Sheffield MP Olivia Blake ‘repeats apology’ for council’s tree-felling failures

A Sheffield MP says she repeats her personal apology over the city council’s tree-felling scandal after the local authority admitted it had misled the public.

Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake, a former deputy leader of Sheffield Council, has responded after the council fully accepted the findings of a damning report by the Local Government Ombudsman last week.

The investigation found the council had misrepresented expert advice, acted at times with a “lack of honesty” and misled the public over its strategy for felling thousands of street trees in the city and replacing them with saplings as part of a £2bn highways project.

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It investigated after receiving a complaint from Alan Robshaw, who has since passed away, regarding a dawn felling of trees on Rustlings Road in November 2016. 

Olivia Blake was Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council and is now MP for Sheffield Hallam.

The council was told to make a private apology to Mr Robshaw’s family and “public unreserved apology” to the city over its wider failings.

The Streets Ahead contract was signed in 2012 and Ms Blake was elected as a councillor two years later.

She became Deputy Leader of the council in 2017, six months after the dawn felling.

The wider felling programme was paused in spring 2018 following international condemnation after dozens of police officers and private security guards were sent to support operations each day in the face of growing protests, with multiple arrests being made.

Ms Blake is now the MP for Sheffield Hallam and her constituency covers Rustlings Road. 

She said: “Sheffield’s dispute over street trees has caused immense concern and controversy, especially affecting the residents of several neighbourhoods within Hallam. It’s such a relief that a new partnership has been forged between the community and the council in recent years, culminating in the recent adoption of a co-produced strategy for managing our street trees. I’m proud that this approach was developed during my time as Deputy Leader of the council.

“I repeat the personal apology I made to campaigners as Deputy Leader when I chaired the Cabinet meeting in 2019 that received the report on progress with the new approach.

“Following the Ombudsman’s report, it’s right for the council to have responded with an apology both to Mr Robshaw’s family and all concerned.”

Sheffield councillors have to consider the findings of the LGO report and set out what action as a result they will take within the next three months.

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James Mitchinson