Three people protesting against a controversial tree felling programme have been arrested after council contractors started cutting down trees with chainsaws before dawn.
Campaigners have condemned "pig-headed" Sheffield City Council for going ahead with their "improvement" works in Rustlings Road, Sheffield, from around 5am on Thursday.
Members of Sheffield Tree Action Groups (STAG) claimed residents were woken up at 2am to move their cars.
One member Chris Rust wrote on Facebook: "There was a very sneaky, small print road closure notice at each end of the road which enabled them to do this. By the time it was light eight trees were gone, three people arrested on their doorsteps, massive police presence."
Councillor Joe Otten, Lib Dem member at Sheffield City Council and opposition spokesman for environment, told the Press Association: "They are magnificent trees that improve our quality of life. Yes there are a few cracks in the pavement and some of the trees will have to go as part of the upgrade package.
"They have the budget and program and they are just going ahead with it. It's pig headed.
"It is not necessary. They are just being stubborn about the way they go about it."
In a statement Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said he stood by the decision to do the "vital" maintenance work.
Mr Lodge said: "For more than a year we have worked tirelessly with Amey and the local community to find the right solution for Rustlings Road. We have written to every home, brought in a new survey process for the entire city and set up an Independent Tree Panel. Our approach has been assessed at the High Court on three occasions.
"We have made a final decision to increase the number of trees on Rustlings Road by almost 30%. We need to replace eight out of the 30 existing trees, but we will plant 17, which means the road is gaining an extra nine trees. We understand that this will be a difficult day for the tree campaigners, but this work is absolutely essential to ensure that Sheffield has healthy street trees for future generations."
South Yorkshire Police confirmed 12 officers "provided assistance at the request of the council".
A police spokesman said: "We have a small presence to ensure the safety of local residents and contractors whilst the work is carried out. Three people have been arrested on suspicion of preventing lawful work under Section 241 of the Trade Union and Relation Act 1992"
Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg tweeted: "V. shocked to hear this morning about #Sheffieldtrees Council actions are unjustifiable, underhand and a waste of precious police resources."
In a subsequent statement explaining why the work was started in the early hours, the council said: "We carried out the work very early in the morning on the advice of the police to make sure it could be done safely. This isn't usually needed but in this case it was considered the best option for the safety of the public, protesters and the workers."