It seems my hopes of not having to comment further on the tree issue have been short-lived but hardly unexpected given the pathetic attempt by Councillor Bryan Lodge at the Town Hall meeting on December 7 to justify the horrendous actions on Rustlings Road in the early hours of November 17.
Councillor Lodge appears to think that sending a letter of apology to the residents and promising that future tree felling will not start before 7am is sufficient to appease the dedicated campaigners and that the outrageous felling of healthy trees can continue unabated.
Council Leader, Julie Dore, was an utter disgrace as she didn’t seem to want to address the issue at all except for complaining about Nick Clegg’s response.
Let there be no doubt that Sheffield City Council’s aim from the start has been to fell ALL of our city’s roadside trees and that, in spite of their claim of transparency and consultation with residents, the decision to axe them had already been made long ago.
It doesn’t seem to count for anything that people all over the city are objecting to the mass destruction of these wonderful, mature trees or that, as in the case of Rustlings Road, 59 out of 65 residents wished to retain their trees.
Also the Independent Tree Panel, whose findings they defiantly ignored and deliberately held back the report until 15 minutes before felling began, stated that seven out of the eight trees were healthy and that alternative solutions could have been used (such as Flexi-Pave) to rectify any pavement ridging.
I find it greatly disturbing that on that dreadful day when they could clearly see the distress their actions were causing, not one person from Sheffield City Council, Amey or the Police who were involved in the authoritarian operation had the decency or principles to say: “Just a minute, this is wrong and I want no part of such underhand tactics.”
These shocking actions, which had been secretly plotted a month before, were more appropriate for tackling football hooliganism or a mass riot, rather than peaceful, law-abiding citizens who were merely trying to protect the trees they loved.
Councillor Lodge and the whole of Sheffield City Council should hang their heads in shame as they know full well they didn’t need to be felled.
What kind of people do something like this and are these the actions one would expect in a democratic society from those elected to serve the public and make decisions in the best interests of our city?
Councillor Lodge has also made unsubstantiated claims that tree workers have been “racially abused” by some protesters, although he did admit that the majority have been ‘dignified and respectful’. If this is true, while I do not condone abuse of any kind, perhaps Coun Lodge and SCC should consider the fact that respect works both ways and if they had listened to people’s concerns (including a 16,000 signature petition) some unpleasant incidents may well have been avoided.
The very least that the public should expect from the council is the following action.
Apologise to everyone for the shame and disgrace their appalling actions of November 17 brought on our city.
Apologise for the 4,000 trees they have already felled and promise to end immediately their city-wide felling programme and give assurances that no more healthy trees will be chopped down.
As they have now lost all credibility and trust in the eyes of the public, Councillors Julie Dore and Bryan Lodge, chief executive John Mothersole and head of highways Steve Robinson must all submit their resignations.
Claims for compensation should be brought against Sheffield City Council by residents for the disruption and distress caused during the tree-felling operations across the city, but sadly nothing can replace the trees.
Employees of Amey should seriously consider whether they want to continue working for a disreputable company which puts profit before people.
Do they really think the anger over this debacle is just going to blow over and that the residents of this city are going to stand back and allow the destruction of all the roadside trees?
The battle to save our trees must continue and Sheffield City Council need to be held to account and stopped from wreaking any more havoc.
Lodge Moor, S10