Sheffield tree felling scandal: Sheffield Council sends personal apologies to tree felling campaigners
It comes half a year after the findings of a long-awaited inquiry – which sought “truth and reconciliation” following the infamous Streets Ahead programme that aimed to fell 17,500 street trees as part of a £2.2 billion contract between the council and Amey – were published.
The inquiry found the council overstretched its authority in taking drastic action against campaigners, had serious and sustained failures in leadership and misled the public, courts and an independent panel it set up to deal with the dispute.
In a public apology, the council said: “Protesters and campaigners were maligned, injured and experienced physical, emotional and, for some, financial stress. The action the council took damaged Sheffield’s reputation in a way that cast a long shadow.”
As part of efforts to recover from the scandal, the council promised to make personal apologies to those affected.
Graham Wroe, chair of Save Norfolk Park Trees and committee member of Sheffield Tree Action Group (STAG), published the letter he received online on September 29.
It was written by James Henderson, the council’s director of policy and democratic engagement, who started by apologising for the apology taking longer than expected.
He said the impact of the dispute on the city and campaigners was “significant and unwarranted” and it caused “substantial harm” to those who fought against it.
He acknowledged that it will take time and concerted effort to recover from the dispute and for some it may prove impossible to regain trust. Mr Wroe said he was surprised to find the apology in his inbox.
He said: “It is good that the city council has moved on, and now has a much more satisfactory tree policy. I really hope they have learned the lessons from the Lowcock report.
“Some of the protagonists of the dispute are still councillors. They really should have resigned long ago. But it is clear they now have little influence in the Labour Party. So I am accepting this apology but will continue to hold the council to account at every opportunity.”