What Sheffield Council’s tree felling debacle tells us about the problems facing local government in the UK

Urban greenery in Sheffield on the bank of the River Don

Sheffield City Council have been in the headlines a lot recently, but for all the wrong reasons; namely, the felling of thousands of street trees throughout the city, and the response to protests that have erupted to stop them. 33 police officers were deployed earlier this month to safeguard the removal of a single tree. Two protesters were arrested days before – including a 74 year old man – at the site of tree felling works in the suburb of Dore. This may seem extremely heavy handed to an outsider just reading about this for the first time, but highly organised and persistent protests (lead by Sheffield Tree Action Groups, or STAG) have been happening since at least 2015 with the intention of disrupting contractors carrying out the work. These protests started out small, but have been gradually increasing in intensity over the years, leading to multiple arrests and threats of legal action against the Council. A couple were even accused in January of serving poisoned tea to workers outside their home.

The tree felling isn’t exactly popular with people outside Sheffield either. Bianca Jagger and Ken Loach have spoken out publicly against the tree felling. Jarvis Cocker recently branded the tree felling as “crazy”. Even Michael Gove has called for Sheffield Council to stop the “unnecessary destruction of trees”. It’s safe to say that Sheffield Council aren’t exactly the most popular local authority in the country right now.   Read more