Speaking as the person who founded Sheffield Tree Action Groups a little over three years ago, I would like to set the record straight on a few matters.
First and foremost Mr Justice Gilbart used the “devoid of merit” (The Yorkshire Post, September 4) quote to refer to one very specific part of my case and not to the case as a whole. More recently it has now been revealed that over £413,000 of taxpayers money has been spent by Sheffield City Council on legal costs against campaigners objecting to the unnecessary felling of thousands of healthy mature street trees.
Councillor Dagnall’s statement claiming that they “must act to ensure the council can fulfil its statutory duty to maintain the highway and keep workers and members of the public safe at all times” is misleading in the extreme.
They don’t need to fell thousands of healthy mature highway trees to fulfil their statutory obligations and it is utter nonsense to suggest as much. No other council in the UK does so!
In the most recent case in the High Court in which they took action against 13 campaigners, we requested a process of mediation which they flatly refused.
You may then wonder why 99 per cent of the two days in court were spent on mediation between us and them and the legal teams before reaching mutual agreement.
Had the council accepted our offer, they would have saved the £75,000 they lost doing in court what they should have done over a cup of tea in the Town Hall.
People should be aware that every expert professional body and internationally-renowned expert in the field of arboriculture has roundly condemned the current policy in Sheffield. It is also time to demand that we are shown proof that felling recommendations by the contractor Amey are signed off by staff within the council who have the requisite training, education and experience to make those decisions as defined by the Forestry Commission, National Joint Utilities Group and British Standards.
I wish to point out that all opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the STAG Steering Group.
From: Rachel Slater, Sheffield.
Given Sheffield Council’s various financial difficulties, I can only hope a sensible compromise can be reached with the tree campaigners to prevent further costly legal battles between the two sides.