An international group of supporters of the campaign to stop the felling of thousands of Sheffield street trees is being set up - after donations from across the world helped meet legal costs facing two protesters.
The group, called the Sheffield Trees International Community (STIC), has been established this week by London-based Steve Andreiser in a bid to maintain pressure on the council to reverse the policy.
It follows recent articles about the city’s tree-felling controversy in The New York Times and El Mundo, one of Spain’s biggest newspapers. Donations to a legal fund to help campaigners have also recently been received from Europe and the US.
It was announced on Friday the campaign to raise £27,000 to pay the fines imposed on two tree campaigners - Calvin Payne and Alastair Wright - found guilty of breaching a High Court injunction banning direct action protests where people stand under threatened trees to prevent them being chopped down has now reached its target.
Alan Story, a spokesman for Stump Up Sheffield, which organised the fundraising effort, said: "Tree campaigners in Sheffield and our many allies across the country and the world said with one voice: ‘An injury to one tree campaigner is an injury to all tree campaigners’ and have stumped up marvellously.”
Hundreds of people are expected to take to the streets of Sheffield today for a major protest march involving a speech by Jarvis Cocker. The Pulp singer played a DJ set last month at a gig involving other Sheffield musicians including Richard Hawley to raise money for the campaign.
Tree-felling work in the city is currently on hold while a review takes place following national controversy in recent weeks which has seen dozens of police officers and private security guards being sent out to support felling operations conducted on behalf of council contractor Amey as part of a £2.2bn highways maintenance contract.
It was revealed last month following a year-long Freedom of Information battle that the contract contains a target to replace 17,500 street trees - almost half of the 36,000 that stood in the city at the start of the work in 2012.
The council has continued to keep details of the Highway Tree Replacement Policy secret, with it currently remaining among the redacted elements of the contract.
Mr Andreiser, who went to university in Sheffield, said: “I have been so upset and so angry - no-one has been able to give a valid reason why this is happening.
“Where there are trees that are causing problems, they should be taken down. But it seems decisions are being made just to fulfil a contract they signed with Amey. I’m hoping that we can shame the city council into talking and engaging with the people who voted them in so we can find out what caused this contract to be signed. We want to see the contract and in a democratic society, people should be open.
"What is being presented to the people of Sheffield is a secretive contract for an incredible amount of money and nobody knows what is going on.”
The council argues the 17,500 figure in the contract represents a form of ‘insurance’ so that if more than the currently-estimated 10,000 trees that are due to be removed are required to go, that will be covered under the current costs.
To contact STIC, firstname.lastname@example.org.