A campaign to stop Sheffield Council axing city trees has gained hundreds of new followers since two pensioners were arrested during a 'dawn raid' felling last week.
Sheffield Tree Action Group, STAG, has picked-up more than 700 new followers since pensioners Jenny Hockey and Freda Brayshaw were arrested on Rustlings Road after police and contractors began felling trees while residents slept on Thursday.
According to STAG spokesman Dave Dillner, momentum has risen to 'unexpected levels' after the 'international PR catastrophe'.
He said: "We've had 727 new people join STAG in the last four days. I think this shows just how shocked and appalled people are.
"If STAG had wanted to devise a stunt to bring this issue to the world's attention, we could not have done a better job than Sheffield Council with this international PR catastrophe. I've had hundreds of messages of support from people all over the world.
"It's just a shame that Sheffield is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons again."
Angry Rustlings Road residents said they were woken at about 5am on Thursday by workers from Sheffield City Council's contractors Amey, who were accompanied by a large number of police officers. They said the officers banged on their doors and demanded cars were moved immediately or they would be towed.
Residents claim they were not made aware of the felling plans.
Sheffield's legendary musician Richard Hawley blasted the council as 'despicable' and 'disgraceful' in the wake of what Thursday.
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg described the incident as being more akin to a well-planned anti-terror raid than a morning of tree-felling.
The story was covered by news giants including Mail Online and The Sun, which broadcast to global audiences.
Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for the environment at Sheffield Council, said: “The Independent Tree Panel recommended that two of the eight trees be removed. A third was identified as having signs of decay and after further monitoring we decided this was best replaced too.
“We made the decision to remove the other five trees following a review of all other possible solutions. These solutions not only created transport and parking issues but were unaffordable. Retaining them would have cost in excess of £50,000 and then set a precedent for finding engineering solutions for other trees across the city. If we were to consider bespoke solutions to retain highway trees throughout Sheffield we’d be facing a bill of between £14-26 million. This is simply not affordable within the Council’s budget, which continues to face massive Government cuts year on year. We can’t divert this sort of money away from vital services.”
To find out more about Sheffield Trees Action Group