Sheffield council chiefs reject talks call with tree campaigners

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Leaders at Sheffield City Council have rejected calls from Tree Campaign group STAG (Sheffield Tree Action Group) for talks later this week with the authority, Amey and South Yorkshire Police to break, what the group describes as the 'current deadlock'.

The group says that in the past three months the numbers of protestors on the streets has grown, while a significant number of police officers have been deployed to deal with campaigners attempting to disrupt tree-felling.

The group is calling for talks to take place on Friday, April 20, at the Kenwood Park Hotel, in Sharrow.

However, authority chiefs have rejected the calls, stating that political talks would not be appropriate with the pending city council elections.

Stag co-chairman Paul Brooke said: “We have a window, during the pause in fellings, to get round a table and begin to move forward.

“We have been holding consultation meetings with supporters across the city to find out what campaigners want to achieve with talks. People really do understand that some limited tree replacement is necessary where trees are unhealthy or preventing easy access along the pavements. What they have seen though are healthy trees that in any other city would be retained, felled as a ‘first resort’ rather than a ‘last resort’. We must have a proper strategy now and for the next 20 years, based on independent evidence that communities can trust. That will only be achieved by mediated talks.”

South yorkshire crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings has previously called for a political solution to the row.

He said: "“My view remains as it always has been that this is not, or should not be, a dispute with the police. It is a matter between Sheffield City Council and some of its residents – a political matter. As such it should be resolved politically and I see no reason why it should not.”

Paul Billington, Director of Culture and Environment at Sheffield City Council said: “We have always said that we are more than happy to meet and talk with STAG and they acknowledged that we had never refused to meet them at our last meeting.

“However, we are unable to partake in politically sensitive discussions which STAG proposes will involve publicity during the pre-election period and as set out by central government guidelines.

“We want meaningful and constructive dialogue with anyone who is willing to engage and in fact we are in regular communication with interested parties on specific issues.

“Tree replacement works are currently paused to allow time for Amey to work on options to help us to move forward and we are happy to share any new proposals with residents and meet with STAG once this work is completed.”