conversation about supporter conduct, particularly about the ongoing airing of dirty linen on the STAG Facebook page, and how it was not helping the campaign.
8.2 Paul Brooke politely asked all Steering Group members to give a lead and ensure any heated discussions took place in private if they even needed to happen at all.
8.3 He also reminded everyone that no one particular line of campaign activity was responsible for the strong position we were in currently and this statement was concurred with by SG members.
8.4 It was also agreed that there would be an agenda item about STAG aims and objectives at the next Steering Group meeting to assist manage this issue.
8.5 The moderating rules on Facebook have also been recently refreshed to cover off some of the recent poor online behaviour.

9. AOB
9.1 There was a brief discussion about how “saved” trees could be signposted without removing the yellow ribbon. Local groups were asked to discuss options, and to come back with ideas which could be adopted city wide.
9.2 All SG members marked a sad loss to the campaign following the recent death of John Errington. It was noted how much he had done to protect street trees and advance the aims of the campaign, particularly in the early days and in his local area.

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Chatsworth Road – First Joint Tree Inspection

Paul Brooke, the STAG Chair reports:

Very interesting morning observed by a happy crowd. So what was the issue with this tree?

Before starting any work we discussed the displaced kerbs and cracked and raised tarmac around the lime tree. Amey felt that it was likely that a significant root had forced out previous kerbs and the thin kerbs fitted a few years ago had collapsed. Amey concerned that it may not be possible to put a sufficient foundation in place for any new kerbs. Our engineer felt that even if this was the case, there would be options such as forming a concrete kerb on site but we needed to excavate first.

Amey crew decided not to wait for the compressor and airspade (that hadn’t arrived) and decided to get on and remove kerbs and soil by hand to see what was what. 10 minutes later they had found a perfectly intact concrete foundation and scraped back soil to discover that there was plenty of room to reinstall a full standard kerb. Blimey.

Later, after tarmac removed and the airspade was used to clear soil, it was also evident that the main tarmac lifting and crack in pavement was as a result of a root 10 – 15cm below the pavement height and that new tarmac could be relaid easily.

Agreed solution? Reinstall standard kerbs bedded on cement, supported on roadside by cement fill and backfil with mulch. Couple of minor small surface roots 1-2cm diameter removed by the supervising arbs. Enlarge tree pit and re tarmac pavement.

Nothing technical, nothing unusual. Exactly what campaigners have been saying well before the conflict on the streets brought things to a head.

This is what SCC and Amey based their original felling decision on – taken from the data they published. “Kerbs, f/w and edgings all disrupted. No repairs visible”

All in all it took 4 hrs, of which 2 hrs, were waiting for things to arrive and marshalling the Pink Panthers (pictured in fetching pink hi-vis jackets). Couple of hours work to complete the tarmac tomorrow.

“Chatsworth Road 1st Inspection, finished kerbThe finished kerb line.

How do we feel? Happy that 1 tree has been retained and furious at the 6 lost there and the 1,000’s needlessly felled for the failure of SCC and Amey to do reasonable on-site investigation.

Supporter Neil Furmidge who attended the inspection comments:

“…at some point the pit has been tarmacced over. The other interesting thing is that at some point someone has replaced the kerb stones with half width kerb when there was absolutely no need to do so. If they had cleared the soil (with a normal spade!) they would have seen that there was plenty of space for a full size kerb properly set on original cement foundations that were in perfect condition. The trees have done well given bad surfacing work and have been blamed for the poor condition of very poor work in recent past.”


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The Big Issue namechecks STAG!

“The Big Issue: Top 100 ChangemakersSTAG’s campaigning efforts have been recognised by The Big Issue in their list of Top 100 Changemakers. You’ll need to take my word for it as the print on the cover image is too small to read.

We are all extremely proud to be part of a citizen-powered environmental movement that has had positive impacts reaching far beyond Sheffield.  So much so that we have even started to influence national policy.

Posted in Uncategorized

Latest #saveshefftrees Update – w/e 11th January 2019

Hello everyone,

Happy New Year and here’s to a year without mindless destruction of perfectly healthy trees, talking of which………

Upcoming joint inspections with Amey

As you will (or maybe will not!) know, there will be a process of joint inspections with Amey for a significant number of the currently threatened trees over the next few weeks.

It has now been agreed that these will begin on Tuesday 15th next week. The full text of the announcement from Paul Brooke (co-chair of STAG) is as follows:

IMPORTANT STREET TREE Joint Investigation/assessment – DUE TO START TUESDAY 15th Jan

There are a total of 45 trees that, as per the Council’s new proposal, are listed for ‘reinvestigation’ and are due to have an on-site assessment/investigation to see if an engineering solution can be applied. There are a further 60 trees that they say they need to fell in 2019 and these will also be subject to an on-site assessment/investigation. There are some WW1 memorial trees that are now ‘retained’ but that will need some investigation work to identify the appropriate engineering solution.

We have been in discussion with Amey on the process as set out in the Joint Statement and we want to assure you of the following;

1. Amey will notify residents adjacent to any trees due for investigation with a hand delivered letter.

2. Amey have assembled a ‘specialist team’ to carry out investigation works in public and in liaison with independent highways engineers offering their support to STAG

3. NO decision or action to fell a tree will be taken during the investigation. The crew will not have a chipper on tow.

4. If the crew can use an engineering solution and repair the kerb/pavement to the standard required by the Council, they will complete the work that day or the following day depending on time available.

5. If they are not able to fix the problem they will discuss this with our engineer and we will produce a joint report setting out what Amey and what our engineer recommend.

6. If our Engineer is not available on the day Amey inspect the tree, Amey will remove the kerb/tarmac as required and leave the site exposed (protected by barriers) so that our engineer can assess when available.

7. If Amey conclude they cannot resolve the problem and after our engineer has assessed the site, Amey will make the site safe with a temporary repair and refer the tree to SCC for a decision. We are in discussion with SCC about how this information, including the CAVAT value and cost/benefit of works will be published.

8. People are encouraged to come and view works. STAG reps and local residents are able to enter the workzone if needed to photograph and view works when safe and by arrangement with the site crew. Safety wear can be provided.

It is our anticipation that more trees will be retained indefinitely as a result of this work and we want to support and assist the site crews to be creative and effective in delivering sensible solutions.

Planned work schedule:

Amey are not sure how long works will take as they will be learning as they go!

We think they will be able to do 1 or 2 trees per day. Look out for daily updates in the coloured Daily Alert Box on the main STAG Facebook page here:

TUESDAY 15th Jan 19 – CHATSWORTH Rd, S17 – 1 tree;

Then working in the following order;

CRAWFORD ROAD, S8 – 1 tree;

RYLE ROAD S7 – 1 tree;

STRUAN ROAD, S7 – 1 tree;

TAY STREET, S6 – 1 tree;


AGDEN ROAD, S7 – 2 trees;

UPPER ALBERT ROAD, S8 – 2 trees.

STAG Steering Group”

We encourage as many of you reading this as possible to turn up to show we haven’t gone away. But to do so peacefully and calmly as we believe that close to 100% of the trees will ultimately be saved indefinitely.

DEFRA consultation about street tree protection

Recently we made reference to the DEFRA consultation about street tree protection, here is a bit more supporting info for you

Firstly, whilst the results of a central government consultation can be ignored, they are a matter of public record. The aggregated and anonymised results are either published or can be accessed by freedom of information (FOI) request. So if 100% of responses said one thing, but DEFRA did completely the opposite, that would be on the public record, potentially embarrassing, and would have to be justified. So the consultation is not pointless at all, it is a genuine opportunity to share your views with DEFRA.

Secondly, if you’re not sure what to say when responding, here are a few pointers:

a) Consultation can be risky. Popular opinion is swayed by many other factors, including a general lack of knowledge about the positive benefits of living alongside street trees vs the inconveniences they might cause e.g. leaf litter.  Therefore opinions offered through consultation may be far removed from evidence-based decisions.

b) The definition of what an acceptable consultation is needs to be defined, give specific evidence about the flaws of the unmarked brown envelope used in Sheffield’s ITP process, plus many other specific details

c) The reasons for deciding to fell need to be detailed and transparent – Saying a tree is “Damaging” is not sufficient. Why can’t simple virtually costless patch and repair solutions not be used

d) That in no circumstances should they be exempt from consulting – even with emergency fellings, councils should be forced to give transparent retrospective justification

e) We’re glad that there will be duty to report on all tree felling in relation to their street tree stock – Transparency is the greatest form of disinfectant

g) We’re glad there will be guidance on what constitutes a good Tree and Woodland Strategy

h) That the proposals still don’t go far enough. The current interpretation of the Forestry Act (1967) and how it relates to the Highways Act (1980) gives too much freedom to fell street trees without proper justification. Either that same legislation needs reinterpreting, or changing, to strengthen street tree protection.

Wouldn’t it be great if hundreds of you reading this email took the 20 minutes to respond in a similar way? I therefore strongly encourage you to contribute at:

Complaining about Amey

It has been a while since weI mentioned complaints about Amey. Back in April 2017, an organisation called Sheffield Residents Holding Amey to Account (SRHA) was established to make it easier for residents to make genuine complaints about the shoddy work of Amey in Sheffield. The reason we did this was because it was really hard to navigate the Sheffield Council website to find the way to complain. So the website was established as an easy to use form to make a complaint.

Since then, our estimate is that around 10% of all the complaints made about Amey in Sheffield have been directed through our site. Even as early as one month into the site being live, Amey workers were heard talking to themselves about how they’d better be more careful in their work as more complaints were being made by “tree huggers via their new website.”

So we’d just like to re-promote this site, and encourage you all to use it to make genuine complaints. They don’t have to be tree related, although some are (issues with saplings or tarmacking up to tree trunks). Many in the winter are about the dangerous slippy new surfaces. What about the fact that Amey seem to be only sweeping leaves once a year, or only after people complain? Are you happy about that? Or the constant no parking notices that never turn into actual street work? Or the shoddy new road surfaces on some roads? Or the surfaces that break up after less than a year? Or blocked drains? Or street light issues?  

We walked down Montgomery Road last week, which is only about 450 metres long, and counted 20 separate issues worthy of complaining about. It is the same on all roads.

But are you actually complaining? Are you holding Amey to account for its shoddy work?

Making the initial complaint via takes less than 5 minutes. You’ll then need to keep on at Amey, when they eventually respond to you, which should be within 5 days. They may try to fob you off. Don’t give up, keep escalating the issue if you aren’t happy. Copy in your local Councillors or Cllr Lewis Dagnall if the issue is dragging on. Keep on at Amey and make sure your complaint is resolved to your satisfaction.

It’s Our City!

We’’ve been flagging the efforts of It’s Our City since it launched its petition in late August. Whilst not a street tree campaign, many of the leading members of the organisation came from the street tree campaign, and set the organisation up when they learned just how Sheffield Council worked (or didn’t work). In these quiet times (for some!) with no felling going on, we encourage all who have the time to get involved in It’s Our City. Signing the petition is easy, if you haven’t already, see the link below. But even better would be to get more involved and join in efforts to encourage more people to sign.

The petition is still live. If you haven’t yet signed the petition, then can we politely ask that if there is one thing you do this weekend, please sign it if you haven’t already! You can do so at the following weblink:

Best wishes,


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Posted in Blog, Citywide Tree Preservation Order, Council tree talks, Court cases, Educational visits, Healthy Felling, News

STAG Steering Group meeting: 11th December 2018

1. Matters arising
1.1 Leaf clearing – Darren Butt has offered to provide large sacks to any groups of residents who wish to do their own leaf clearance on their roads.

2. Talks with SCC and Amey
2.1 The latest version of the statement is now available.
2.2 Figures from SCC/Amey indicate that 83 trees have been saved. 49 are earmarked for further investigation. 173 are phased fellings to be done over a number of years. 60 of these are for felling in the first 12 months.
2.3 Given timescales and the promises made to talk with residents and allow joint investigations into those trees earmarked for phased fellings at present, this proposed process by SCC/Amey at least gives time to work with Amey staff to potentially make additional progress on removing some more of these trees from the proposed fellings lists.
2.4 The promise of a proper street tree strategy was welcome.
2.5 It is highly regrettable that SCC have refused to hold an independent enquire into events up until now. Questions on this will continue to go to SCC.

3. Consultations with Local Groups
3.1 Groups need to be informed of he categories and the phasing proposals.
3.2 The lists of trees in each category needs to be made available.
3.3 Consultations should make people aware of the different categories and their meanings and also that the phasing proposal means that local groups have the opportunity to influence the future.

4. Finances
4.1 Chris gave a report on the current financial position.
4.2 The hard work of various individuals in organising events and merchandising has brought in additional income lately.

5. Supporter conduct
5.1 A suggested new process for dealing with harassment was discussed.
5.2 Paul B and Chris will find some people who can take a balanced view on proposals and take forward.

6. Forestry Commission
6.1 Investigations continue.
6.2 The Woodland Trust will be in communication with the Forestry Commission about the matter.

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Posted in Minutes from official meetings

STAG Steering Group meeting: 27th November 2018

1. Talks with Amey/SCC
1.1 A statement on the talks has been issued. Further announcements are expected soon.
1.2 A confidential discussion on progress took place.

2. Forestry Commission Investigation
2.1 Paul Selby gave a further update.

3. Fellings owing to Third-party damage claims
3.1 Meetings have been held with SCC concerning this.
3.2 According to SCC, assessments for third-party damage are done in two ways. Firstly, a full assessment over time. Secondly, through an assessment of direct damage. The second method is problematic because it doesn’t take account of the value of the trees.
3.3 According to Paul Billington’s figures 48 trees have been taken down for third-party damage. The discrepancy with figures obtained through FOI request is being pursued.
3.4 It is likely that some campaigners would protest at some of the more contested fellings in this category. Therefore it has been decided by SCC/Amey to only fell those in the emergency category for the time being until such time as there is a street tree strategy in place so decisions can be defended.

4. Malicious damage
4.1 It has been reported that person/s unknown have privately cut some branches off a street tree. Rebecca will check. Please encourage people to report any such occurrences.

5. AOB
5.1 Russell reported on an event to distribute a flyer “The 12 days of Amey” on the morning of 15 December.
5.2 The cabinet member will be meeting the public in the Winter gardens on 28 November at 6 pm.
5.3 there will be a stack stall at Sharrow Vale Christmas market on 2 December and Nether Edge Christmas market on 9 December.
5.4 One day conference on street heritage being held at Hallam University on 1 December.


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Posted in Minutes from official meetings

Joint Statement by Sheffield Council, Amey and STAG – 13th December 2018

Following more than two months of very detailed discussions between SCC, Amey and the STAG Steering Group, Sheffield City Council have announced a new approach to managing street trees within the 25 year ‘Streets Ahead’ highway management programme operated by Amey.

A joint statement by SCC, Amey and STAG can be seen here.

The scheme will see fewer trees felled and other condemned tree fellings ‘phased’ over the next 10 years. Amey have undertaken to implement a wider range of engineering approaches to retaining trees and ‘phased’ fellings will be reviewed before they take place. Amey and STAG will jointly investigate trees that are planned for felling, with the involvement of local residents and SCC will publish the outcome over the coming months.

STAG has not agreed to any particular plan or list of fellings as we believe it is down to local groups and individuals to assess the scheme on its merits. We are not a formal membership organisation but a forum for various informal local groups so we are not able to form agreements on behalf of the wider tree campaign.

Before the talks started, STAG had four main aims, based on consultation with tree campaigners across the city:

1. An end to the unnecessary felling of healthy mature trees.

SCC’s scheme goes part of the way towards achieving this and further work by Amey and STAG may improve the picture. We welcome the commitment to reviewing phased fellings, giving everyone a few years to reflect before most of the decisions must be enacted or changed. In the end, if Tree Campaigners feel that valuable trees are still being felled without good reason they will continue to oppose the work.

2. An exemplary Street Tree Management Strategy.

We welcome the plan to develop a new strategy over the next few months in collaboration with several partners and under the guidance of an independent chair with relevant expertise. This will be a great opportunity for public policy to be debated and for everyone to develop a better understanding of the complex issues. It will be a great success if Sheffield ends up with a strategy that has widespread approval and other parts of the country will want to adopt for themselves.

3. Using External Expertise.

We welcome the commitment to working together on assessing trees at risk and we hope that the new street tree strategy will provide a reliable framework for this. Amey have committed to involving STAG and local residents in their investigations and STAG will be bringing in external experts in engineering and tree management to inform the process.

4. An inquiry into what went wrong.

Given the many serious questions that have been raised about SCC processes and decisions over the past 10 years we regret that SCC do not wish to do this. We believe that learning from what has gone wrong is vital for the success of future projects in the city as well as being an opportunity for reconciliation between all parties involved in this difficult dispute.

The Schedule of retained trees and proposed phased fellings can be seen here. (Excel Spreadsheet)

Sheffield City Councils Press Statement about the nes scheme can be seen here.

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Posted in Council tree talks, News

Latest #saveshefftrees Update – w/e 30th November 2018


A very busy week with quite a bit to update you on.

Talks Update
As flagged in last weeks weekly email, the STAG negotiating team held a fourth day of mediated talks with Sheffield Council on Monday. More progress was made, and in case you haven’t seen it, a joint press statement was put out, which said the following, in italics:

This is a jointly agreed press statement following a morning of talks today (below). As campaigners are aware, the group from STAG SG that have been engaged in the talks, have been trying to assist the Council in formulating a proposal on a new way forward for the identified 300 or so trees from the Core Investment Period and for the remaining trees on the highway network over the coming years. We anticipate that the detail of the Council’s plan and a further joint communication will be published shortly.

“Cllr Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene, and Chris Rust and Paul Brooke, co-chairs of Sheffield Trees Action Group said: ‘Sheffield City Council, Amey and STAG have completed a fourth day of constructive talks on the street trees issue, chaired again by Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield. We intend to do a further joint communication shortly with more details of what has been discussed and publish the Council’s plan for the way forward.’

Bishop Pete added: ‘This morning’s meeting was the last in the series which it was my privilege to chair. The end of this phase of the process is an encouraging sign. I have been impressed by the commitment of everyone involved and I can vouch for the real progress which has been made’.”

So what this means is that we are only a week or so away from sharing the detail of the Council’s proposal, our views on the proposal, and what we have learned from the talks.

Government’s Environmental Minister raises #saveshefftrees cause

More here

Woodland Trust Street Tree Awards

On Saturday last week, we were privileged to join a number of other Sheffield street tree campaigners at the first ever Woodland Trust Street Tree Awards, held at Alexander Palace in London. This was held a year to the day since the Woodland Trust launched it’s street tree campaign. What was wonderful about the day was hearing how the Woodland Trust were inspired to launch its campaign because of what has happened in Sheffield, and what we have all done to raise the profile of street trees in the UK, and how important they are to our health and wellbeing, and how much we love them. Similarly, many other campaign groups from across the UK were there, also up for awards, most of whom said that they had been inspired to act because of what we have done in Sheffield. Many of you don’t realise this, but we have changed the course of history in terms of UK street trees, and one way or another, very soon, legislation that gives more protection to UK street trees is on its way, all because of what we have done in Sheffield.

It was because of this that the Woodland Trust gave STAG a special award, in recognition of all we’ve done. The one sadness we had about the Awards was that only 14 of us from Sheffield could be there to receive the award, as spaces were limited. So many many more people have contributed to where we are today, in so many different ways, big or small. The award is for all of us. Well done to us all!

War Memorial Trees Saved

Good news! As a result of STAG’s negotiations with Sheffield Council, 32 of the 35 threatened War Memorial Trees have been saved.

“In this, the week of Remembrance Day, I am confirming that we have developed a plan to retain 32 of the 35 war memorial trees that were originally earmarked for replacement.”

Councillor Lewis Dagnall

The remaining three, which are reportedly too diseased to retain, are currently being independently investigated.

The talks with the council are still ongoing, however the negotiating team requested that the news be announced prior to Armistice Day on the 11th November.

Read the councils release here.

#Saveshefftrees Website Help

The current version of the website has been the work of two writers, supported by invaluable contributions from many experts.

Sadly one of the principal writers, Mary, died earlier this year meaning that we now are down to one ‘staff’ writer, who is also the editor.

Consequently the website is not getting the time and attention it deserves.

Several pages need updating or rewriting to reflect the tumultuous events of 2017 and early 2018.

So we are launching an appeal for writers who are familiar with the ins and outs of the campaign. Even if you can only commit a limited number of hours we are interested in hearing from you. Ideally we would like to build up a small team of dedicated individuals who can help share the load between them – no-one will be lumbered with more responsibility than they can handle.

We are also looking for people with web skills who have knowledge of making and fixing websites. These do not have to be the same people as the writers.

All reliable offers of assistance are welcome.

If you can help please contact:

Update on the STAG Auction Site – Jane Miller

Over the next week, the final auctions will end for the time being, some on Sunday 2nd, in the evening, and the remainder on Friday 7th December, starting 9am and ending with two Panto tickets for Peter Pan in the evening.

The page will still promote talks, events and items for sale, linking direct to seller. A huge thank you to the very many kind donators and generous bidders, more on totals raised later.

Still time, just, to bid on the page and get a lovely item, and benefit STAG funds.

Link for more information and bidding:

Gumtree Sales Website

An update on the Gumtree second hand sales site that one of our loyal campaigners has set up to raise funds for the campaign.

They have put out a call for additional sales items. So if you are looking to clear space in your houses, ahead of anticipated Christmas presents, why not go to the site and offer up some of your unwanted items on the site?

It’s Our City!

The petition is still live. If you haven’t yet signed the petition, then can I politely ask that if there is one thing you do this weekend, please sign it if you haven’t already! You can do so at the following weblink:

One of It’s Our City’s leading members, Anne Barr is also looking for people to take paper copies of the petition, and to work on achieveing signatures from their friends, families, neighbours, co-workers, and whoever else. If you are able to do this, and I encourage all of you to consider doing so, please contact Anne at

Upcoming Events

Saturday 8th December, 8pm until late (doors open at 7.30pm) at Millennium Hall on Ecclesall Road -Let’s Dance for the Trees. A pre-Christmas social event for all tree campaigners and their friends. Featuring “The Free Radicals” (Sheffield’s biggest dance band) and “Break a Leg.” Tickets are available for £10 in advance £12 on the door. All proceeds to STAG.

Thursday 20th December (6.45pm arrival for a 7pm start) at the Nether Edge Bowling Club -A talk called “Bones: Ancient Maya to Modern Murder”by the forensic anthropologist Julie Saul (the mum of loyal campaigner Jenny Saul).Followed by a social for all our loyal Save Nether Edge Trees campaigners, which will start at 8pm. All proceeds raised to Save Nether Edge Trees.


The summer town hall protest to save the Western Rd trees has been largely successful with 20 of the 23 threatened trees being saved. To this end we have suspended the twice weekly town hall protest during the winter months. It must be remembered, however, that the Council still want to fell 3 Western Rd trees.

There are still many trees city wide that face the chop. Plus many issues remain unresolved – the disgusting behaviour of the City Council, the distress caused to the Crookes community, the grotesque waste of tax payers money on the hapless Task and Finish Working Group and many other areas of concern. To this end during the winter months we plan to lobby full Council meetings until Spring 2019.

Future lobbies 12 – 2pm will be on the following dates. Council meetings start 2pm:

Wed 9th January.

Wed 6th February.

Wed 6th March (Budget Meeting).


And that folks is all for now, please share if you would be kind enough.

Thanks as ever for your ongoing support

Best Wishes


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Further update on STAG’s continuing discussions with SCC and Amey

Jointly agreed press statement following a morning of talks today (below).

As campaigners are aware, the group from STAG Steering Group that have been engaged in the talks, have been trying to assist the Council in formulating a proposal on a new way forward for the identified 300 or so trees from the Core Investment Period and for the remaining trees on the highwaynetwork over the coming years. We anticipate that the detail of the Council’s plan and a further joint communication will be published shortly.

“Cllr Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene, and Chris Rust and Paul Brooke, co-chairs of Sheffield Trees Action Group said: ‘Sheffield City Council, Amey and STAG have completed a fourth day of constructive talks on the street trees issue, chaired again by Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield. We intend to do a further joint communication shortly with more details of what has been discussed and publish the Council’s plan for the way forward.’

Bishop Pete added: ‘This morning’s meeting was the last in the series which it was my privilege to chair. The end of this phase of the process is an encouraging sign. I have been impressed by the commitment of everyone involved and I can vouch for the real progress which has been made’.”

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Posted in Council tree talks

Update on STAG’s continuing discussions with SCC and Amey

We have had two sessions with SCC and Amey, totalling three days of meetings, with a three week gap to think about the information given to us in the two-day first session.

At some point Sheffield Council will have to decide they are ready to share their plans with the general public, meanwhile we are willing to keep talking to them as long as there is an opportunity to keep tree campaigners’ priorities on the agenda and make sure SCC has no illusions about how campaigners might respond to any scheme.

We have made it very clear that STAG Steering Group are not in a position to agree or endorse any plans from SCC. Campaigners, as individuals and groups, will have to decide their own response.

After the last mediated session there was pressure to produce a statement very quickly for the TV news people who were waiting outside the door. Lewis Dagnall proposed that we would each make our own statement as it was difficult to come up with something in a hurry worded carefully enough to satisfy both parties.

Cllr Dagnall then gave an interview which was surprisingly forthcoming, indicating that SCC had a plan that included saving some trees from the remaining 305 ‘Core Investment Period’ trees and phasing felling of others. He stopped short of revealing any numbers and obviously that has led to many questions and speculations.

We were quite surprised and Paul Brooke gave a brief response being careful to keep our side of the bargain and not reveal what had been discussed in confidence. The next day we put out a press release making it clear that we had not reached an agreement with SCC and it was not our remit to do so. The Star published a helpful article with a big headline making it clear that the dispute was still going on.

Right now we anticipate further meetings with SCC to clarify the detail of their proposals and ensure that, when they make their scheme public, there will be full disclosure of all the significant aspects of the plan and any issues that we believe are relevant.

The conversations we have had with SCC will be kept confidential to ensure people are willing to speak their mind. That is normal with a mediated process. But it would be unacceptable if either party refused to disclose to the public any information that is significant, especially the reasoning and evidence behind any plans or decisions. There has been far too much secrecy in the history of this dispute and the public will expect openness in any new scheme.

SCC, in consultation with Amey, have taken more than six months to come up with a plan. They have now spent a further month in discussion with ourselves and still don’t feel ready to tell the public any more than the bare bones of the scheme. It would have been much better if SCC had started talking with tree campaigners and the general public back last March and there are research methods for getting to the heart of people’s thinking if they would choose to use them (hint, they don’t include surveys or talking to your mates).

But meanwhile we re-iterate our promise that the STAG negotiating group will not come to any agreement with SCC to endorse their plans for future tree work, whatever they are. That is a matter for the campaigners and campaign groups to consider for themselves. It may be possible to agree a shared approach to some secondary matters such as how to develop a Sheffield Street Tree Strategy.

We also re-iterate the four main aims STAG have in these talks:
1) There should be no further reduction of the mature tree canopy in Sheffield by the unnecessary removal of healthy street trees.
2) Any proposals made should be based on current urban forestry good practice with independent expertise provided by the Council from outside of the contractor, Amey.
3) The future work by Amey on the management and maintenance of street trees should have proper independent oversight.
4) Sheffield City Council should adopt and implement a proper tree strategy for the sustainable stewardship of our street tree assets and the wider urban forest.

We also stated at the start of talks that it was important to have an independent inquiry or review into what had gone wrong and why.

We will also carry on sharing the information from the discussions with the wider STAG Steering Group which consists of 22 representatives from 15 local and specialised groups across the city.

– posted by Chris Rust (having consulted on the wording with the negotiation group, which is Ann Anderson, Paul Brooke, Helen Kemp, Christine King, Paul Selby, Deepa Shetty and Chris Rust)

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Posted in Council tree talks, News

Out of Common Ground, Enemies and Trees: on Sheffield Street Tree Festival

September, autumn is setting in, and I’m driving from Devon to Nether Edge in Sheffield to learn about one of the most outstanding environmental stories of our time. The Sheffield Street Tree Festival is a perfect reason and excuse to go back to this city I loved. Returning to a once familiar place is always a little strange. Its picture-perfect, sandstone suburbs, edge of gothic storybook houses nestled amongst broad, gently curving streets and rare arboreal magnificence were my home-from-home for some 8 years. The people I knew then long gone, what is bringing me back now are the trees which have been disappearing, and the people taking action to stop that happening. I wanted to meet them, and to find out first-hand about their experiences and what the future for the city’s trees, and wider ecology in connection, looks set to hold.

The issue affects people living in and beyond the more privileged leafy-suburbs; trees are important for us all. Grown, healthy trees have been earmarked for substitution with saplings across the city. According to experts, the majority of the thousands of trees already taken, (and the 12,000 more still planned for felling over the next 20 years) were (and are not) in need of being replaced. A sapling for a prematurely lost, well-grown tree is a hugely unequal exchange. Executed on such a huge scale it is dangerous folly, and not only because air pollution levels in the city are already too high. Being sacrificed to city council and multinational corporate profiteering, Sheffield’s ecology — which includes humanity — is under enormous threat. Illnesses such as depression, anxiety and adrenal exhaustion are increasing in states of solastalgia as well-being is sacrificed to the tearing out of trees, as the campaigner and writer Joanna Dobson has noted. Through acts and events of indifference and despotism to force tree removals, the democratic reputation of the city council is in tatters, too.

Tall, in their prime. They lift your spirit. Leafy skies to look up to, shelter under, hear birdsong from, see tiny aspects of the other lives they support. A place of memory, a spot to meet friends. Beauty. Comfort, reassurance, inspiration. Marker of seasons, giver of fresh air and life. Despite their value, whether immeasurable or economically assessed, and although they were deeply wanted by the people who live alongside them.

In the independent collaborative report on the Capital Asset Value (CAVAT) of the street trees in Sheffield subject to the city council’s £2.2 billion Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract with Amey PLC authored by volunteer expert, Ian Dalton, Matt Larsen-Daw of the Woodland Trust writes why the hard numbers are important. Although such surveys cannot include everything that trees mean and do, ‘The findings from such surveys … remind … that trees are not passive decoration, but active agents of change working for the benefit of wildlife, people and the environment. Our relationship with the trees around us is challenged. If they are working hard for us, shouldn’t we be prepared to work hard to help them survive and thrive?’

Festival speakers discussed the need to communicate and exchange with planners and engineers using CAVAT language, reasoning and signifiers. On the Street Tree Festival stage, urban forestry expert Russell Horsey shared his experience of this in Bristol and elsewhere. Adopting economic rationales for keeping street trees alive does not mean losing the deeper meaning or the relationships between people and trees: ‘the soft values are still there’. It means working and communicating effectively to achieve what is needed for healthy, sustainable urban environments. He noted the knock-on effects of tree-lined bus routes having been created in Bristol: public transport usage up by 50 per cent, private car use and hence pollution levels down, and qualitative and quantitative high-street retail benefits. This is wonderful for Bristol (although Horsey also noted that in fear of competition, people did not want to share the tree-based reasons for their local success). So, what about Sheffield?

With so much taken and gone, I expected to hear a large measure of embitterment and cynicism amongst the people with such a long fight ahead. I didn’t. The Street Tree Festival was much more the celebration it promised to be: ‘multifaceted, joyful and thought-provoking’, learning and sharing about the conflict and successful peaceful resistance, as well as about the trees.

Sheffield’s experience and people’s creative responses have made it a beacon twice over. In the first sense, the city heralds warnings. Though it sounds bizarre in a land where we still expect democratic process, the cutting of Sheffield’s beloved street trees began without the majority of the public realising what was happening or the scale of what was planned. Prior community consultation on the removal of street trees was poorly attempted, unconvincing,ineffective. The council’s invitations to residents were limited to one brown and unpersonalised envelope per household, presenting much like any old junk mail, rather than clearly signposting access for individuals to vital democratic participation and ecological responsibility. They were, unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly ignored rather than responded to. As Professor Jennifer Saul has documented, the council’s initial public discourse was of improving streets, of removing only the trees that needed to be removed — and when it became evermore clear this was not the truth, authoritarian methods were used to force their plans forward. And the Council simply lied, denying there was any plan and the content of it, until they had to admit otherwise.

When public realisation dawned that a massive process of ecological destruction was underway, people did respond, creatively and with determination. There’s laughter across the auditorium at mention of Councillor Jack Scott’s 2013 request for volunteer citizen ‘tree champions’ to look out for problems and help care for street trees, with Scott having been so centrally involved in the destructive policy of felling so many healthy trees. With the laughter came the comment: ‘he got his tree champions!’. They were just more ecologically conscious, braver, more committed, and more independent- and community-minded than the councillor had bargained for.

And with that, Sheffield has become a beacon in another sense: a torchlight for others experiencing similarly drysmian politics and environmental degradation. Local community campaign groups sprang up, linked, communicated and co-ordinated. Their organisation throughout the city under the umbrella group Sheffield Street Tree Action Groups (STAG) demonstrate concrete working examples of successful, peaceful, direct actions, how to create them, and reach out for effective support. Publishing videos of people, often pensioners, risking their physical well-being by chaining themselves to trees and being roughly handled by security workers are obvious headline moments in the campaign. Sharing knowledge of the law and its due process is, as ever, key for protesters in such circumstances.

But there’s been more: yarn-bombing and craft decorations, messages of love for the trees in chalk graffiti, poetry and singing, applications for Tree Protection Orders (which are, it is worth noting, in legal hierarchy trumped by Highways), connections made with experts, and the making of art, individually and in community. Many examples decorated the grounds and entrance at the Street Tree Festival, placards, and collections of tree drawings that seen together are affecting in their differences of colour, styles, perspectives, details, all the while portraying affection, contemplation, awe, wonder, and mystery within each of unknown connection between the sketcher and what a tree is to them.

Visual artist Lynne Chapman’s talk on bringing the urban sketching movement into play into the campaign was inspiring and instructive. Urban sketching is about going out into the world and taking time to stop being busy, to observe and simply to be, to rest in the sketching of something, portraying what is seen. She emphasised ‘it’s about process, not result — you do not have to be an artist’. She also spoke of the effect of the tree crisis on her community; how she now ‘knows her neighbours’, people to whom she would before have said little more than ‘hello’. Many of her campaign drawings are of the Sheffield tree fellings and protests taking place.

For me, the most touching story was of what happened on Armistice or Remembrance Day 2017, when some 100 people gathered to draw the trees on the Western Road alongside Chapman. As I looked through a large collection of drawings outside the main door, someone explained that each one of the Western Road trees had been planted in memoriam of a soldier killed in the First World War. And all of the soldiers represented had been to the primary school on that very street. Given the role of education in producing James Joll’s ‘mood of 1914’ — the nationalistic beliefs and sentiments that drove popular support for the war — the placing of these trees is particularly poignant, the memory more than important.

The Sheffield Street Tree conflict may seem a long way and very different from the history of the First World War. But Sheffield is just one example of a phenomenon of environmental conflicts around the world in which deaths are the result and financial gain above well-being the cause. There are parallels in all conflicts, and there are responses other than violence to unwanted situations — whether damaged pavements and roads, inequality of resources, environments and ownership, or harsh changes to one’s home environment.

When common enemies effect bringing people together, recognition and creative use and appreciation of that — despite whatever suffering has been caused — is a key step in working towards peaceful transformation of a conflict. Another is realising how common ground, and air, and language, and cares, are also shared. Sheffield’s street tree campaigners seem to know this well.

From ‘Fallen Boys and Standing Trees’: Urban sketchings of the First World War memorial street trees, Western Road, Sheffield, England on display at the Sheffield Street Tree Festival 2018.

The first Sheffield Street Tree Festival was held on Saturday 29th September 2018, beginning with a choice of bird, elm and tree walks and continuing in the Merlin Theatre and its grounds in Nether Edge. Alongside of yoga, stalls, singing, placards, and conversation outside on the lawn, speakers in the theatre included the poet Robert Macfarlane, artist Nick Hayes, novelist Gregory Norminton, writer Peter Fiennes, artist Lynne Chapman, Dr Nicola Dempsey, David Elliott (Chief Executive of Trees for Cities), Rebecca Hammond (STAG), Russell Horsey and Joe Coles (Woodland Trust). Professor Jennifer Saul and Dr Katharine Cox chaired the panels. Local people from the campaign also spoke, and after copies of Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’s The Lost Wordswere presented to representatives of Sheffield schools, a community choir sang ‘Heartwood’, a poem written by Robert Macfarlane especially for Sheffield, but also as ‘a charm-against-harm for all trees everywhere threatened with unjust felling’.

Thank you to Paul Selby for his insightful talk and walk on Elm trees.

The full programme and further information can be found here:

Crowdfunder request to help cover Sheffield tree protectors’ Court costs:

Further sources:

STAG — Sheffield Tree Action Groups:

CAVAT Valuation Report on Street Trees in Sheffield:

Professor Jennifer Saul — Sheffield Trees Blog:

Joanna Dobson ‘Of Street Trees and Solastalgia’:

On air pollution in the city:

For more on the politics and ecology of the crisis:

‘ECOS 39 (3): ‘The city that hates trees’ — Standing up to the Sheffield Street-Tree Slaughter — British Association of Nature Conservationists’:

Chalked pavement in Nether Edge, Sheffield, and a tree decorated with heartfelt campaign messages at the Street Tree Festival.

Original article here:

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Posted in Blog, Healthy Felling, News

STAG Steering Group meeting: 11th September 2018

1. Finances Update
1.1 Chris gave an update on the state of STAG finances.
1.2 There was a brief discussion about whether we should use this opportunity to pay off any loans outstanding. However Chris confirmed that all the individuals owed money were content to keep the current loans outstanding.
1.3 It was confirmed that the merchandising spend and income should have accounts.
1.4 There are two crowdfunders currently open.
1.5 All of the above information will soon be published in more detail with the STAG Steering Group minutes on the STAG website
1.6 STAG Steering Group wanted to formally record their thanks to Save Nether Edge Trees for their recent and historic efforts to organise so many events to raise money for the campaign overall.

2. Talks with Sheffield Council
2.1 The facilitator will soon be confirmed. Likely to be Fiona from CEDR.
2.2 They have expertise at complex multi-party community disputes.
2.3 Paul Brooke and Chris Rust have met Fiona twice now, and a number of other campaigners had recently met her as she did some tree walks to try to get a better understanding of the situation.
2.4 Paul and Chris sought Steering Group approval to go ahead and confirm Fiona as facilitator.
2.5 Fiona has already shifted the Council’s thinking about how long the talks will take. The Council had previously thought it might only take two two-hour meetings, but they now understand it could take two full days, followed by a minimum of another full day a few weeks later, with potentially more again needed if necessary.
2.6 When Paul Brooke and Chris Rust last met Lewis Dagnall, he also thought the process would take quite a few months. He also confirmed that there was no pressure from Amey to speed things up, and that he felt it was more important to get the right outcome regardless of time.
2.7 Still to be absolutely confirmed, but the first two full days for the talks are likely to be 27 and 28 September.
2.8 SG then held quite a long discussion about who should be represented on the STAG side given we could have up to six people in the room.
2.9 Chris and Paul Brooke had nominated themselves as co-chairs of STAG, and sought views on whether there was support for this. There was no dissent.
2.10 David Elliott (from Trees for Cities) was also suggested as another person, and again there was no dissent.
2.11 Paul Selby was also nominated. Again there was no dissent.
2.12 The final two participants are still to be decided, but there was a short list of suggestions, some in Steering Group, some not. These will be considered over the next few days, based upon availability, willingness to participate, and expertise.
2.13 On top of the main six fronting the talks, there is clearly going to be the need for many more supporting, both on the day in the background.
2.14 It was agreed that all Steering Group members should be part of this “wider group”.
2.15 Other names were also suggested, including independent arborists and independent highways engineers.

3. Forestry Commission Investigation
3.1 Paul Selby gave an update on this including input required from STAG.

4. Felling notification process
4.1 Not much change since last update at the last meeting as there haven’t been further notifications.
4.2 The situation regarding the Upper Albert Road potential felling that campaigners had been questioning seems to have become clearer.
4.3 As a result it is likely that campaigners won’t protest the felling. However they are awaiting some final FoI information.

5. AOB
5.1 Crookes Group is likely to be organising something for Armistice Day 11 November.
5.2 Heather Russell announced her intention to launch a “comedy” cook book based upon the tree campaign to raise funds.

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Talks Update – joint press statement

Joint statement from Chris Rust and Paul Brooke, Co-Chairs of STAG and Councillor Lewis Dagnall, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Streetscene:

“Representatives of Sheffield City Council and STAG have agreed to mediated talks, conducted by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, CEDR, and overseen by the Bishop of Sheffield, the Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox.”

“Mediation is a process in which a neutral and independent person, agreed by both sides, actively assists parties to resolve a dispute. Mediation requires that all parties sign up to an agreement covering behaviour and confidentiality during the process. The Council and STAG have agreed that we will issue joint statements when progress is made, but both parties now request that we are allowed time to work through the issues before us.”

Initial talks will take place on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th September 2018.
The Council’s delegation will include elected members, council officers and representatives from Amey. The delegation from STAG will include members of the steering committee and a representative of Trees for Cities.

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Update on Tree Talks

STAG Steering Group has been working with Cllr Lewis Dagnall on arrangements for the long awaited ‘talks’ and we can now confirm the details.

The Bishop of Sheffield will chair a process of talks that will be independently facilitated by an experienced professional mediator.

The first session will be over 2 days on the 27th and 28th September. Follow up sessions in October are planned and dates are to be confirmed.

Representatives for the Council, Amey and STAG will work to a framework set out by the independent facilitator.

With Cllr Dagnall we have jointly appointed Fiona Colquhoun from CEDR to design and manage a process of talks as the independent facilitator. We are confident in her independence and experience and she has explained that she will treat this in the same way as any other mediation between two parties in dispute. In preparation, Fiona has been to Sheffield twice, has met campaigners and been shown examples of the healthy trees currently planned for felling.

STAG have been clear on the broad aims that we have and the Council has stated that it will share new proposals on the remaining 306 trees originally scheduled for felling in the Core Investment Period and wants to discuss the future management of street trees. 
STAG has made it clear that it cannot make decisions or commitments on behalf of the large number of diverse campaigners and groups across Sheffield. They will make up their own minds, but we will make every effort to represent the concerns and doubts that campaigners will have.

The need for a process over a period of time is because following the 1st session, STAG will need to consult with a wider group of professional experts and with the membership of STAG local action groups. The STAG representatives are being finalised but we are pleased to confirm that David Elliott (from Trees for Cities) will be joining us. We have offers of support to provide us with professional expertise that we can call on when we know what proposals are being put forward by the Council.

Sharing information (please bear with us). The facilitator will require that all parties sign up to an agreement covering behaviour and confidentiality during the process. This is normal and to be expected. It may limit what information we can share on a public platform during the process and we anticipate that any press statements will be jointly agreed if all goes well.

There is the possibility of genuine change and for the evidence put forward by campaigners over many years to be listened to. Until we try we will not know.

– Paul Brooke, STAG Co-Chair.

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STAG Steering Group meeting: 28th August 2018

1. Notification Process for Urgent Fellings
1.1 Process still hit and miss. Earlier notification would be better than the current one or two days.
1.2 Specific problem identified with a tree in Wadsley with a sign for felling from 17th August. It states felling is due to disease and will happen at some point in the proceeding two weeks. Spotted by a resident but the STAG hadn’t been notified of this by Amey. This omission would be raised with Lewis Dagnall and Darren Butt.
1.3 The tree on Upper Albert Road, which was notified to STAG a while back, is still being queried. Heather Russell has a number of FoI requests outstanding about this tree. 1.4 Christine took an action to ask Helen McIlroy to contact Darren Butt to warn him that Amey should not attempt to fell. It is likely to be protested against by local residents and attempting to fell would harm trust at this very sensitive time.

2. Tree Replacements
2.1 Christine notified SG of a survey one of her group had completed of nearly all the tree replacements in her local area. Findings listed below.
2.2 The sapling failure rate (even with lots of residents watering trees) is much higher than Amey’s claimed 1%.
2.3 The trees being planted are not what Amey had promised to plant (often being unsuitable for the location).
2.4 Lots of the trees planted in verges have been seriously damaged/weakened by grass strimmers
2.5 Christine agreed to write up a high level summary of what had been found.
2.6 Chris/Paul Brooke will then present to Sheffield Council as an emerging issue. If no agreement for us to work together on resolving, STAG could take to the media.
2.7 Christine also gave a brief update on the People’s Audit, from her recent involvement.

3. Financial Update
3.1 Chris gave a high level update.
3.2 Chris made the point that for any future fundraising it needs to be clear for what purpose money is being raised.

4. Talks with Sheffield Council
4.1 Chris and Paul gave a detailed update.
4.2 Two potential facilitators have been ruled out because of prior links to Sheffield Council.
4.3 Two potential organisations are acceptable to both sides and a decision will be made in due course.
4.4 Agreed to confirm which facilitators should be used only when we know more detail about how the talks might be conducted.
4.5 Chis and Paul B had met Bishop Pete to get a feel for his role in the talks. It appears that the Council haven’t been particularly clear with him about this. However both Chris and Paul had been impressed and reassured by his statements.
4.6 Chris and Paul will make a proposal to Steering Group in the next few days about how they believe the STAG side of the talks should be conducted and who should be the Stag reps.

5. Forestry Commission investigation
5.1 Chris and Paul S gave an update on the current situation.

6. Independent Enquiry
6.1 Paul B stated that STAG had been open with the Council that it would continue to call for an Independent Enquiry into the last three years events.

7. No Stump City
7.1 No Stump City have approached STAG with a request to become one of the member groups of STAG.
There was a discussion with the general consensus that we should accept, subject to a few conditions.
However a formal vote was thought important, which will be done for all Steering Group members on Facebook, shortly after the meeting.

8. STAG Support for Roy’s WR protest
8.1 Russell raised the point that Roy’s protest at the Town Hall each week was attracting lots of good PR attention and that more support would be welcomed.
8.2 It presented opportunities for other aspects of the campaign to other issues to be highlighted alongside Roy’s campaign.
8.3 One NSC member is supporting Roy a lot, but doesn’t have a car and doesn’t use Facebook, so has requested more help with taking props down to the Town Hall and promoting the initiative.
8.4 It was suggested that this request should be put to the Crookes and Western Road local group for further consideration. Roy’s campaign will continue to be promoted on the STAG FB page.

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STAG Steering Group meeting: 31st July 2018

1. Funding Position
1.1 Chris summarised the latest position, having sent round the details a few days earlier.
1.2 There was discussion about which order various costs and demands should be paid. Options were agreed.

2. Discussions with the Council
2.1 Cllr Dagnall wrote to Chris and Paul Brooke as co-chairs of STAG late last week about opening talks.
2.2 The tone was more positive than previous letters. However it left many questions unanswered which Paul Brooke had requested answers to.
2.3 There were some answers received just prior to the meeting. A subsequent conversation between Chris and a Council official answered some more.
2.4 On the whole Steering Group members remain sceptical about Council reassurances until such time as their actions demonstrate a change of direction.
2.5 It was agreed that we should agree to hold an initial meeting, as per the invite in the letter. This first meeting could be characterised as “talks to agree how to go about the future talks”.
2.6 However there were a number of key questions that needed answering before any agreement could be made to attend further meetings after the initial meeting.

3. Early warning about urgent fellings
3.1 warnings were still being received with short notice.
3.2 A question had been raised about a tree on Upper Albert Road, which the Council claim is doing damage to a third party property. Inspection by a highways engineer friendly to the campaign suggests very minor cracks to a garden wall, not necessarily sufficient on its own to justify felling the tree.
3.3 The Council have produced no evidence of monitoring or validation of any insurance claim. Therefore, at present, local campaigners might protest at the felling, if/when felling crews arrive.

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Crowdfunder: street trees legal fund

We are currently collecting to support the small number of campaigners who are facing court costs after cases brought by Sheffield City Council.

Heartwood TiCL trail

Walk the Heartwood Trail and find Robert Macfarlane’s beautiful charms against harm hung from some of Sheffield’s threatened Street Trees. Designed by Jackie Morris.