THE STAR SAYS: Answers needed on tree felling evidence as Sheffield row grows

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The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign has revealed many weird and wonderful facts over the years.

Freedom of Information requests made by our reporters have answered questions on everything you can imagine - from what pests have infected Sheffield hospitals to how much consultation on winter gritting cuts in the city cost you.

It is rare for these requests to come back with as little information as the most recent one from Sheffield Council, about highways and trees, following the major row over felling in recent weeks.

The council refused to answer all but one of 11 questions posed because it would take too long and cost too much to go through the records.

Funnily enough, their FOI response was three weeks later than it should have been, so there was certainly plenty of time.

They did answer how many people had complained about falling on Rustlings Road - where the felling controversy has raged most fiercely, so far - and the answer was three. In three years.

They also provided ‘supplementary information’ about how many ‘highway tree related footway’ insurance claims have been made.

But the main reason why reporter Ellen Beardmore submitted the request was to find out how many people with mobility issues - the elderly, mums with prams, the disabled - had complained about being unable to use a road or pavement in Sheffield.

It has been claimed this is the reason why some trees across Sheffield have to come down. Labour councillors have argued access for some is difficult precisely because of bulging tree roots, and the council had to meet its highway obligations, when the issue was debated in the town hall.

The Star wants to cover both sides of every story, and answering this question was the council’s chance to show that there is evidence to back up that claim.

The question went unanswered with the excuse that it would take too much time to review all the records required.

The big question now is that if this information on mobility and access is not already held, how does the council know that access for people with mobility issues is a problem in the first place?

This needs answering, and quickly, as the great tree felling debate and protests continue to grow across the whole city.