Sheffield tree felling works halted for second time for 'review'

An arborist at work.
An arborist at work.
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The controversial felling of trees in Sheffield has been halted for a second time following a rise in 'dangerous tactics' by protesters.

Sheffield Council said only trees which are deemed to be dangerous will be worked on, while the council and contractor Amey, who are carrying out the works as part of a £2.2 billion highways improvement contract, review how to complete the work.

The halt is the second time works have been paused. Amey didn't carry out any tree felling for around four weeks following a disturbance between protesters and security staff on Meersbrook Park Road on January 22.

A spokesman for the council and Amey said: “Since 2012 we have been carrying out the biggest investment Sheffield’s highway network has ever seen, resurfacing the majority of roads and pavements across the city.

“However, in the past year or so the actions of a handful of people unlawfully entering the safety zones where tree replacement work is being carried out has meant that it has become increasingly difficult for Amey to complete the programme without danger to staff and members of the public.

“Given the increasingly dangerous tactics that have been seen in recent months, Amey have had to employ security staff at tree replacement sites.

“In the interests of both residents and staff, Amey are exploring options for completing the work and will present these options to the council. During this review period, only trees which are dangerous will be worked on.

“Any necessary emergency work will continue to be carried out in this time and the wider programme will resume once this review is complete.”

Chris Rust, of Sheffield Tree Action Groups, said he hoped an offer to sit down and talk to the council and Amey still stood.

"The stupidity of dragging the police into the tree felling problem, at enormous public cost, cannot be underestimated," he said.

"The council has been given many opportunities to have open, mediated discussions with tree campaigners but they have always refused. Recently, Sue Hayman, the shadow environment minister, said that she was prepared to be a mediator.

"We hope they will seriously consider having these discussions."

Mr Rust added he believed 'there was more to this story than has yet been revealed'.

Arborists are felling and replacing trees deemed dangerous, dead, diseased, dying or which are said to be damaging streets and pavements but objectors to the scheme have staged a number of protests across the city.

Trees earmarked for felling are fenced or cordoned off and a court injunction is in place making it illegal for protesters to enter the safety zones. But a number of cordons have been breached, leading to a number of arrests.