This clumsy effort has fallen flat on its face

Alan Story and Arthur Baker, of Western Road protesting at a drop in session at St Timothy's Community Hall.
Alan Story and Arthur Baker, of Western Road protesting at a drop in session at St Timothy's Community Hall.
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On Friday, April 7, you highlighted the plight of a poorly supported petition that called for the Council to stop debating the ‘middle class issue of trees’.

In an act of kindness you offered a hotlink to the petition via your web coverage of the story. This was extremely helpful in bringing the rather divisive document to a wider audience, for which you should be thanked.

It is no doubt unsettling for Council leader Julie Dore that a petition raised by the Chair of her own Park and Arbourthorne Labour Party branch (sic) is so utterly misjudged in tone that in 16 days it has limped only to a magnificent seven signatures. How embarrassing.

Perhaps the organiser of the petition might care to study the rationale for retention of healthy street trees. It is a powerful and well-evidenced narrative. Instead, this petition has sought to stifle debate and to paint over the strength of public feeling. Is that a symptom of a healthy understanding of democracy? Perhaps the proposer also seeks to spare the council the recurrent embarrassment of facing city-wide petitions from many thousands of concerned Sheffielders of all backgrounds?

A petition framed in this way reveals the utter lack of understanding of the aims of tree campaigners. Importantly, it shows how much remains to be done to communicate the benefits of healthy street trees, especially those with large leaf canopies.

The simplistic class-divide argument is not working. It is an attempt to create a political brawl. This clumsy effort has fallen flat on its face. It reveals an attitude disposed to confrontation. That is not going to bring resolution.

Surely it is time for a meaningful and constructive adult dialogue between the council and city-wide tree action groups.

Richard Ward

Fountside, Sheffield, S7