Sheffield tree campaigners vow to continue protests despite 'regrettable' drain on police resources

Chris Rust, co-chairman of Sheffield Tree Action Groups.
Chris Rust, co-chairman of Sheffield Tree Action Groups.
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Campaigners objecting to the felling of trees across Sheffield say they 'regret' police having to step up resources but pledged to continue with protests when works resume 'in the coming days'.

Chris Rust, co-chairman of Sheffield Tree Action Groups, said he expected protesters to return to the streets as there was an 'awful lot of anger' against Sheffield Council's £2.2 billion highway improvement contract with Amey.

He said: "It's totally regrettable that the police have been brought into this. The drain on police resources is huge and it's regrettable and it's ultimately because Sheffield Council refuse to face up to their mistakes.

"I think we will see a very determined protest and resistance when work resumes. I have spoken to residents who are angry and some very determined people. People are looking at any way they can resist the policies of the council and that may lead to people taking some direct action off their own back.

"There is no co-ordination here. We are not telling people what to do. They are doing what they can to protect the trees. When I say resistance, there is a great resistance to this policy but how that pans out is down to people in different areas."

Works were halted following clashes between security staff and protesters on Meersbrook Park Road on January 22.

Streets Ahead account director, Darren Butt, from Amey, said: "Our work replacing street trees is essential, but keeping our staff, the public and protesters safe from harm and within the law is paramount.

"We have tried everything we can think of to discourage people from deliberately obstructing us, but the behaviour of a small minority of people has been increasingly worrying.

"The last thing anyone wants is a repeat of the circumstances we experienced on Meersbrook Park Road in January, where one of our staff suffered a broken wrist, another needed to be rescued from a tree and there was damage to our equipment.

"There is no legitimate basis for this behaviour. Sheffield City Council has a legal duty to maintain the city’s highway and there is a High Court injunction in place to keep our working areas clear and safe."