Council contractors were unable to prune a Sheffield tree today after protesters gathered around it.
Sheffield Council's cabinet member for environment, Coun Bryan Lodge, said 'unreasonable behaviour' by protesters meant that works on the elm tree on Chelsea Road, Nether Edge had to cease this morning.
The tree is under threat as part of the council's street maintenance programme and contractors Amey were due to carry out pruning works today but campaigners are objecting the works as a rare White-letter Hairstreak butterfly is living in the tree.
Coun Lodge said: “It is incredibly disappointing that a number of individuals sought to unlawfully prevent essential safety works being carried out on an elm tree on Chelsea Road today.
“The tree, which is showing signs of significant decay has to be pruned as in its current state of deterioration, it is causing a safety risk to members of the public. The level of decay has been confirmed by independent reports. In recent months, we have worked tirelessly with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation on a plan to safeguard a rare butterfly inhabiting the tree.
“Unreasonable behaviour displayed by many protesters around the work site meant that safety works had to cease immediately, posing a risk to nearby residents and passers-by.
“We only need a strong gust of wind for a branch to fall off the tree and cause serious harm to a person or nearby property and we simply cannot allow this to happen.
“Ahead of works starting, we communicated with protester representatives to outline the need for these safety works to go ahead. The tree must be made safe and we ask that people allow Amey to get on with the essential pruning works and abide by the High Court injunction.”
Paul Selby, of Save Nether Edge Trees, said: "“All the independent evidence proves the tree does not need to be felled. Elm experts have offered to carefully prune the tree for free, but the council have refused.
"As with everything in relation to the whole street tree issue, all campaigners want is for the Council to work with us positively, and to listen to the independent expert advice, so we can maximise the chances of the butterfly colony and tree surviving.”