Sheffield Council repays over £30,000 in court costs to tree campaigners

Sheffield Council has repaid more than £30,000 to four anti tree-felling protesters it controversially took legal action against, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

The council has repaid the money following a damning inquiry conducted by Sir Mark Lowcock finding the council had misled the courts and the public over its strategy to remove thousands of street trees and replace them with saplings.

The council had secretly created a contract with a company called Amey to remove half the city's existing street trees as part of highways improvement work - but spent years publicly insisting the removals were only being done as a "last resort".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As protests increased at the height of the dispute, Sheffield Council won a High Court injunction barring protests directly under threatened trees and pursued legal action against several protesters.

Tree protests on Kenwood Road in March 2018. Picture: Scott MerryleesTree protests on Kenwood Road in March 2018. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Tree protests on Kenwood Road in March 2018. Picture: Scott Merrylees

One of those to receive money back, who asked not to be named, said they have had £11,000 returned by the council.

Sheffield Council confirmed this was one of four payments made to different people who have now been reimbursed in relation to court costs.

The council said it had repaid a combined total of £31,918.16.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The recommendation set out in Sir Mark Lowcock’s report was to end all outstanding financial disputes, but we wanted to go beyond those recommendations and felt it was important that those people ordered to pay court costs to us, were reimbursed for their financial losses.”

The council’s £2bn Streets Ahead highways improvement contract with Amey did include a target to replace 17,500 trees and replace them with saplings following a misinterpretation of a consultant’s report.

The external report said three-quarters of the city’s 35,000 street trees were mature or over-mature – but this was wrongly interpreted as meaning they were “ready for replacement”.

Last month, council leader Terry Fox – who had been among the senior figures at the council to repeatedly deny a target ever existed – said he now accepted there had been one in existence.