It may have taken a bruising night of election results for the message to sink in where years of street protests and a more recent national outcry couldn’t, but there finally appear to be signs that Sheffield Council’s leadership has started to see the light over its contentious felling of thousands of street trees.
Less than a week from a night of results which saw the city’s ruling Labour party lose seats in areas most affected by the policy - and the Green councillor Alison Teal, who the authority attempted to have jailed for her part in felling protests, increase her majority from just eight to nearly 1,400 - Bryan Lodge, the council member responsible for overseeing the work, resigned as part of a cabinet reshuffle.
While alleged abuse from campaigners was cited as the reason for his departure, council leader Julie Dore also revealed both herself and Coun Lodge felt a new voice may help “achieve a satisfactory solution for everyone” as the authority’s contractor Amey continues to conduct a review of how felling operations are carried out.
In stark contrast with a combative council statement in March that blamed the “increasingly dangerous tactics” of protesters for work being put on hold, Coun Dore said she had been recently meeting with campaigners as the council continues to discuss “concessions” with Amey. She also insisted fewer trees than the 17,500 figure outlined in the contract will be removed.
Many questions remain - for one, the authority has previously admitted a “financial adjustment” will have to be made if fewer than 17,500 trees are replaced but won’t reveal whether it or Amey would be the party to lose out.
However, there is now cautious hope that the council has at last twigged a change in approach is needed.