As we enter a new year, there are a few key things worth remembering about the Sheffield street tree campaign:
There are potentially 27,000 of the 36,000 street trees on the felling list.
There is no upper limit as to how many can be felled and in what time period.
Many street trees are listed for felling due to simple pavement undulation or kerb misalignment which could be solved with already-costed-for-solutions in the £2.2 billion Streets Ahead programme.
The felling is seemingly being speeded up to meet contract wishes and not Sheffield’s needs.
If anyone thinks the campaign and concerns are just about street trees, then they haven’t been paying attention.
Unfortunately, the campaign revealed the depths some of our city council are willing to go to, instead of doing a U-turn which would have cost them nothing but pride.
The campaign is as much about local governance, democracy and what kind of Sheffield we want to live in, as about trees.
If this can be done to our trees, it applies to anything: libraries, schools, social care, people – the list is endless.
Rustlings Road trees were felled, and two pensioners were included in the arrested, in a pre-dawn raid to seemingly teach a lesson to Sheffielders who object to the way this city is being run.
The message from some of Sheffield City Council is: “We can do what we want, when we want and how we want – and you cannot stop it. We will just tritely apologise afterwards for the heavy handed approach but not the actual action.
“We will pretend it is about being NIMBY and try to create a class divide in our city.”.
As we enter 2017, we must remind some of those in Sheffield City Council that we are not fooled and we are not divided – and that peace and democracy will win the day.
There were at least two options not to fell the trees on Rustlings Road:
Leave them alone.
There had been no trips that resulted in any compensation, all the trees were healthy and two disability mobility scooters could sit side by side thus dispelling the myth of inaccessibility;
Use solutions 1 – 14 (eg flexible paving, ramping, smaller kerbs, etc) which the head of highway maintenance had already said would not cost the taxpayer any additional money.
The solutions were already costed in the original £2.2 billion contract and its delivery.
At the second Highway Tree Advisory Forum, on September 2, 2015, SCC’s head of highway maintenance, responsible for the Streets Ahead project, Steve Robinson, said in his presentation on the so-called ‘25 Engineering Solutions’: “The engineering and tree-based solutions come at no extra cost to the council; the taxpayer does not pay if an engineering solution or a tree-based solution can be applied – and the reason for that is that the Streets Ahead project is a highway maintenance project; and engineering and tree-based solutions are highway maintenance solutions.”
So, as we enter a new year, we sadly have to ask again: what kind of Sheffield do you want to live in?
One that is truthful, transparent and truly helps ALL?
If you want a city for everyone, now is the time to make that new year’s resolution to act together. Join the Facebook page for STAG (Sheffield Tree Action Groups) and let’s get started.
A true socialist and Ex-Labour supporter