Petition calls on Sheffield Council to spend less time debating 'middle class' issue of tree-felling

Tree campaigners demonstrate outside Sheffield Town Hall
Tree campaigners demonstrate outside Sheffield Town Hall
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A petition has been launched calling on Sheffield Council to stop spending so much time debating the 'middle class' issue of trees.

Its founder Antony May claims the row over tree-felling is pushing 'more important' matters like homelessness, education and public transport down the agenda.

Police at a protest against tree-felling on Chippinghouse Road, in Nether Edge

Police at a protest against tree-felling on Chippinghouse Road, in Nether Edge

But tree protesters have hit back, insisting the campaign has supporters across the city, including in many of its most deprived neighbourhoods.

They have also pointed out that Mr May's petition failed to garner a single signature in its first week since being launched last Thursday, March 30 - in stark contrast to a petition to save threatened trees along Ecclesall Road, which was signed nearly 6,000 times.

Mr May's petition on the council's website states: "We the undersigned petition the council to start debating much more important issues other that the trees issue when we have such more important issues to discuss such as homelessness, education, shortage of housing stock, lack of jobs, public transport issues and social care cuts.

"I have created this petition has I have grown tired of turning up for full council meetings and seeing only middle class issues debated and the real issues back down the agenda, sometimes never being discussed at all. I understand that the trees issue is important to some but not to all."

Thousands of campaigners are fighting to prevent council contractor Amey cutting down healthy trees across the city as part of a £2bn street repair and maintenance programme.

The council argues the trees need to be felled as they are damaging pavements and obstructing pedestrians, and it says more new trees are being planted than are being removed.

But protesters say 60 per cent of trees earmarked for the chop are healthy and they insist Amey and the council have not considered all options to save them, including measures 'routinely' being adopted in other cities around the UK.

Rebecca Hammond, co-chair of Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG), said: "It's really disappointing that this petition talks about trees being a middle class issue. People across the city are trying to save their trees.

"We have campaign groups in areas like Burngreave, Pitsmoor and Firth Park, none of which you would traditionally think of as being middle class and wealthy.

"The health benefits of having trees on your street are equivalent to being seven years younger, so surely there's an even greater argument for protecting healthy trees in areas where more people are from poorer socio-economic backgrounds associated with worse health."

On Wednesday, opposition councillors walked out in protest at Green Party councillor Alison Teal being expelled from a meeting during a debate about tree-felling.