Police to continue having 'appropriate' number of officers at Sheffield tree felling sites 'to ensure safety'

South Yorkshire Police's Assistant Chief Constable Dave Hartley.
South Yorkshire Police's Assistant Chief Constable Dave Hartley.
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South Yorkshire Police has pledged to continue having an 'appropriate' number of officers on the scene of tree felling works after reports of up to 30 cops at one site earlier this week.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Hartley said the force had changed its tactics in handling the protests following clashes between campaigners and Sheffield Council contractor Amey staff on Meersbrook Park Road in January, in which he said two security staff were injured.

Around 30 officers were in attendance on Abbeydale Park Rise, Dore, on Monday, where a 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and 'numerous people' were reported for summons under section 303 of the Highways Act 1980.

Asst Chief Con Hartley said: "The first thing to be clear about is what our role is in this. Why trees are being cut is nothing to do with South Yorkshire Police, that's a discussion to be had by Sheffield Council.

"Our role is simply to look at this highway work and make sure that it's lawful and it has been to highest court in the land and Amey has a statutory duty to carry it out. Where there are people who want to lawfully protest, our role is to keep the Queen's peace."

Works have been carried out on Abbeydale Park Rise and Thornsett Road, Nether Edge, this week and arborists have been met with protesters on both streets.

Campaigners claim Amey are refusing to look at the engineering solutions that are included in the contract because it is cheaper to cut the tree. Amey and Sheffield Council have both repeatedly said the trees are either dead, dying, diseased, dangerous or damaging the highway.

Asst Con Hartley said: "We have a myriad of responsibilities - knife crime is on the up, homes are being burgled so the backdrop to that is of course these officers could be better placed elsewhere but the council has a lawful right to carry out this maintenance and we have a duty to be there so we don't have any other choice.

"We go through a threat, harm and risk assessment and we look at the activity and what numbers have we seen and what the protester's capabilities and intentions are. We try to differentiate between those who lawfully want to make their voice heard and those moving from protesters to activists who will do all they can to thwart the activity.

"I have got to be reassured that we have got a realistic and appropriate number of officers to ensure safety. We have seen 90 to 100 protesters and the number officers will replicate that."

READ MORE: Sheffield councillor Lord Scriven demands answers over South Yorkshire Police's handling of tree protests
Responding to a letter from former Sheffield Council leader Lord Scriven has written to Chief Constable Stephen Watson demanding answers over the manner of policing at the protests, Asst Chief Con Hartley said Mr Watson would be sending a 'fairly robust' reply by the end of the week.

Chris Rust, of Sheffield Tree Action Groups, said: "It's unfortunate that Amey are not managing to chop down any trees and increasing the number of police has not affected their ability to chop down trees.

"The police seem to be digging a huge hole for themselves and they don't appear to be helping Amey achieve anything with their tree felling programme but they do seem to be increasing opposition."