Hundreds of people chanted for the resignation of the councillor in charge of Sheffield’s hugely controversial tree removal programme.
At a rally attended by more than 300 people in Endcliffe Park on Saturday afternoon, the crowd chanted ‘Lodge Out’ in reference to Councillor Bryan Lodge, who is cabinet member for the environment at the council.
The rally took place next to the location on Rustlings Road where trees were chopped down in a police-backed pre-dawn raid.
Three people, including two pensioners, were arrested for trying to prevent the removal of the eight trees - six of which did not need to chopped down according to the council’s own Independent Tree Panel.
In a statement on Friday, the council apologised for ‘the way the work was started’. But the council said while no future tree removals will take place before 7am in future, its contractors Amey will continue with its tree replacement programme and ‘take necessary measures to ensure that we protect the safety of our workforce, and the public’.
The council has said it is removing trees that are dangerous, diseased, dead or dying or causing damage or obstruction to pavements.
But campaigners across the city claim many of the tree removals are unnecessary.
At the rally in Endcliffe Park today, Dave Dillner, from the Sheffield Tree Action Group, told a cheering crowd: “Sheffield is a fantastic place with fantastic trees and we are going to fight to keep those trees.
“They may have won a small battle but they aren’t going to win the war.
“It has got to stop. They were elected to represent the interests of us, the citizens of Sheffield. It is our money they are spending, not their’s.
“A message for you Bryan Lodge - talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words. You will be judged by what you do, not your promises.
“Be aware Sheffield is watching, the rest of the UK is watching, Europe is watching and the rest of the world is watching.
“Felling our healthy mature trees is a recipe for disaster. You carry on and there will be consequences.”
Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats, said what happened on Rustlings Road was a ‘national scandal’ and compared it to the Battle of Orgreave.
“There it was the police against pickets. Here the local authority used the police against peaceful protesters. It was a sad day for Sheffield,” he said.
He said the police had deliberately intimidated residents by driving up and down the road in a vehicle with police dogs in an attempt to put off protesters.
As the crowd chanted ‘Lodge Out’, Coun Mohammed said: “If Bryan Lodge will not resign then [council leader] Julie Dore will have to do the decent thing and sack Bryan Lodge.
“That police operation did not happen overnight.”
He said questions will be asked of the council as to when and how the Rustlings Road operation was organised.
Helen McIlroy, from the Sheffield Tree Action Group, said: “I’m particularly sad we lost this part of the battle. But it is only part of it.
“There are thousands of trees still at risk.
“What they are doing is totally unsustainable. The trees they are putting in are no replacement.
“They are ripping communities apart with surveys that puts neighbour against neighbour, street against street. It is despicable.”
She said Sheffield Council should be representing residents, rather than handing over power to ‘foreign multi-nationals’ such as Amey.
She added: “They are absolutely wrong and we need to show them that we will not put up with it.”
“We know what happened here and what that means in terms of what local authorities should be doing for the people they represent, not people giving them power to use as they wish and hand it over to foreign multi-nationals with our money.
The crowd was told there will be a protest outside Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning, when two men who tried to prevent trees being cut down in Nether Edge are being prosecuted.
Mr Lodge has been contacted for comment.