The events in Rustlings Road alongside Endcliffe Park, on Thursday 17 November 2016, have provoked quite a bit of comment both locally and beyond. The large highway trees here and in many suburbs of Sheffield are part of the heritage of the city along with its parks, gardens and open spaces.
In a dark pre-dawn raid, South Yorkshire Police accompanied a crew armed with chainsaws and helmet lights, as they started to remove eight large mature highway trees. The Independent Tree Panel set up after previous complaints about the treatment of highway trees by the Streets Ahead partnership, had recommended that six of these trees could be spared. Strangely, the report on the Rustlings Road trees was published on the day of their removal despite having been submitted in July!
(Download the pdf of ITP’s report here)
It would appear that the decision to go ahead and remove the trees had been taken the day before the raid. No notice had been given to the residents, who were awoken at 4 am and instructed to move their cars. Some cars were towed away. It is hardly a surprise then that protests quickly developed as residents became aware of what was happening. A crowd gathered to object to the work taking place.
During the protest, the police made three arrests quoting Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 which refers to “intimidation or annoyance by violence or otherwise”. As two of those arrested were retired, elderly ladies, it is hard to imagine how the chainsaw gang was being intimidated or what kind of violence the ladies subjected them to. I can accept that the gang might well have been annoyed but certainly no more so than the residents who had been awoken at 4 am. by SYP and the tree removal gang.
Is this appropriate Use of Section 241?
One Sheffield Councillor, when asked on Twitter about the use of Section 241 in the Rustlings Road events, claimed that the 1992 Act was “to protect workers using machinery”. Perhaps he should have a look at this article on Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 which has been used elsewhere against people protesting about road development. Section 241 has even been used before by SYP when detaining tree removal protestors in Sheffield.
When asked if he or his colleagues were happy that Trade Union Legislation aimed at preventing trouble at picket lines was being used against OAPs, his response was that “police need to use whatever tool most appropriate to keep Sheffield public and workers safe”. I wonder if his view is shared by any of his colleagues who remember the 1980s and 1990s. It certainly is at odds with what Council Leader Julie Dore said at a Council Meeting at the beginning of November. See SheffCityNigel’s tweet.
Back to the trees
A colleague has sent me this:
The Benefits of Trees
One large tree like this:
– produces enough oxygen for four people
– absorbs water and reduces flood risk by reducing surface water runoff from storms
– removes gaseous air pollution
– intercepts polluting particles from diesel and petrol, and traps dust, pollen and smoke from the air.
– acts as a sound barrier and reduces noise pollution
– provides cooling shade to homes and gardens
– shades hard surface areas such as driveways, patios, building and pavements minimizing landscape heat load
– provides a home and food for wildlife, including insects and birds, small mammals, and micro-organisms
– reduces wind speed and protects from storms
– the green colour reduces glare and eye strain
– helps offset the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air and reduces the “greenhouse effect”
– can store up to 6kg of carbon each year – for an acre of trees that equals to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide (an acre is about half the size of a football pitch)
– helps to increase property values by 5 to 15% by improving the appearance of the surroundings.
A six foot sapling replacement is not going to cut it, is it.