Sheffield Council refuses to reveal details about secret Rustling Roads tree report

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
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Sheffield Council has refused to reveal details about the decision to keep a report about the controversial removal of trees on Rustlings Road secret for four months.

It has claimed it would take them too long to get hold of the relevant information.

The report was created in July but only published by the council minutes before the removal of trees started on the street on November 17.

The Rustlings Road trees were removed in a pre-dawn operation in which police woke residents at 5am to ask them to move their cars and which resulted in three protesters, including two pensioners, being arrested.

The council has now refused a Freedom of Information request on the grounds responding to the request to provide information about the decision to withhold the report for four months would take too long and be too expensive for the authority.

A question on the What Do They Know website asked when the decision to withhold the report was taken, whether the ‘public safety’ reasons given by Councillor Bryan Lodge were based on ‘specific information’ and the date on which Sheffield Council informed the police about its intention to carry out work on Rustlings Road.

The council response said: “The handling and location of information in regard to this request would exceed the 18 hour time limit under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

“As a result to locate, retrieve and extract the requested information would likely well exceed the cost limit for dealing with FoI requests.”

A review of the refusal decision has been requested by the person who made it.

He said: “I find it highly unlikely that Sheffield Council cannot retrieve the information and sources for a statement released by a councillor under the cost limit.”

A review of a separate request asking for notes and emails sent to the council’s IT team about not publishing the report has also been requested after the council answered by providing a general statement instead of those specific details.

The council’s response said the publication delay was to prevent protesters being given advance notice of the tree-felling plans.

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.