Sheffield Council will try to get one of its own members sent to prison for allegedly breaching an injunction relating to tree felling.
Alison Teal, a Green Party councillor for Nether Edge and Sharrow, tweeted a 'hand-delivered' letter from the authority claiming she had breached the High Court order stopping people from, among other things, stepping inside safety barriers put up on around trees on the city's public roads.
The letter, dated September 29, warns Coun Teal the council plans to take her back to court for the alleged breach, adding: "In the application the council will be seeking your committal to prison, or, in the alternative, a fine or seizure of your assets and an order to pay the council's reasonable legal costs."
The letter advises the councillor to take legal advice and adds: "I would respectfully ask that you refrain from further breaching the injunction order and warn you that any further breaches after this letter may be regarded as significant aggravating factors by the court."
Coun Teal said she had 'fastidiously respected' the terms of the injunction.
She added: "I have been careful not to breach my injunction and so I am particularly interested to see what evidence they have.
"I have been standing on the street talking to people while barriers are set up, I have stood on private land to protect a tree which overhangs private property, but that's not breaching the injunction.
"They could take photos that make it appear that I am breaching the injunction but the reality is that once the work zone is almost established I get outside the barriers.
"I was trying to persuade a campaigner to get out of the work zone last week.
"If they are going to accuse me of encouraging others I don't see how they could make that charge either, nor parking my car under a tree."
Coun Teal was one of three named defendants - with Dave Dillner and Calvin Payne - against whom the council won an injunction in August, along with 'persons unknown' - meaning the order effectively applies to anyone.
It forbids people from:
- Entering any safety zone put up on the public highway around any tree within the Sheffield city boundary.
- Seeking to prevent any safety zone from being put up.
- Remaining in a safety zone after it is put up.
- Knowingly leaving a vehicle in a safety zone or intentionally putting one somewhere to stop a safety zone being put up.
They are also forbidden from encouraging anyone else to do the same, including on social media.
The council successfully argued that such actions were illegal. The authority says protests have been holding up the work of the Streets Ahead PFI contract with Amey.
Cabinet member for the environment Bryan Lodge said protesters had 'every opportunity' to comply with court rulings and the authority supported peaceful protest outside safety barriers.
He said the council had evidence of Coun Teal going inside safety barriers, adding: “The council has no choice but to continue collecting evidence to support its legal case to ensure those who are purposely preventing the completion of highway improvement works across the city are dealt with under the terms of the injunction."
Six thousand of the city's 36,000 street trees are supposed to be replaced by the end of the year. If targets are not met, Amey could face financial penalties.
The council says the trees are either dead, dying, diseased, dangerous or damaging the highway. But campaigners say many healthy trees are being felled for profit.
Campaigners are continuing to crowd fund in order to cover future legal costs.