VIDEO: Protesters occupy Sheffield council chamber over controversial tree felling programme and stage all night sit-in

Campaigners stormed into Sheffield Council's chamber following a highly-charged meeting in protest at the city's controversial tree felling programme.

Protesters unfurl a banner within the council chamber

At the conclusion of the three-and-a-half hour full meeting of Sheffield Council, around 20 campaigners unfurled a banner from the public gallery.

The group then made their way down to the main chamber and refused to leave despite pleas from security and staff at Sheffield Town Hall.

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They said they were planning to stage a 'peaceful' overnight sit in and demanded to see the contract drawn up by Amey and the city council.

During the meeting councillors confirmed that the £2.2billion Streets Ahead programme run by contractors Amey will continue, despite a gap of three weeks with no activity.

Arborists are felling and replacing trees deemed dangerous, dead, diseased, dying or those which are said to be damaging streets and pavements across the city.

But there has been a huge backlash from protesters, with a number of recent flashpoints before the work was put on hold.

One of the campaigners, speaking during the post-meeting protest, said: "We would like to make a point and stick around.

Protesters unfurl a banner within the council chamber

"I'm outraged that £2.2billion has been taken out of Sheffield and sent to London and overseas.

"That money should stay in Sheffield, for Sheffield."

During the meeting, Sheffield councillors maintained that work on felling a further 250 trees in the city will continue - despite a three-week halt to proceedings.

Work on the Streets Ahead programme was halted by contractor Amey which recently said the delay was due to its staff focusing on other areas of the deal.

Tree protesters outside Sheffield town hall before the meeting of the full council

Coun Bryan Lodge, the council's cabinet member for Streetscene and Environment was continually heckled, but confirmed that the works would continue as planned - he did not specify a particular time frame.

Coun Lodge said: “There’s a pause going on in works.

“Peaceful protest went one stage further on Meersbrook Road, if you see the video you will see.

"We care about the safety of the arboriculturalists and the protestors and the public and police.

Protesters unfurl a banner within the council chamber

“The reasons for the work to be done are still there.

“The work will continue.”

Coun Lodge’s admission follows that of Darren Butt, Amey’s operations director, who suggested in a radio interview recently that the entire tree felling programme was on hold following clashes between protesters and Amey security staff on Meersbrook Road.

Coun Lodge said that he had personally received threats through his letterbox and whilst standing on the steps of the town hall.

He added: “Some people won’t accept there is a different point of view.

“There are different opinions everywhere.

Tree protesters outside Sheffield town hall before the meeting of the full council

“We listen to everybody and do what is right for the city.”

During the meeting councillors also discussed the further intricacies of the original contract with Amey.

Lib Dem Councillor Paul Scriven asked for an enquiry into the deal.

“This is about the three T’s - truth, trust and transparency,” he said.

“It’s probably the most controversial thing I have ever witnessed in the city and it needs to be dealt with.

“I support a public opening enquiry.”