Police criticise council for 'reputational damage' over controversial tree felling in Sheffield

SYP PCC Dr Alan Bilings

SYP PCC Dr Alan Bilings

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South Yorkshire's Police & Crime Commissioner has hit out at Sheffield Council for causing 'reputational damage to the force' over contriversial tree felling.

Responding to a letter sent by Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, Dr Alan Billings said that the force was aware of Amey's plans to move in at 5am and cut down trees on Rustlings Road a month before despite residents never being notified.

Police and Amey workers on Rustlings Road

Police and Amey workers on Rustlings Road

The crime boss added all decisions to cut down the trees, including the time the operation started, whether to close the road and to ask people to move their cars were all all matters for the council contractors.

The police & crime commissioner stated that the council and Amey 'gave SYP appropriate re-assurances that all necessary legal processes had been followed'.

Three women were arrested at the scene on November 17.

Dr Billings said: "Although this was a council operation it has caused some reputational damage to the force at a time when it cannot afford it.

Protesters gathered in Endcliffe Park a few days after the felling

Protesters gathered in Endcliffe Park a few days after the felling

"There was no plan to involve SYP officers in door-knocking, but on the morning there were insufficient council/contractor staff to knock on all doors in a timely fashion. The silver commander felt a ‘moral’ duty to use SYP officers to alert 7 people to the fact that their vehicles would be towed away unless they moved them.#

"The role of SYP was to ensure public safety and minimise any potential breaches of the peace. It was not to assist in any way with the operation.(However, see below.)

"Decisions around timing, road closures, giving notice and the removal of vehicles were all matters for the council and its contractors. They gave SYP appropriate re-assurances that all necessary legal processes had been followed.

"SYP provided assessments of the possible impact of this activity, but all decisions, including timing, were taken by SCC/Amey."

Hallam MP Nick Clegg said: “This letter once and for all demolishes the claim put about by Julie Dore that this decision was taken out of the Council’s hands by the police. We now know - categorically - that it was a Council led operation."

"Not only did Julie Dore and Brian Lodge make an incredibly poor judgement to carry out the tree felling dawn raid in the way they did, their absolute incompetence has put front line police officers in a compromising position.

“At a time when the relations between South Yorkshire Police and public are already strained, the Labour leadership of Sheffield City Council have sat back and let the police force take the rap for their poor decision making.

"Dore and Lodge must now stop passing the buck to South Yorkshire Police and take full responsibility.”

Sheffield Council has been contacted for a comment.

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