Sheffield tree campaigners set up park camp as controversy grows

Protestors make a camp in Endcliffe Park to protest against the council felling trees on the streets of Sheffield'Picture Dean Atkins
Protestors make a camp in Endcliffe Park to protest against the council felling trees on the streets of Sheffield'Picture Dean Atkins
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Campaigners fighting felling in Sheffield have set up a camp near to 11 trees which have become the ‘symbol’ of the city-wide controversy.

A tent for the drive is now pitched in Endcliffe Park, as 11 trees which run alongside it on Rustlings Road are scheduled to be felled and campaigners feared work to do so could start imminently.

The original drive to save those 11 trees led to a 13,000-strong petition, which triggered a debate in Sheffield Town Hall and was the spark behind calls for a formal city-wide tree strategy to be developed by Sheffield Council.

Save Our Roadside Trees (SORT) campaigner Calvin Payne, who was sleeping over in the tent last night, said all supplies had been donated and passers-by were supportive.

He added: “This road is symbolic, although the campaign is city wide, and we do want a win here to inspire people across the city.”

Aims of the camp were to enable campaigners to take peaceful action quickly if felling did begin and also to raise more awareness as protests spread across the city.

Campaigners want a sustainable approach to tree management, more analysis and valuations of the benefit of trees, and for the strategy to be developed as a priority.

Sheffield Council and its contractor Amey, which carries out felling as part of the Streets Ahead project, says the Rustlings Road trees need to be felled because one is diseased and they are damaging the road or pavement.

On Monday a spokesman said those trees were ‘unlikely’ to come down this week but it could not be ruled out.

However last night, after the tent was installed, a spokesman for Streets Ahead said: “We can reassure residents and campaigners on Rustlings Road the trees will not be replaced this week, and that there is no date set.”

Amey, and the council, insists the contractor is not paid per tree removed and claims it is ‘more expensive to remove a mature tree and replace it with a new one, than to look after mature trees.’ However it has refused to provide a breakdown of the two costs when asked by The Star.

In Birmingham, it has been reported Amey was charging the city’s council £2,000 for each sapling planted on roadsides. Amey says this cost was for work outside the Birmingham contract andcovered thlifespan of the tree. A council spokesman said: “We are unable to comment on the costs for another council’s contract but can confirm we do pay a single payment each month for all the services included in the Streets Ahead contract.”

David Dilner, of Sheffield Tree Action Group, said that was the ‘same old lie’ and would add to campaigners’ frustration.