Council apologises for city street's dawn disruption in cutting down trees

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A councillor has apologised after contractors and police descended on a city street and cut down seven trees in a controversial "dawn raid".

Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment at Sheffield City Council, said sorry for the disruption and distress caused to the residents of Rustlings Road on November 17.

Two protesting pensioners and a 35-year-old man were arrested during the operation, which former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg described as being more akin to a well-planned anti-terror raid than a morning of tree felling.

Angry Rustlings Road residents said they were woken at about 5am on Thursday last week by workers from Sheffield City Council's contractors Amey, who were accompanied by a large number of police officers.

They said the officers banged on their doors and demanded cars were moved immediately or they would be towed.

Mr Lodge admitted that the council had "got it wrong" last week.

In a statement, he said: "We would like to offer an apology to the people of Sheffield who were affected by the way in which we took the trees down on Thursday of last week, and particularly those living on Rustlings Road, who will also receive an apology in the post.

"We are sorry for the disruption and distress caused by the work starting at 5am and the decision not to publish the Tree Panel report in advance.

"There were reasons relating to public safety why the decision was taken to fell the trees at 5am and not to publish the report earlier but we have heard the message loud and clear that this was not the acceptable course of action.

"We have reflected on this and will not do work in the same way.

"To be specific, we commit to publishing the Independent Tree Panel reports in a timely manner, with full and transparent information about how we have come to decisions.

"We can also give assurances that no work will begin before 7am.

"As we continue to carry out work as part of the largest investment there has ever been in the city's street trees, and to protect the city's 36,000 street trees for generations to come, it is important that we take necessary measures to ensure that we protect the safety of our workforce and the public.

"But we know we got it wrong last week with the way the work was started. We have listened and are sorry for the mistakes that we made."

The teams of tree surgeons aimed to cut down eight trees last week and managed to fell seven.

The operation and resulting protest is the latest drama in a long-running dispute over the plan by the council and Amey to fell trees across the city, which has gone all the way to the High Court.

Council bosses say the programme is essential if Sheffield's 36,000 street trees are to be managed for future generations and that the trees scheduled for felling are dying or diseased, or pose dangers.