"It shouldn't have got to the point it did," Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore issues tree felling apology
Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield Council, has made an “unreserved apology” to the city for the tree felling scandal that sent shockwaves throughout the country and has admitted the “dispute shouldn’t have been allowed to get to the point it did.”
Sheffield Council was instructed to apologise by the Local Government Ombudsman after it investigated a complaint by Alan Robshaw regarding a dawn felling of trees on Rustlings Road.
Mr Robshaw contributed evidence to the Ombudsman while fighting cancer but died earlier this year before receiving the apology.
The Ombudsman found the council did not, at times, act with openness and transparency when removing trees across Sheffield, and when dealing with people’s complaints about that work.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Ms Dore said she wanted to offer the requested “unrserved apology” that she said was also set out by the local authority last week.
She added: “In addition I think it is important to say I also accept the controversy and concern that the issue has caused and that the dispute shouldn’t have been allowed to get to the point it did and we accept the view in the report that the council’s poor practice in managing the issue did contribute to the opposition to the programme, particularly with incidents such as Rustlings Road. It shouldn’t have been handled in the way that it was and there are examples of this set out in the report. It is also clear that the approach we have now got to, which I think the vast majority of people are supportive of is the right way forward
“I think it is also important to say that over the past two and a half years where we have changed the approach, we have at different stages apologised and as said in the report this is not the first time we have accepted that we got things wrong with the way that this was handled. Most notably upon the production of the lessons learnt document last year which is referenced in the report. With regards specifically to the Rustlings Road incident the council did give a full apology for those events and this is also referenced in the report. We wrote to the residents of Rustlings Road a week after that incident took place and I reiterate that apology today.
“Finally, I think on a more positive note it is important to say that the fact that we are now working towards a street tree strategy that has been co-produced with the groups who were previously at the centre of the dispute is a demonstration of how far we have come together. As recognised in the report we are in a very different position today to where we were two and a half years ago and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in making this happen.”
The tree saga saw thousands of the city’s street trees chopped down under a £2.2 billion PFI highways contract, and sparked a protest movement in Sheffield and beyond.
Campaigners argued healthy trees were being removed unnecessarily, but this was disputed by the local authority.