Tree campaigners hope for 'trust and positive atmosphere' ahead of Sheffield Council talks

Sheffield Tree Action Groups and the council will hold talks tomorrow.
Sheffield Tree Action Groups and the council will hold talks tomorrow.
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Sheffield tree campaigners and council bosses will meet tomorrow for 'serious' talks aimed at ending the hostility between the two sides.

Sheffield Tree Action Groups co-chairs Chris Rust and Rebecca Hammond will sit down with council leader Julie Dore and chief executive John Mothersole.

Stag co-chair Chris Rust.

Stag co-chair Chris Rust.

The campaign group, known as Stag, has been calling for talks for some time as the dispute over the felling and replacement of thousands of street trees has led to national publicity, arrests and court action.

But they hope through tomorrow's meeting to begin a process of restoring trust - and, if possible, save some trees from the chop.

"We have been hoping to have serious open talks for a very long time," said Mr Rust.

"It may need help from a professional mediator to create trust and a positive atmosphere but in the end talking is the only way to solve a problem like this.

Council leader Julie Dore.

Council leader Julie Dore.

"I know that our supporters across the city are still very determined and I think the council recognise that they will continue to struggle with this problem for a long time if we can’t find a solution acceptable to everyone."

On Friday last week campaigner Calvin Payne was spared jail by a high court judge. Justice Mr Stephen Males ruled that he had three times breached an injunction brought by the council that stops people protesting inside safety barriers around trees and encouraging people to do the same.

Mr Payne was ordered to pay the council £16,000 in costs.

The council insists 6,000 of the city's 36,000 street trees need to be felled and replaced as part of the 25-year Streets Ahead PFI contract with Amey.

John Mothersole.

John Mothersole.

The authority says only trees that are dead, dying, diseased, dangerous or discriminatory - damaging the highway so people have trouble getting by - are being cut down.

But campaigners say healthy trees are being cut down for profit, and could be saved through a variety of engineering solutions. They have repeatedly called for the redacted sections of the contract to be made public.

Ms Hammond said: "This is not going to be an easy thing to achieve but with goodwill and people prepared to make a serious effort perhaps we can find a way to save the remaining healthy, harmless street trees that have been condemned by the Streets Ahead contractors."

Rebecca Hammond.

Rebecca Hammond.