More apologies needed over Sheffield tree fiasco, says campaigner

A leading campaigner against Sheffield city council’s ill fated tree-felling scheme, says the apologies issued by the council for its failings are not enough.

Paul Brooke, former chair of the Sheffield Tree Action Group, called for more apologies to be made, saying that: “They clearly misled the High Court and I would want to see a detailed, published apology to the High Court”.

Mr Brook was responding to the independent 100,000-word report released earlier this week by a panel chaired by Sir Mark Lowcock.

The report said the decision to fell half of the city’s 35,000 street trees was a “dark episode” for the city council.

The City Council put out a statement this week in response to the report reiterating earlier apologies for the mistakes made, but Mr Brooke said that wasn’t sufficient.

He told BBC Radio Sheffield this morning: “We should never ever have gotten to the stage that we got where it required protests, where some of us had to put our livelihoods on the line, our lives on hold in order to try and safeguard a healthy tree stock”. 

The report showed that around half of Sheffield’s 35,000 street trees were initially planned to be felled, with the majority being healthy. 

Protests around the felling of trees around the city followed, with 41 arrests made, including then Green councillor, Alison Teal, and Mr Brooke. 

Asked by host Toby Foster whether he had any regrets about his actions, he said: “There’s not a single action I look back on that I would have done differently, other than I would have worked harder to try and prevent more of the healthy trees being felled.” 

Mr Brooke also criticised some of the attitudes towards the protestors, and said that there was a direction from senior Sheffield politicians that they were ‘middle class NIMBYs’. 

The events around the tree protests led to a change in the Sheffield political landscape, with the Green party and the Liberal Democrats gaining more influence in the years that followed.

In response to the report, Sheffield City Council said in a statement issued on behalf of Chief Executive Kate Josephs and Council Leader Terry Fox: “As is explained in Sir Mark’s report, as an organisation, Sheffield City Council produced a document that subsequently mislead the courts, the Independent Tree Panel and the public. Whilst the report is clear that no individuals gave evidence they believed to be false or misleading, that does not take away from the fact the document did mislead people. We are sorry and we should have done better as an organisation.”

Written by Alex Simpson

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