So much for people power, democracy

Save the trees campaign on Rustlings Road in Sheffield
Save the trees campaign on Rustlings Road in Sheffield
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“Your editorial in the Star under the heading “People power piles on the pressure” discussing Sheffield councils’ apparent U-turn on the new bus programme is an interesting one.

Early in it, you say, and I quote: “ Lets face it, it would have been a poor day for democracy if the views of 12,000 people had gone unheeded. How many petitions attract that many signatures these days and how often do people take to the streets to protest about a local matter?”

Well, the SORT street tree campaign does. This started last May – after Amey stuck notices on mature lime trees on Rustlings road, and quickly gathered the 5,000 signatures needed to trigger an hour-long discussion and vote at a full council meeting.

What a waste of time that was. Sort were allowed to speak for two minutes out of the 60. Not that it mattered – few Labour councillors were listening – and all voted to take no action to stop Amey.

Then, in early July, CounFox initiated the first Street Tree Forum which was to be bi-monthly. At each of the first two, the assembled distinguished panels and around 100 members of the public, called with loud and strong voices for a moratorium on street tree felling until a promised policy came in next spring.

According to Streets Ahead, there was previously no policy as they had no money to implement one anyway. Which means that when the long- term roads contract was agreed with Amey nearly three years ago, policy regarding street trees was not included, which now gives Amey a free hand, (or chainsaw).

The third bi-monthly Forum is now a month overdue, and not a murmur from the council.

Coun Fox has now announced the formation of a small, advisory, Independent Tree Panel. He will write to residents on a street-by-street basis if their street is earmarked, (ie chopping down their trees). If less than 50 per cent of those contacted object, chopping goes ahead. If more, it gets referred to this advisory panel who will consider and make recommendations to the council.

We’ve no idea of who will make up this panel. But of course, being only advisory,they’ll have no executive powers so the council need not take any notice.

The SORT campaign’s now citywide. The petition now has more than 13,000 signatures and we’ve had a great deal of media coverage.

Meanwhile, still no moratorium and our street trees continue to be chopped down.

So much for people power and democracy then.

Steve Johnson

Rustlings road – SORT