Sheffield Council has issued an apology after axing trees in a police-backed dawn raid last week.
It comes after council contractors arrived at dawn to begin a controversial tree-felling programme in a residential street.
Residents in Rustlings Road were woken by workmen who, with police protection, had arrived with chainsaws to cut down eight century-old lime trees.
The operation was condemned by Sheffield Hallam MP and former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who called the city council “pig-headed”, and said the contractors’ unexpected arrival, shortly after 4.30am, was “unjustifiable, underhand and a waste of precious police resources”.
Following the incident, Coun Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment at the council, said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
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.