Residents are rallying to demand the resignations of council members after the street tree inquiry revealed that their actions led to what an independent inquiry described as ‘sustained failure of strategic leadership’.
Activists today gathered at Sheffield Town Hall to campaign for the resignations of Councillors Terry Fox and Bryan Lodge due to their involvement with the programme, using the hashtags #SorrynotSorry #FoxandLodgeResign.
In the inquiry report Sir Mark Lowcock, Chair of the independent inquiry into the street tree dispute said: “Three groups or institutions were misled: the public, the independent tree panel and the courts”.
Plans to replace mature trees with saplings first gained the attention of residents in 2015. This led to campaigns being mounted that subsequently led to rising tensions between protesters and the council, with arrests being made over the years.
The ‘Street Ahead’ highways PFI contract revealed that the council’s target was to replace 17,500 trees in total despite the council strenuously denying for years that this was ever the target.
In a statement on their website Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG) said: “To cut down so many trees in such a short space of time is ecological vandalism”.
Andy Kershaw, a supporter of the campaign and training manager for SYFAB, said: “Mere apologies are useless and empty and many people faced huge emotional psychological and financial worry as a result of the Sheffield Street tree scandal.”
A campaigner from the Netheredge Group, who did not want to be named, criticised their treatment by the council and said: “It felt like they had an active smear campaign against us, they were constantly trying to present us as unreasonable, as violent, dangerous.”
Another campaigner, who also did not want to be named, said: “We were treated like criminals”.
There are yet to be any resignations from council members.
In an online press conference, Terry Fox, Leader of the Council, said: “I think the easiest thing to do here would be to resign, turn and run. But I think we have to face up to this and earn the trust of the public again.”
Councillor Bryan Lodge’s resignation was rejected by Councillor Fox.
A second rally is set to take place on Wednesday to continue campaigning for resignations.