Sheffield Council refuses to answer ‘vexatious’ tree questions

Tree oin the streets of Greenhill
Tree oin the streets of Greenhill
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Sheffield Council is refusing to answer future questions from residents about highway trees because they are considered ‘vexatious’ .

Concerned residents have submitted Freedom of Information requests to the council as controversy over tree felling inthe Streets Ahead project grows.

Such requests are a formal way of asking for recorded information, and the council is obliged to respond.

But several people have been told their questions will go unanswered.

In a response the council also says that because of the number and ‘impact’ of requests about highway trees future requests will be considered to be ‘vexatious and ‘manifestly unreasonable.’

In the Freedom of Information Act 2000 it says authorities can refuse requests if they are vexatious - defined as causing annoyance, frustration, or worry.

But tree campaigner Deepa Shetty said the ‘disturbing’ response showed the council was ‘unwilling to communicate’ with the public over trees. For many people who have submitted FoI requests on trees, it was their first ever.

The Star has also submitted one request for information on highway trees under the act this year. In its response to residents the council said its decision to refuse requests was in line with Information Commissioner guidance.

Simon Green, executive director of place at Sheffield Council, said: “We understand that the issue of street trees is a very emotive issue and that some members of the public are very passionate about them.

“We have and continue to work hard to respond to requests for information and answer as many questions as we can.

“As with all Freedom of Information requests we receive each request is assessed in line with the FOI Act. Any applicant who is unhappy with their initial response is entitled to an internal review.

“We do continue to work towards publishing as much information as possible in relation to trees in the future.”