Determined residents are staging a week-long vigil to stop Sheffield trees from being felled - as an 8,000-strong petition successfully sparks a council debate.
Protesters yesterday peacefully blocked work to axe several trees on Wayland Road and Bowood Road, Nether Edge, and they plan to remain there for the rest of the week.
They believe work should be halted on felling across the city as talks with Sheffield Council continue on its tree management policies, carried out by contractor Amey through the Streets Ahead project.
Streets Ahead says the trees need to be removed as they are diseased, dying or damaging the pavement but protesters want independent expert analysis.
Calvin Payne, from Nether Edge Green Party, was part of the group which met sub-contracted tree workers as they arrived, made them a cup of tea and said they would not allow the work to go ahead.
He said: “There is an ongoing request for a morotorium on tree felling which is being considered and I think it is wrong that these trees would have been felled this morning if we had not been here while these discussions are ongoing. We will stay here all week.”
A petition signed by almost 8,000 people, which started as a response to tree felling on Rustlings Road, near Endcliffe Park, was handed in at the Town Hall yesterday.
Campaigners from group Save Our Rustlings Trees – SORT – needed 5,000 names to trigger a debate by councillors.
Their cause has grown from saving 11 trees on Rustlings Road, which Streets Ahead says are damaging the pavement, to calls for scrutiny and review of the council’s contract and controversial policies on tree.
It is likely the debate will take place at the full council meeting on Wednesday, July 1.
Dr Deepa Shetty, who started the petition a month ago, said: “Over the next two years, we have strong reason to believe that well over 50 per cent of street trees with medium and large crowns will be felled by Amey, with council consent.”
She said such trees provided ‘millions of pounds worth of ecosystem services’ each year and the council ‘must stop the asset stripping’ of Sheffield’s trees now to avoid serious negative effects such as an increase in air pollution.
Streets Ahead confirmed three complaints had been made in two years about trips and falls due to the tree roots on Rustlings Road and says the trees removed will be replaced, but not necessarily in the same spot.
Louise Wilcockson, from SORT, said: “My dad fell on the war memorial steps in Barkers’ Pool a few days ago – he doesn’t want the war memorial taking down.
“It has got to be a proportionate response – the benefits of these trees outweigh the risks to the people of Sheffield.”
Ecclesall Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said the issue had become one of the most controversial he had seen.
He added: “This is becoming pretty close now to what the library campaign was – that had 17,000 signatures and the trees one is halfway. It is growing by the minute and has become city wide.
“The council can’t ignore this any more now.”
Campaigners also urged supporters to attend a rally outside the Town Hall on July 1 at 1pm and the meeting from 2pm.