Sheffield Council leader stays silent over calls to quit for Rustlings Road controversy

Julie Dore
Julie Dore
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Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore did not respond to calls for her to quit over a controversial pre-dawn tree-felling raid that saw three people, including two pensioners, arrested.

The Labour leader did not speak in response to a motion by Liberal Democrat Joe Otten calling for both her and her cabinet member for the environment Bryan Lodge to go over the events on Rustlings Road on November 17.

Police officers were on hand when trees were felled on Rustlings Road, Sheffield

Police officers were on hand when trees were felled on Rustlings Road, Sheffield

Residents were woken at 5am to move their cars ahead of eight trees being chopped down on Rustlings Roads as council contractors took part in a secretly-planned operation, backed by police officers.

The council subsequently apologised for the way the operation was handled and have promised that future tree removals will not happen before 7am.

At a heated council meeting at Sheffield Town Hall, Coun Otten said an apology ‘was not enough’ for what had happened on Rustlings Road and Couns Dore and Lodge should take responsibility for what happened.

Coun Lodge responded by criticising the Liberal Democrat group for ‘hypocrisy’ on the issue and said when they had been running Sheffield Council, ‘trees were being felled across the city on a regular basis with no consultation with residents’.

Coun Dore did not make a speech in relation to the motion and left the chamber for part of the debate on it, returning for the vote which rejected it.

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrat, said: “I expected her to be involved in this debate.

“This was the chance to look people in the eye and say ‘we are sorry’.”

Coun Dore did say earlier in the meeting that she would be reporting Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg to the Parliamentary Standards Board over ‘out of order’ comments she said the Liberal Democrat had made about her denying responsibility for the operation.

“I have never said the decision on Rustlings Road was taken out of our hands,” she said.

The events of Rustlings Road are the latest in a series of controversies involving the council’s tree replacement programme as part of its Streets Ahead contract with Amey.

The council has said it is removing trees that are dangerous, diseased, dead or dying or causing damage or obstruction to pavements and replacing them with new ones.

But campaigners claim many of the tree removals are unnecessary - including several of those on Rustlings Roads.

Prior to the meeting, around 100 tree protesters gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall to chant ‘Save Our Trees’, with dozens packing out the public gallery during the meeting.

Coun Lodge said tree removals are taking place as many need to be replaced.

“Two hundred trees a year are dead, dying or diseased,” he said.

“As the population of the trees continues to age, the potential for trees to fail increases.

“We need to rebalance the age profile of these trees.”